Category Archives: SAT vs. ACT

18 Sep 2020

ACT Math: Is It Getting More Difficult?

Since 2016, the ACT Math section has undergone some changes that, indeed, have made the section a bit more difficult. The ACT has introduced a wider variety of advanced math topics since 2016, though it has not increased the emphasis placed on difficult questions. Rather, the ACT rotates these topics among the most challenging math questions that typically show up at the conclusion of the section. The bulk of the content remains the same, but you may run into some questions towards the end of the math section that feel more challenging.

ACT vs. SAT Math 

While the redesigned SAT has narrowed its focus in the math section and tends to include more algebra (accounting for more than 60% of the math sections!), the ACT has moved in the opposite direction by expanding its scope to include a broader variety of advanced topics. For example, over the past several years the ACT has begun including topics like matrix multiplication, conic sections, asymptotes, terminal sides and coterminal angles — the list goes on. 

The range of topics covered by the ACT is looking more and more like that of the SAT Math II Subject Test. The key distinction here, however, is that the ACT is not placing the same degree of emphasis on the hardest math concepts — chances are the advanced topics will show up in small numbers towards the end of the section. 

By pushing the upper limits of math content difficulty, the ACT requires students to achieve a higher level of mastery in advanced math concepts in order to attain top scores. This may be part of a larger scheme to more effectively populate the full score range, with more of a tangible distinction between scores in the 30-36 range. Fewer students with perfect scores allows for a broader range of scaled and raw scores. 

How Useful Is My Calculator? 

Additionally, the ACT writers seem to be crafting problems that render your calculator less useful. By asking more conceptual questions or asking for answers in terms of variables rather than numerical values, the ACT pushes test-takers to more deeply understand the content. The ACT is also directly assessing math vocabulary by asking for the computational definition of independent events in a probability question, for example. Without explicit knowledge of these terms, a student will be less likely to select the correct answer and a calculator will be of no use to you in these cases.

All this is to say: Yes, the ACT is including more difficult concepts in the math section, but not to worry! Every test-taker is experiencing the same increase in difficulty level and scores will be scaled accordingly. For top score hopefuls, mastering the advanced math concepts will be key to working towards that 34, 35, or 36. If math is your strong suit, this may be an opportunity to make your ACT score stand out. If you’re struggling with ACT math content, trying to figure out how to structure your study regimen, looking to take your test scores to the next level, or anything in between, we would be happy to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out! At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

08 Sep 2020

SAT Section 5: What is it?

There is much speculation surrounding the mysterious Section 5 of the SAT. Some students end up taking this fifth 20-minute section while others do not. Additionally, the content covered in this wildcard of a section can vary widely from test to test. Let’s demystify Section 5 by understanding its function, whether you can expect to see a Section 5 on your exam, and how the additional section will (or, more likely, will not) affect your score. 

What is the function of this section? 

Section 5 of the SAT is widely believed to be an experimental section, created as an opportunity for the College Board to pretest content, answer choices, and test question philosophies on a captive audience under test conditions. College Board has been persistently vague about this section, noting in the SAT Advising and Admission Handbook, “To allow for pretesting, some students taking the SAT with no Essay will take a fifth, 20-minute section. Any section of the SAT may contain both operational and pretest items.” 

Operational items are questions that count towards your score. Pretest items, on the other hand, are not scored and do not contribute to your score. College Board has been uncharacteristically opaque about whether or not this section counts towards students’ final scores. 

Will this section affect my score? 

Though the College Board has made it impossible to say with absolute certainty that the experimental Section 5 will not count towards your score, never in the history of the redesigned SAT has a question from anyone’s 5th section appeared in the scored Question-and-Answer Service sections that are sent back to students. All signs indicate that this section is unscored and exists primarily to test out future material. It is likely that the College Board is being vague on this point to ensure that students take the section seriously, in order to obtain the most accurate data possible. If students were certain that the section would not contribute to their scores, they may not give it their all (or skip it completely). 

Will I have to take the additional section? 

A close reading of the Spring and Summer 2019 The SAT and SAT Subject Tests Supervisor Manual reveals, “At some centers, certain administrations will include an additional 20-minute section to be completed by all SAT test takers, including students taking the SAT with Essay.” 

So, while it used to be the case that only students taking the SAT without the Essay could expect to see a Section 5, now those taking the SAT with Essay should not be surprised to encounter the experimental section either. Test takers with extended time, however, will not see a Section 5 on their exams. 

How will this experimental section affect my test prep? 

Showing up on Test Day knowing exactly what to expect is the best way to feel confident going into the SAT (or any exam for that matter). So, expecting to encounter a 20-minute section in Math, Reading, or Writing after the Math with Calculator section or the Essay is a good way to mentally prepare yourself and avoid unwelcome surprises. 

Though it seems unlikely that Section 5 will affect your score, it is not outside the realm of possibility. By continuing with your diligent test prep and taking every single question on your exam seriously, you will be set up for success on the SAT. 

We are always happy to answer questions and provide support for all aspects of the test preparation process. Especially during uncertain times such as these, we are here to help and ensure that your test prep goes as smoothly as possible. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

28 Aug 2020

SAT Test Center Closings

If you are planning to take the SAT in the near future, be sure to keep an eye on the SAT Test Center Closings page on the College Board website. It is important to note that individual test centers decide whether or not to administer the SAT, pending health and safety. College Board notes, “All weekend test centers must adhere to local public health guidelines and follow College Board requirements.” In the rapidly changing landscape of a pandemic, this could mean unexpected test cancellations (even at the very last minute). 

This page will be updated with new information every three hours. We recommend checking the College Board website, your email, as well as your individual test center’s website the night before and morning of your scheduled exam. There is also the possibility of test centers reducing their capacity, in which case test-takers will be notified by email. It is essential that College Board has your correct contact info in the event of a last minute change. You can confirm your contact details here.  

If your test center makes the decision to close, expect to be contacted directly by email or text for more details on the cancellation, reduced capacity, a refund, or a possible location change and makeup date. 

If your test center is closed, you can register for a future test date. 


We understand that the possibility of a last minute change must feel jarring, especially for those who have been preparing diligently for your exams. As we all navigate this unprecedented and unpredictable time, we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

01 May 2020

COVID-Related News: ACT / SAT / AP

We hope you’re staying safe and well. With daily updates and changes on the standardized testing front, we are here to provide the most up-to-date COVID-related news. As always, we want to ensure that you feel supported in the test prep process. At this unprecedented time, having clarity on the when’s, where’s, and how’s of taking your SAT, ACT, or AP exams is essential. Here’s what we know: 

ACT Updates: 

Though ACT June test dates have not been officially cancelled, there is still a strong likelihood of June cancellations. We recommend that students registered for the June administration utilize the Flexible Scheduling option to change their June test date to July for free. At this time, July seems a safer bet and officially changing your test date may relieve some of the uncertainty-induced stress and allow you to create a more productive test preparation schedule.

Without any formal announcement, ACT has also opened up their July test date to New York state! Currently, there are no available testing sites in NYC, but this could change, so keep an eye on your registration portal. 

Looking ahead to the fall, ACT will be offering three previously planned test dates on September 12th, October 24th, and December 12th. While we don’t have full details on timeline yet, ACT will also be unveiling their new at-home digital testing option in the late fall / early winter. 

This option would allow students to take the test at home on a computer, which would certainly be a game changer. (This is becoming a trend in the world of standardized testing, check out what we have to say about the new online LSAT.)

In other ACT news, starting in September 2020 students who have already taken the full ACT exam will have the option to retake one or more specific sections of the test. Section retakes will eventually be offered digitally as well, which will be a test-taking timesaver and speed up the wait time for receiving scores. 

SAT Updates: 

Continue preparing for the August exam! (See our previous post about June cancellations and recommendation.) The College Board plans to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of 2020 beginning in August, public health permitting. This means that students will be able to test on August 29th, September 26th (new!), October 3rd, November 7th, or December 5th. Remember, most colleges will accept scores through the November administration for early applications, so rising seniors still have four remaining opportunities to test.

According to College Board, students will be notified during the week of May 26th about registration for these test dates, but we recommend keeping an eye on your email and the website in case anything changes. Rising seniors without test scores and students registered for June test dates will be granted priority access before registration opens up for everyone else. The College Board will be sending out clarifying information on what that priority access looks like on the week of May 26th, as well. 

AP Exam Updates: 

AP exams will look very different this year: all exams will be delivered online, to be taken at home. The tests will be limited to 45 minutes and the multiple choice portion of all exams will be eliminated. Additionally, exams will be open note. Check out these tips for success on open note exams and stay tuned for more tips on how to approach the new exam format. 

AP exams will be offered May 11th – 22nd, with make-up exams offered June 1st – 5th. Though having more time to prepare for your AP exams may seem appealing, all students should plan to take their tests during the May testing window. If you encounter any issues in May, the June testing window will serve as a contingency plan. No additional make-up dates will be offered, so it is crucial to plan to take your exam(s) in May! 

This year, AP exams will only include content that is typically covered by teachers through early March. The College Board assures us that they are committed to upholding the integrity of their AP exams, especially under such unusual circumstances, which will mean extra attention to exam security and fairness. They will be utilizing tools to detect plagiarism and other testing irregularities. 

Despite these major changes, the College Board is determined to honor the time and effort that high school students have poured into their AP classes this year. They are enthusiastic that colleges will give credit to students with qualifying 2020 AP scores. Many top colleges including Yale and the UC schools have publicly pledged support for granting 2020 AP credit. Many other colleges, however, are still evaluating how they will handle incoming scores. Because of the changes made this year, it’s possible that there will be no official mandate for schools to offer AP credit. As more colleges comment publicly on the matter and set a precedent, the landscape of 2020 AP credit will become clearer.

We know this testing season holds many unforeseen changes. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need additional support. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™ — especially in such uncertain times.

16 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: ACT over SAT?

Billy Wheelan, Founder

ACT’s June administration, though in doubt, remains on for now. We should know in the coming days if testing centers will be able to accommodate June 13 testers. Now that there are officially no SAT administrations scheduled until August, the July 18 ACT is becoming a more attractive option for students who want to test over the summer instead of waiting until practically the fall. We can’t know for sure what will happen in the coming weeks but the July administration (not offered in the state of New York, so New Yorkers should register in a neighboring state), should it be offered, would provide an opportunity for students to test earlier in the calendar year than if had they waited for the SAT in August.

For students applying to the most competitive schools in the United States, the decision to switch to the ACT brings with it another big benefit: more Subject Test dates. Because a student must choose between taking the SAT or up to three SAT Subject Tests on each test date, making the switch to the ACT frees up testing dates in August, September, October, November (not available to international students), and December for Subject Tests should The College Board administer them on all planned testing dates. That factor alone provides a compelling reason to consider switching test prep from SAT to ACT for those students who score similarly on a concordance table between the two tests. 

Finally, ACT has more experience offering their exam digitally than does The College Board. We believe if the global pandemic continues and both organizations are forced to develop in-home options, ACT is better prepared to make that rollout happen more smoothly than The College Board. 

As always, we invite you to contact us if we can be of service to you.

15 Apr 2020

SAT June Administration Cancelled

Earlier today The College Board announced that the scheduled June administration of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests will be cancelled. While the news was expected, The College Board’s revised testing plan will significantly impact rising juniors and seniors. Rather than adding summer testing dates, The College Board instead plans to offer its first administration on the previously scheduled August date, with additional dates rapidly falling in the fall: one administration in September, October, November, and early December. Should schools remain closed and unable to administer the SAT by August, The College Board has suggested it will offer a digital version of the exam to be administered at home. The College Board has been late to offering digital versions of its exams (the PSAT 8/9 and 10 can be offered digitally in schools but paper-based testing remains the norm) so the digital version, reportedly already under development, would need to be rapidly rolled out. 


The schedule change means students will need to be extremely well-prepared for the August administration as there will be limited time between administrations to adjust preparation schedules. Our students often take the May and June administrations and then decide whether or not to continue to prepare for the August administration given their Spring scores. Without the June administration, students should anticipate a preparation schedule through the summer and into the fall. And while we anticipate many colleges waiving or reducing testing requirements for this year’s applicants, strong SAT, SAT Subject Test, and ACT scores will make the prepared candidate stand out even more. 


While the change intensifies the summer test preparation schedule, it also provides the prepared student with the opportunity to take and retake College Board exams in the late summer and early fall with less risk of score backslide. 

We know this change will likely add importance to test preparation at just the time students are feeling most uncertain about their newly-established online schooling and uprooted summer plans. For rising seniors, writing college applications only adds to the anxiety. Rest assured, we are here to provide you with reliable and thoughtful revisions to your test preparation plans. We’re ready to collaborate with our partners, students, and parents to ensure our students are as prepared as ever come test day. 


At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™ 


Warmly,
Billy Wheelan

Founder

13 Feb 2020

ACT Section Retesting: relief arrives for students taking the ACT with extended time

ACT now offers Section Retesting. Source: http://www.ACT.org

Taking the ACT plus Writing already clocks in at nearly 4 hours of consecutive exam time. For students with extended time accommodations, this lengthy test can drag on for an entire day.

However, ACT has recently incorporated some major changes to the way the test can be taken that will majorly benefit students needing extra time.

What are the changes?

ACT now allows students who have already taken the full ACT test, to re-take one or more specific sections of their choice. For example, if a student does poorly on the Science section, they may return on a different test day to focus their energy on that portion.

While this is already great news for the general population of ACT test takers, it has a particular impact on students with extended time.

Students with 50% extended time will have already been sitting for the exam for nearly three hours before they arrive at the Reading section. They may be burnt out and exhausted before even beginning the remaining two or three sections of the test.

With Section Retesting, extended time students can schedule their Reading, Science, and Writing sections for a later exam date. By doing so, they can give themselves a better chance of scoring at their full potential by coming into these sections refreshed.

07 Dec 2017

Choosing the SAT and ACT or to switch tests

You received the scores to your official SAT or ACT and it is not what you hope.  While this situation can be disappointing, is you took the standardized test early in the college application process, you may have time to retake it.

Now the question is should you retake the same one, or consider changing your focus and registering for the other college entrance exam instead?

Considerations to review before you decide.

  1. Avoid unnecessary testing: Taking both test offers no benefit. If you’ve taken a practice diagnostic test in both the SAT and the ACT and your scores are relatively similar, then stay the course and continue to focus on the test you just took or begin to focus on other elements of the college admissions process.
  2. Consider the causes of your low-than-expected scores: Why didn’t you achieve your score goal? Did you struggle with the exam content and format, or did circumstantial elements complicate matters?

Many factors can affect your testing performance, including anxiety, fatigue and illness. With illness, chances are slim that you would face the same challenge twice.

Extra preparation time before your next test date can reduce anxiety and fatigue.

If your poor performance was primarily due to circumstances or a lack of preparation, you should retake the same test. You will have less preparation to do, since you are already familiar with the format. You will also have a ready-made guide to which sections you should concentrate on studying.

  1. Compare test formats: With the recent redesign of the SAT, there is less separation between the two major college entrance exams, but there are still some differences.
  • The SAT has no dedicated science section – though science is included elsewhere on the SAT.
  • The SAT has a slightly different format for its math portion which does not allow students to use a calculator for the entire math section.
  • The ACT and SAT both have a big emphasis on  The ACT has a much larger focus on geometry and includestrigonometry, matrices, graphs of trig functions, and logarithms.
  • SAT reading questions are evidence-based, requiring students to cite specific lines and passages to support their answer choice.
  • The SAT and ACT require identical grammatical and writing skills for the English / Writing+Language sections, and for the essays. Not a single fact or concept is different on one test than on the other. If you learn all the material required for the SAT, you won’t need to learn a SINGLE new thing in order to get a perfect ACT score (and vice versa). It’s all a matter of strategy.
  1. Weigh your time constraints: Learning a new exam format and a fresh set of strategies can be time-consuming. Despite the similar content of the two exams, the different pace necessitates distinct answer-optimization strategies.

If you have two to three months available you have more options than only a few weeks until the next official tests.

In summary… Consider the causes of your poor performance, the differences between your test options and your available time before taking your next step.

 

02 Nov 2017

SAT vs. ACT

confused-student-clip-art-699083

Don’t know whether to take the SAT or ACT?

We’ve been there before. High schoolers across America (and the globe) face this question every year.

An impressive score on either test goes a long way towards helping students get into the schools they want to attend. So, how do you know which test is better for you?

Sadly, there are no obvious answers. The best way to figure out the ACT vs. SAT conundrum is to take a practice test for both. If there is one you feel more comfortable with, then that’s the test you should take.

That being said, a quick comparison between the SAT and ACT, below, might help you understand the major differences between the two. 

But before gleaning too much from the comparison, remember that there’s no substitute for taking a practice version of both tests! Happy reading.

SAT ACT
What do these tests feel like? A logic and reasoning test A more objective, clear-cut test
How do these tests align with my skills? The SAT is often (not always) better suited for English/History types The ACT is often (not always) better suited for Math/Science types
What about math? Need to know Math up until Algebra II Need to know Math up until Trigonometry
Science? No science on the SATYes, science is on the ACT
How long is it? 3 hrs w/o essay 3 hrs. 50 mins w/ essay2 hrs. 55 mins w/o essay 3 hrs. 35 mins w/ essay
What’s the format? 1. Reading: 65 mins.
2. Writing & Lang.: 35 mins.
3. Math, No Calc: 25 mins.
4. Math, Calc: 55 mins.
5. Essay (optional): 50 mins.
1. English: 45 mins.
2. Math: 60 mins.
3. Reading: 35 mins.
4. Science: 35 mins.
5. Essay (optional): 40 mins.
How many questions? Reading: 52 questions
Writing & Lang: 44 questions
Math, No Calc: 20 questions
Math, Calc: 38 questions
English: 75 questions
Math: 60 questions
Reading: 40 questions
Science: 35 questions
Big Picture?The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoningThe ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted?EverywhereEverywhere
Is there an essay?Yes, but it’s optionalYes, but it’s optional
Scoring400 – 1600.
Evidence-Based Reading/ Writing & Math sections use a scale of 200 – 800 and are combined for a total score.
1 – 36. Each section uses a scale of 1 – 36 and all four sections are averaged together.
Is one better than the other? Should I take both?No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.  No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.