SAT Preparation

Introduction to SAT / PSAT / ACT Preparation

Wherever you fall in your middle school or high school career, there is more to school than homework and extracurriculars. Especially when you consider an eventual college degree, you need to keep standardized tests in mind: the PSAT, the SAT, and the ACT.

Each test serves a different purpose (and requires a different set of skills), but virtually all accredited colleges will insist on seeing a score from the SAT or ACT. While the PSAT does not count toward your college application, you may gain commendations or even a scholarship from it, in addition to the SAT preparation that it gives you.

SAT / PSAT / ACT Preparation FAQs

When should I prepare for the SAT, PSAT or ACT?

Even if you do not see a bachelor's degree in your future, much less a master's or PhD, consider taking one of these tests. If you begin early, even the PSAT might change your mind (and, via scholarship, your bank account) when it comes to settling for an associate's. Usually, the PSAT is taken in the sophomore or junior year, but students who are in ninth, eighth, and even seventh grade are permitted. The exam may only be taken once to count towards commendation or scholarship funds, though, which usually happens in your junior year. However, starting early allows you to evaluate exactly where you stand. The earlier and better you perform, the better you know whether you can subsist on online, self-motivated studying or whether you ought to enroll in a full classroom or distance learning course.

How do the SAT and the PSAT compare?

The PSAT parallels the structure of its parent test, the SAT, with vocabulary, math, and writing sections. The SAT, however, includes higher-level mathematics (Algebra II) as well as an essay question. The PSAT, scored on a scale that maxes at 240, also is less accurate than the SAT, which maxes at 2400. The PSAT is an important part of SAT preparation; however, the SAT deserves study and training on its own. Numerous test preparation companies offer test strategy books or courses. Determine your goals and study accordingly.

How do the SAT and ACT compare?

Often, students who perform poorly on the SAT may perform better on the ACT, and vice versa, though that is not always the case. The ACT's writing section, for example, is optional; also, the ACT divides the verbal section into two equally-weighted parts, reading (comprehension) and English (grammar and mechanics). It also includes a section on science. Each ACT section is graded up to 36, with the scores being averaged to get the final result (36 is a perfect score).

This more comprehensive approach tends to require better front-end preparation. While there are online practice tests-likewise for the SAT-the best practice tends to be studying up front, sitting the test, deciding whether to study on your own or in a test preparation course, and then sitting the test again. Both the ACT and the SAT, however, include a penalty for wrong answers. This discourages guessing; contrarily, it encourages proper study and preparation. Do not hesitate to prepare the most that you can. Spending the resources to perform well might even qualify you for extra financial aid toward your college degree.