A Case For The ACT

A Case For The ACT

14 August, 2017

A big part of a successful college application is simply the ability to stand out from the crowd. As a student, you don’t need to take the SAT because that is what all of the other students in your class are doing. The colleges don’t care which test you take; from an admissions standpoint ACT and SAT scores are interchangeable. There is a good chance that the ACT will be a better alternative for you.

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Students often agonize over whether to take the SAT or ACTA quick search shows that there are endless op-eds, quizzes, comparison charts, and fancy diagnostic tests to help students decide between the tests. Sometimes, students will even choose to prep for both tests to cover their bases and hope for the best possible outcome (Protip: don’t do this; it’s a waste of good prep time).

For many students, the ACT offers some distinct advantages. For example:

ACT Tests Mastery of Subjects and Skills Learned In School

In order to make sense of the stylistic differences between the ACT and the SAT, it’s important to understand the philosophical underpinnings of each test.

The SAT and ACT both cover the same reading comprehension, grammar, and math up through 9th grade. SAT is more heavily weighted towards algebra and ACT is more heavily weighted towards geometry.

The design of the test questions, however, differs greatly. The SAT was originally designed to test the strength of a student’s reasoning abilities, independent of any specific body of knowledge or a student’s background. The ACT, historically, has taken the opposite approach. It was designed to assess a student’s mastery of the academic subjects and skills that students are expected to learn in high school.

As opposed to the SAT, ACT question design tends to be much more straightforwardIts difficulty comes more from the number of questions and time limits, than the difficulty or intricacy of a given question as on the SAT. Since the ACT measures content expertise rather than abstract reasoning, students are not subject to tricky wording on the Math or content expressed in novel ways. If you’ve mastered the subjects, find the ACT to be very familiar. If you’ve mastered the subjects, you may still get tripped up by the question design on the SAT.

Speed plays a larger role on the ACT, but from a coaching standpoint, speed can be achieved through content mastery. It is often easier to improve content mastery than abstract thinking. Thus, many students can make more reliable, larger improvements on their ACT score with good prep.

We think of the ACT as a test that is very responsive to coaching.

Authentic Practice Materials

At Noodle Pros, our tutors don’t teach to a particular textbook or curriculum, they teach to the student. As such, they don’t rely on a particular textbook or scripted lesson plan. In fact, They tend to prefer and to rely on released actual tests from the test makers for all of their practice materials. Prep materials written by outside companies simply are not as reliable. Why not practice on the real thing if it’s available?

We have a database of every released ACT going back more than ten years, more than enough to prep even the most voracious student. The College Board, by contrast, has only released a total of six practice tests for the new SAT. Only two of those tests were actually administered and therefore capable of producing a genuine score for students.

Simply put, there is a very limited amount of authentic test materials available for the SAT, especially now that it has been revamped again, but the amount of released content for the ACT is virtually bottomless. Whether you’re prepping on your own or working with a tutor, using real tests is the best way to prep.

The ACT Represents A Unique Opportunity For International Students

Call it bad PR, but the ACT just does not have as much renown as the SAT. International students by and large take the SAT and regard the ACT with apprehension, since they are not as familiar with it. However, the secret is that the ACT can actually be a much friendlier test for international students.

For non-English native speakers, the stylistic differences between the two tests are even more pronounced. Tests of reasoning like the SAT often rely on subtly nuanced phrasing (even in math), but on the ACT, math acts more as an international language. When the ACT tests math concepts, the student’s background doesn’t matter, only their knowledge of math.

Given the pressure of time, the reading on the ACT is more straightforward as well. ACT questions ask about information stated in the passage. Reading a passage and finding the information is a far more accessible skill for students for whom English is their second language than the verbal reasoning tested on the SAT.

Many international students also come from education systems that focus more heavily on standardized tests, so they can much more easily manage the timing on the ACT and are more accustomed to the pressures of standardized testing.

In building its market share, the ACT has focused gaining appeal for domestic American students. Since it has not been promoted internationally, Non-US students can stand out in the crowd by taking the ACT. As a bonus, it will signal to admissions officers their deeper understanding of US higher education systems.

A big part of a successful college application is simply the ability to stand out from the crowd. As a student, you don’t need to take the SAT because that is what all of the other students in your class are doing. The colleges don’t care which test you take; from an admissions standpoint ACT and SAT scores are interchangeable. There is a good chance that the ACT will be a better alternative for you.

If knowledge is power, use your understanding of the differences between these two tests to your advantage. Any tutor who doesn’t bring up the ACT as a (probably superior) option is not giving you complete advice.

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