Getting your child ready for college is an important time with so many decisions to make. Will your child attend a public or a private college? Will he or she live on campus or commute from home? As you weigh these options, you also need to consider the application process. Most colleges require that your child complete a standardized entrance exam — either the SAT or the ACT. Getting your child familiar with the format, content, and question types of these tests will help him or her make a smoother transition from high school to higher learning.
SAT or ACT?
Most likely you’ve heard of the SAT, the original exam that has been revised in recent years to include a writing section. Points are deducted for incorrect answers (one-quarter per question), so wise guessing and possible omission of some questions are key. The SAT contains 10 sections and requires students to write an essay.
You may have heard of the ACT, which has become more commonly accepted among colleges. With the ACT, students don’t need to worry about point deductions because they only earn points on correct answers. The exam focuses more on content covered in the high school curriculum, including advanced math such as trigonometry. It contains four sections and an optional essay.
Which exam is right for your child depends on many factors, including your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses, test-taking abilities, and colleges of interest. Some students try both exams and submit their best scores.
Many resources are available to help your child prepare for either exam, and some are free. Start with your child’s high school. Some schools offer test preparation as a course or an afterschool program and also administer practice tests during English and math classes. You can also check if your nearby colleges provide test prep courses as part of their continuing education programs.
In addition, your child can study independently by visiting www.sat.collegeboard.org/practice or www.actstudent.org/testprep. Both websites offer free practice test questions and study material. For a fee, your child can order a study guide that contains full-length practice tests with answers. Your local library may offer these guides as well.
For more advanced help, you can explore tutoring, either privately or at a local center. An exam prep tutor can assess your child’s needs and customize instruction. Be sure your child is invested in this option, which may include homework, since tutoring can be costly.
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