Q & A with Test-Taking Guru Jessica Brondo
When it comes to the ACT
and the SAT, how do you know which take? Or should you take both?
If you were a teenager
in the 1980s or ’90s, the answer to the question was simple, and it was
dictated by geography. Those in New England and the Northeast generally took
the SAT, while Midwesterners more commonly took the ACT.
But, in the 21st
century, test-taking isn’t quite so black and white. Both tests present
advantages to their takers, and knowing which one will show off your strengths
is the key to gaining admission to the college or university of your choice.
TutaPoint consulted Jessica Brondo, a test-taking expert and the founder and CEO of Admittedly, for the
inside scoop on the ACT and the SAT.
TutaPoint: If you are much better in one subject area
than another---say you are much better in English than you are in math---should
you take the SAT, or will it make you appear unbalanced? Would you be better
off taking the ACT?
ACT is way better because the overall score is an average not a sum, and there
are four sections (so three other sections to balance out a low score in one)!
What are the main ways you have to prepare differently for the SAT and ACT?
J.B.: Eighty-five percent of
the concepts are the same, so you'll need to master largely the same concepts.
The difference lies in the test-taking strategies: timing, pacing, guessing,
What are some of the most common reasons why students who may have good grades
don't earn the score they expect on the SAT and ACT?
J.B.: The tests are tests of
memorization (for the most part, aside from vocabulary on the SAT) and largely
test students’ ability to reason logically (aka "think"), which
unfortunately is not being taught in schools. Most schools teach "to the
test" and don't present similar topics in a variety of ways, so students
have to sometimes forget the traditional way they learned a concept in school
in order to be able to master a faster way of approaching the problem.
What kind of content is covered on the ACT that is not covered on the SAT, and
J.B.: ACT: science, more advanced
math (trigonometry, logarithms, 3-D geometry), punctuation.
completions (required knowledge of vocabulary).
Are there different time-management strategies you should employ in taking the
SAT versus taking the ACT?
J.B.: ACT sections are much
longer, so it is a drastically different strategy to make sure you are pacing
yourself for a 60-minute or 75-minute section versus a 25-minute section on the
SAT. You need a bit more stamina for the ACT.
Why is the ACT growing in popularity?
J.B.: It is much more
similar to what students are learning in school and it has fewer traps (aka
places to "catch" students on careless mistakes). It's also a bit
shorter, and it doesn't have vocabulary, so for a student who didn't learn
vocab in school, it is a nicer exam because the student doesn't have to cram to
memorize thousands of vocabulary words.
The ACT writing test is optional. Should students take it?
J.B.: One hundred percent. If you want the ACT to replace the SAT, then
you must take the ACT with writing.
TutaPoint: Lots of
colleges say they don't give more weight to one test over the other. Is that
true in your experience?
test is totally fine!
EdgePrepLIVE offers a comprehensive SAT and ACT Prep Course, preparing students for both of these tests. Learn more at www.EdgePrepLive.com
Jessica Brondo is the CEO and founder of Admitted.ly, the ultimate online college advisory tool for high school students, their parents, and guidance counselors.