High-Stakes Entrance Exams: ACT & SAT
The ACT and SAT are entrance exams used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The purpose of the ACT and SAT is to measure a high school student’s readiness for college and provide institutions with a common data point that can be used to compare applicants. Standardized test scores are then reviewed by college admissions officers alongside your high school GPA, transcript, extracurricular pursuits, personal essays, recommendation letters, and more. While test scores are not the only important component of a college admission application, higher scores on the SAT and/or ACT will give you more options for attending and paying for college. Due to this fact, it is important to know which assessment is best suited to your academic strengths and how to best prepare for test day.
Differences between the ACT & SAT
The SAT is a 3-hour test (plus 50 minutes if you take the optional essay portion). The SAT is composed of three sections—Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and the Essay (optional)—and has a high score of 1600 (up to 800 points for both required sections).
The SAT may be the best fit if you are strong in literacy skills. The SAT includes 5 reading passages (compared to the 4 passages on the ACT). Literacy questions also make up 62% of the SAT versus 53% of the ACT.
The ACT is a 2 hour and 55-minute test (plus 40 minutes if taking ACT with writing). The ACT is composed of 5 sections—English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing (optional)—and has a high composite score of 36 points (your composite ACT score is the average of your four section scores, also on a scale from 1 to 36).
The ACT may be the best fit for you if you are stronger in mathematics and scientific thinking. The ACT includes a science section while the SAT does not. The ACT also includes slightly more math questions than the SAT and allows for the use of a graphing calculator for all math questions, providing an advantage to those who are comfortable with these tools.
Overall, those with higher test anxiety may prefer the SAT. You are given 3 hours to complete 154 multiple choice questions on the SAT and 5 less minutes to complete 215 multiple choice questions on the ACT.
Nevada State High School & Test Prep
Nevada State High School (NSHS) sets students up for success with standardized college entrance exams. Throughout the school year, NSHS offers free ACT Bootcamps to all students in sponsorship with Tutors Across America. These intense, 3-day bootcamps allow students to complete a true ACT pre-test, receive guided coursework and instruction from exemplar tutors, and take a post-assessment to show growth. On average, students who attend these ACT Bootcamps improve their score by 3-7 points! The founder of Tutors Across America scored a perfect score on the SAT, scored in 99th percentile on ACT, is a member of Mensa High IQ Society, and completed a bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University in two years. His students also earned over $25 Million in scholarships last year!
In addition to ACT Bootcamps, students all complete ACT Prep coursework as part of their Nevada State High School curriculum using EdReady. EdReady is a math and English readiness system that employs a low-stakes knowledge inventory to personalize a learner’s path to subject mastery within the context of a specific goal. Students complete guided lessons in all mathematic areas covered on the ACT & SAT assessments with a goal of achieving mastery across the board.
Nevada State High School also provides students with strategies they can use to be successful on assessments throughout the academic year. Study Skills and Transitions are two NSHS courses that develop and refine skills for college remedial assistance, academic guidance and planning, and proficiency assistance. Educational Advising Coordinators monitor, support, assist, tutor, and meet with students weekly to work on targeting academic needs. Several lessons in these courses are specifically aligned to help students with test taking strategies, study habits, and the navigation of CollegeBoard.org. After refining these skills, students complete their first semester as a Renegade better equipped to succeed on high-stakes assessments.
Finally, Nevada State High School also offers test fee waivers to students who qualify. A student’s ability to afford college entrance exam fees should not discourage them from taking the ACT or SAT.
Ultimately, the decision to take the ACT, SAT, or both is up to you! However, it is important to consider your strengths and the supports you have in place to best prepare you for success. Nevada State High School is committed to preparing our students for high stakes assessments like the ACT & SAT, which is why our students score ~5 points above the State average on the ACT exam. Through practice and guidance, any student can achieve the score of their dreams.