Learn the Basics of SAT/ACT Preparation

If your child is in 11th grade or headed into 12th grade soon, it’s time to start thinking about the SAT or the ACT.

But where to start?

Should your child take the SAT, the ACT, or both? When should preparation begin? How many times should the test be taken?

If you’ve got questions like these and are early in the test preparation process, listen to Ann Dolin on WTOP giving an overview of the basics of the test preparation process or read the transcript below.



These tests are on a lot of kids minds this time of year. When exactly should students be taking the SAT or ACT?

Most juniors will take the test twice, in the spring of their junior year and if they’re not happy with their score, in the fall of their senior year. Usually, they take it the two to three times just to make sure that they can get the best score possible.

We’ve got the SAT is coming up again on May 6th, June 3rd, August 26th. And the ACT dates are April 8th, June 10th and September 9th. Most students give themselves about three months leading up until a test date to prepare.

Should kids take both tests?

No, students should pick one and just study for that test, otherwise, they’re splitting their focus. Every single college in the country that requires testing accepts both tests, so there’s no need for kids to put added stress on themselves studying for two very different exams.

It used to be that most kids took the SAT, but that’s not the case any longer. In 2011 the ACT overtook the SAT for more tests administered. And since the SAT changed their format last year and there was so much uncertainty, we saw even more students elect to take the ACT, and we’ve seen that trend continue.

What is the difference between the ACT and the SAT?

The ACT is a faster paced test and includes a lot of questions in a shorter amount of time, but the questions are straight-forward. There’s a math, reading, writing, and science section (which mostly reading comprehension and data interpretation). A perfect score is 36.

The SAT is more a test of critical thinking skills. Although there are fewer questions on the SAT, they are longer and a bit wordier and take more time to answer. Like the ACT, there’s reading, writing and math (which includes a section in which kids cannot use a calculator), but there’s no science section. The highest score you can earn is 1600.

What is the best way to prepare for these tests?

There are three ways for kids to prepare: buying a book and prepping on their own, taking a group class or getting one-to-one tutoring.

In addition to practicing the content and strategies, one of the best way to boost your score is to take practice tests. We (and many other organizations in the community) offer these for free on the weekends.

Practice under simulated conditions are beneficial for a number of reasons. When kids are just starting to think about preparing, taking a practice SAT and ACT can help them determine which test is their natural strength. And once they decide, taking a few of these mock tests along the way helps with fatigue issues – because these tests are four hours long — and this type of practice decreases anxiety because kids know what to expect when they go to take the actual test. And when kids are less stressed and more prepared, they score better.

If you are interested in having your child take a free diagnostic ACT and/or SAT, sign up here or call us at 703-934-8282.