For many young students, taking the SAT or ACT is an important part of their education. These tests were used for college applications to determine whether a student could be accepted. Times have changed, however, and so have these tests. In fact, by 2024, the SAT will be taken entirely online. The digital version aims to be easier and more relevant. Many colleges have also made these test scores optional for applications. But if you’re one of the many who still want to take a shot at these tests, here are some things to keep in mind:
What’s the difference between SAT and ACT?
The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the ACT (originally American College Testing) are used in the college admissions process to see how well students can handle college-level courses.
The major difference between SAT and ACT prep involves specific adjustments to your study techniques for each test. For instance, the ACT features a dedicated science section and one math section, but the SAT provides two math sections and has no science section. There is also the optional English essay section, where the SAT writing prompt requires students to analyze a question without giving their personal opinion; the ACT essay prompt, on the other hand, asks examinees to provide their personal views on a topic. You’ll also have a bit more time to complete the SAT than the ACT.
Now that you know the difference, here are some tips to help you prepare:
Look for the right resources
These tests can be daunting, but there are many resources for the SAT and ACT to help you study and prepare. The College Board offers the SAT Study Guide with practice tips, test-taking strategies, and sample questions to help you understand the test and how to study for it. The ACT also has an official prep guide with practice tests, flashcards, online lessons, and more. You can also find many online resources featuring videos and insights from former test-takers showing how the exams work.
It’s not easy to think about your nutrition when you’re spending most of your time studying, but planning what you eat is still essential to preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other test. According to a study on Frontiers for Young Minds, food affects your brain’s functions. A healthier diet helps produce more neurons or connections between neurons, making learning, thinking, and memorizing easier.
During your preparation, ensure you’re eating a balanced and nutritious diet. Fruits, veggies, carbohydrates, and proteins are essential for good brain health. Don’t forget to eat breakfast on the test day for an energy boost.
Create a good study plan
Setting a routine or schedule for studying can help you manage your time wisely and prevent overloading your brain with information. Instead of cramming for hours in one or two days, spread it throughout the week, dedicating a few minutes to each topic. For example, you can spend 20 minutes on all subjects per day or study one topic for 30 minutes to an hour every day, alternating them on different days. It depends on which methods are more doable based on your daily life and study habits.
Determine which test is best for you
As mentioned, the SAT and ACT differ in the subjects covered. Choose which one suits your strengths for a better chance at a higher score. You can choose the ACT if you aren’t too confident in math or go with the SAT if you’d prefer to write a more objective essay. Study the differences well or try out practice tests to get a feel for both, then choose which fits you best.
Once you’ve finished and passed either the SAT or ACT, you’ll probably be worrying about the next step: college. For more guidance, check out our “How to Prepare for College” guide to help you on your new journey.