Tuesday, October 12, 2010

College Testing

We are completely immersed in the college testing this year.  As a family, we have been trying to decide which test is better: the ACT or the SAT.  I have come to the conclusion that the test must match your student's learning/personality style.

Huh?  I said the same thing at first.  Here is what I have learned. 

What does each test cover?

ACT: Tests knowledge learned in high school.  This test focuses on grammar and punctuation.  If your student excels in memorization of facts either in or outside the context they were taught, the ACT may be the test for them.  Again, this tests material already learned! 

SAT: More of an aptitude test.  It is better suited to the student who has good deductive reasoning skills, which will be used and developed throughout college.  It also concentrates more on vocabulary than on basic grammar and punctuation.  Students who are good test-takers usually perform better on the SAT. 

How are the tests formatted?

ACT: All sections are multiple choice and contain four (4) tests covering: English, reading, mathematics, and science.  An optional 30-minute writing test is available to measure the student's ability to develop and write an essay.

SAT: Multiple-choice tests consisting of two parts: Mathematics and Critical Reading (includes science, history, and literature).  An optional writing section is available for the student to write an essay in 25 minutes.  The Math includes a multiple-choice format and a section where the student works out the problem and writes their own answer.

How are the tests scored?

ACT: When the ACT is scored, all incorrect answers are discarded and only the correct answers make up the final score.  A 36 is a perfect score.  The essay portion is scored separately and a perfect will be a 6.

SAT: The SAT slightly penalizes incorrect answers on the multiple-choice questions but not on the written ones (in math).  Each section is worth 800 points; so a perfect score, including the essay portion, will be a 2400.  If you are only taking the Critical Reading and Math, a perfect score will be a 1600.
Our teens will be taking both tests this year as high school juniors.  We are not submitting them to any college, even though a specific number can be forwarded free.  The reason for testing this year is to allow us time to focus on any weak areas now.  Then, they have next year to retest and increase their scores.  If, by the grace of God, one or both do exceptionally well, then we will have the scores sent to some colleges.
For those of you with high schoolers, how are you navigating the college testing path?
Link up or add a comment below.  I'd love to hear how others are handling this critical time in their student's life!

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  1. Seems to be that the ACT is "the one" in the south and the SAT in more of a northern thing. I never even heard of the ACT, having grown up in NY state. But hardly anyone takes the SAT where I live in TN. My son took the ACT at age 15 just so that he could do dual enrollment at our local community college. We didn't have the scores sent anywhere else, but he did fantastic. He took it again at 16 to raise it some for college. He raised it 2 points, which was the place where the good scholarships kicked in. We totally missed the PSAT because he did his soph/jr years in 1 year. In retrospect, he should have taken the SAT as well because he is a verbal thinker. He did GREAT on the ACT, but I think he would have done better on the SAT.

  2. I'm a new follower from the homeschool blog hop - you have a very nice blog. I was homeschooled from 2nd-high school graduation and it's always neat to hear of other high school homeschoolers. I'm homeschooling my kids now and it's truly a joy. :)
    Have a wonderful day!

  3. new follower from the homschool hop ;)
    we are a few years away from college testing


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