Things to Consider in Deciding Between the ACT and the SAT (as of January 2017)


screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-12-41-56-pm2016 was a big year of change in the standardized testing landscape.  Now that the rSAT has been in place for almost a year and the ACT has slipped in its own test changes, it is more clear how the two tests compare.  Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that more changes are not on the horizon (either subtly slipped in changes or announced changes)  For now though, below is a comparison of the ACT and the SAT as of January 2017

Total Time:

3 hours 50 min with essay (3 hours without essay) 3 hours 35 min with essay (2 hours 55 min without essay)


Questions/Concepts are Narrow and Deep Questions/Concepts are Broad and Shallow
60% of Math is Algebra 30% of Math is Algebra
There is  No-Calculator Section Calculator is allowed for entire math section
You have 83 seconds/question You have 60 seconds/question


Requires deep understanding and includes graphics (13 min/passage 10-11 questions/passage) 65 min total Requires quick and efficient reading (8.75 min/passage 10 questions/passage) 35 min total

English (very similar tests – grammar, editing, punctuation, rhetoric)

48 sec/question – includes graphs and charts and more main idea and author’s intent questions 36 sec/question

Science (neither test requires much specific science knowledge)

21 science questions included in the test -no separate science section Separate section –  requires quick interpretation, reasoning and analysis

Essay – Optional for Both SAT and ACT

Analyze a persuasive essay

Score is separate from the 800 Reading/Language and the 800 Math

Write a persuasive essay – ACT essay scoring has changed a lot in 2016

Score is not calculated in the composite but is calculated in the ELA subscore



Super-scoring: more schools super-score the SAT than the ACT (This decision is controlled by the colleges and is subject to change at any time. Checking the school’s website is the only way to know the school’s current policy.)

SAT Subject Tests: some schools that require SAT Subject Tests do not require the SAT Subject Tests when the student submits the ACT score (Rice, Tufts, McGill)


  • SAT extra time is added to each individual section (if given 1 hour to take the English Language, the student must wait that full hour before moving on to math) – SAT just made the process of getting accommodations simpler (yet to see if ACT will simplify their process as well)
  • ACT extra time is given for the test as a whole – The student moves through the test at his/her own pace and may leave the testing center if finished before the full added time is used.

Cancelling of Scores

  • SAT – you have until 11:59 EDT Wednesday after you take the test to cancel your scores
  • ACT – If you ordered that your scores be sent to schools, you have until Thursday noon central time after the Saturday you took the ACT to stop your ACT scores from being sent to the schools.  ACT also has a process to delete a test from record.

Sending of Scores

  • SAT – scores are ordered and sent in a bundle
  • ACT – scores are ordered and sent one test at a time

***all of the above information is subject to change – the only way to know the current information is to visit the SAT, ACT or college websites

EDNavigators recommends that all students take a full practice ACT and a full practice SAT before deciding which test to prepare for and take for real.  It is the only way to know which is better for the student and to avoid second-guessing the decision later in the process.

PSAT Scores are Back – Tips on Interpreting Scores –

PSAT scores were released over the past week.  For those students who were able to access them, many are not clear on how to interpret them.

Most common questions:

Based on my PSAT results, how will I do on the SAT?

Official concordance tables have not been released to predict how the 2015 PSAT scores would project to the SAT – A perfect score on the SAT is a 1600. A perfect score on the PSAT is a 1520. The PSAT perfect score is lower because the SAT is more difficult than the PSAT. The PSAT 1520 perfect score is shifted down to account for its differences in difficulty level. While a perfect score on the PSAT suggests you might earn a perfect score on the SAT, this is not certain because the additional questions on the SAT will be more difficult than those that were on the PSAT.  Many in the industry have also noticed somewhat inflated PSAT scores this year.

Will I qualify for the National Merit Scholarship?

National Merit Scholarship Qualification is based on your NMSC Selection Index Score.  The selection index score can be found on the third page of your PSAT score report.  The Selection Index Score is calculated by weighting your Writing score ⅔ and your Math score ⅓ – More information about the PSAT/NMSQT can be found in the student guide.

Official selection index score cut-offs have not yet been determined for the class of 2017, but the predicted scores by state can be found here.

Should I take the ACT or the SAT?

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I refer to this article and chart by Compass Prep with the reminder that the most difficult SAT questions were left off the PSAT, the scoring of the March SAT will be delayed and preparation for one test overlaps preparation for the other.

If I decide to take the SAT, do I need to take it with writing?

It depends. This link will provide some insight into that.

Sandy Aprahamian, M.Ed.  EDNavigators LLC


Five Essential Components for Success on the ACTScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.29.02 AM


Attitude – Success requires a positive attitude.  Think, “If it can be done, I can do it!”.  You need to really WANT to do well and you must squash the ANT (Automatic Negative Thinking) Eliminate all negative thinking during prep and during the actual test.  There is no room or time for negative self-talk during the ACT.  

Application – Work through retired ACT questions and take retired ACT practice tests before sitting for the real test. Understand the correct answer to every question you miss as question types repeat themselves on standardized tests.


Content – Fully understand the content that is being tested

Commitment – Make the test a priority.  Commit yourself to dedicated preparation and focusing on areas of weakness.


TimeFinding time for quality test preparation is usually the biggest challenge in the life of high school students today. ACT success requires quality focused preparation time:dedicated work on content and retired ACT questions, timed full length practice tests, time put into reading and studies. Testing time is tight on the ACT.  You must work at a fast pace. Pace increases when you know what to expect on the test and have confidence solving similar questions – practice questions from retired tests.  Pace increases with practice under timed conditions – time yourself when taking practice tests and working on practice test sections.  Read this post for suggestions specific to increasing reading speed.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

The Secret to Effective Time Management on the ACT

ACTThe ACT is a test of content, speed, focus and time management.  Once the content is learned and preparation is complete, the test of time management remains.  A last-minute concern about running out of time on this test can quickly derail all preparation.

To manage time during the ACT, I provide my students with an ACT watch.  This gives them the security of knowing that they will be able to pace themselves through the ACT and always know exactly how much time has lapsed and how much time remains in each section.  This video shows how this ACT approved watch works.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

Standardized Testing and Test-Prep Timelines for the Classes of 2016 and 2017



Standardized Testing and Test-Prep Timelines for the Classes of 2016 and 2017

Prevent unnecessary scheduling stress by knowing the dates and test-prep timelines in advance.  With sports, service trips, family commitments and school commitments, the timing of standardized tests can get challenging.

  1. Check the test dates for the ACT  and the  SAT
  2. Check your availability for those dates
  3. Schedule Practice Tests and Test Prep by backing into the test dates – Use the charts below as guides for timing.  Dates in Orange are recommended.  (EDNavigators Test Prep includes a Full Retired and Diagnostically Scored SAT, a Full Retired and Diagnostically Scored ACT, and five private test prep sessions to prepare for the selected test of preference.) If you choose to take both the ACT and the SAT, we recommend that you prep for the test of preference then schedule an additional test prep session with us to go over format/style/strategies of the other test.  The content of the SAT and the ACT is very similar.

Class of 2016

EDNavigators recommends that students complete testing by the end of Junior year in order to be in the position to meet all college deadlines (including Early Action and Early Decision) and know where they stand in crafting the college list.

If you plan to take this TEST On this DATE Complete BOTH SAT and ACT Practice Tests with EDNavigators by: Begin Test Prep Sessions By:
ACT Feb. 7, 2015 mid- December 2014 end of December 2014
ACT April 18, 2015 end of February 2015 beginning of March 2015
ACT June 13, 2015 mid-April 2015 end of April 2015
ACT Sept. 12, 2015 mid-July 2015 end of July 2015
ACT Oct 24, 2015 end of August 2015 early September 2015
ACT Dec 12, 2015 early October 2015 mid-October 2015
SAT Jan. 24, 2015 mid December 2014 end of December 2014
SAT March 14, 2015 mid February 2015 end of February 2015
SAT May 2, 2015** beginning of March 2015 end of March 2015
SAT June 6, 2015** end of April 2015 beginning of May 2015
SAT (Anticipated) October 3, 2015 end of July 2015 mid August 2015
SAT (Anticipated) November 7, 2015 end of August 2015 mid Sept 2015
SAT (Anticipated) December 5, 2015 end of Sept 2015 early Oct 2015

**Recommended Dates for SAT Subject Tests

Class of 2017

This will be the first class to be offered the redesigned PSAT and SAT, the full details of which are not yet finalized.  From preliminary looks, these tests appear to be more difficult than the current SAT.  Based on this information, for now, EDNavigators recommends that the class of 2017 aim to take the Current SAT twice before January 2016 (the last date it is offered) OR the ACT.  IDEALLY students from the Class of 2017 should complete practice SAT and ACT tests over the summer of 2015 in order to have a game plan for Junior year and leave the original SAT as an option.

If you plan to take this TEST On this DATE Complete BOTH SAT and ACT Practice Tests with EDNavigators by: Begin Test Prep Sessions By:
ACT September 12, 2015 mid-July 2015 end of July 2015
ACT October 24, 2015 end of August 2015 early Sept 2015
ACT December 12, 2015 early October 2015 mid-October 2015
ACT February 6, 2016 mid-December 2016 end of Dec 2016
ACT April 9, 2016 early February 2016 mid-February 2016
ACT June 11, 2016 early April 2016 mid April 2016
ACT September 10, 2016 mid July 2016 end of July 2016
ACT October 22, 2016 end of August 2016 early Sept 2016
ACT December 10, 2016 early Oct 2016 mid Oct 2016
SAT May 2, 2015* beginning of March 2015 end of March 2015
SAT June 6, 2015* end of April 2015 beginning of May 2015
Redesigned PSAT/NMSQT(Anticipated) October 2015 n/a n/a
SAT (Anticipated) October 3, 2015 end of July 2015 mid August 2015
SAT (Anticipated) November 7, 2015 end of August 2015 mid Sept 2015
SAT (Anticipated) December 5, 2015 end of Sept 2015 early Oct 2015
SAT (Anticipated) January 23, 2016 end of Nov 2015 early Dec 2015
Redesigned SAT(Anticipated) March 5, 2016 n/a n/a
Redesigned SAT(Anticipated) May 7, 2016 n/a n/a
Redesigned SAT(Anticipated) June 4, 2016 n/a n/a

*Though we do not usually recommend standardized testing sophomore year, students in the class of 2017 who are very busy during the fall season should seriously consider taking practice tests in March and April 2015 to see if the current SAT is their test of preference.  If the SAT is the test of preference,  they should take it in May and/or June of 2015.  These May and June SAT dates should also be considered for SAT Subject Tests.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC