Why Is ACT More Popular Than SAT?

For over five years, ACT has been the most popular test for college admissions and scholarships. In March 2016, College Board threw out the 2005 version of the SAT — but ACT remains number one. Why is that?

Two years ago, the redesigned SAT adopted many of the features of the ACT. The SAT essay is now optional and they removed the quarter-point penalty for wrong answers. The SAT Reading and Writing sections now look quite similar to the ACT. That said, there are still some ACT-SAT differences that stand out – and help to make ACT more popular:

1. The pace of the ACT is faster than SAT: fewer seconds for each question.
When students take the ACT for the first time, it is quite common to run out of time. Once they learn to manage time using strategies – and get lots of practice – they can beat the clock and get more questions right.

2. ACT is more straightforward than SAT: the answer choices are more clear and distinctive.
SAT often gives two answer choices that look right. It can be stressful and time-consuming for students to figure out which answer is THE right one. ACT gives answer choices that are simpler to differentiate.

3. The ACT Math section is built differently than SAT Math: all multiple-choice and all calculator-allowed.
The redesigned SAT Math includes a non-calculator section for the first time, which many students find more challenging. SAT Math also includes the dreaded grid-in questions, where you can’t guess the answer or work the problem backwards. ACT Math has none of these disadvantages. On top of that, the SAT Math score is 50% of the total SAT score, while ACT Math is only 25% of the ACT composite score.

4. ACT has a separate Science section (a data exercise), while SAT includes a few data questions in their Reading, Writing and Math sections.
The ACT Science section is unlike any test your student has seen before. The crazy thing is the Science score is weighted the same as Reading, English (multiple-choice writing) and Math. First, ACT Science really doesn’t test science knowledge. It’s a data exercise where students answer questions by finding the right nuggets of information in tables, graphs and charts. Then they apply some light data analysis to identify the right answers. Students can usually improve Science scores pretty quickly by applying strategies and getting plenty of practice – without having to build underlying subject skills.

Use this link to see a section-by-section summary of ACT-SAT differences.

How should your student get started? If they took the PSAT in October, we recommend they take a full-length ACT practice test (3 hours) to experience the look and feel of the fast-paced test. Then we’ll meet to compare the PSAT scores with ACT scores to see which test results are better. We’ll also answer your questions and discuss how your student feels about each test in order to select the least objectionable one.

If your student did not take the PSAT in October – or didn’t test well that day – we can administer our ACT vs SAT Comparison Test. It’s a pared-down version of both tests and takes 3.5 hours. In any event, Dogwood does not charge you to proctor any ACT-SAT practice tests. We then use those results to identify each student’s needs so our tutors can customize each one-on-one lesson. Call Ivan at 678-735-7555 to discuss how your child can achieve his or her best results on the ACT and/or SAT.

Combined ACT and SAT Prep

We’re not saying ACT is better for all students because SAT is still a good fit for many. For students interested in taking both tests, Dogwood offers a combined ACT and SAT program to prepare for both tests simultaneously. That’s not as ominous as it may sound. Our expert tutors work one-on-one with your student in our professional learning center, encouraging them to improve their skills.

Now That PSAT Scores Are In, What Is the Next Step?

education, technology and internet concept - happy student girl with tablet pcPSAT scores are now available to students who took the test in October. To see the scores and download the four-page report, students need to create their free account on the College Board website. Then go to the Score Reporting Portal and use the access code provided by school — or the student’s email address provided on test day.

PSAT scores are reported on a scale of 320-1520 points, with two major score categories:

  • Evidence-based Reading & Writing — Score Range of 160-760
  • Math — Score Range of 160-760

In addition, there are these score categories:

  • Cross-Test Scores — 2 categories
  • Sub-scores — 7 categories
  • Test Scores — 3 categories: Reading, Writing & Language, Math (38 points possible)

While many 10th graders also took the PSAT, only 11th grade students are eligible for National Merit Scholarship (NMS) recognition. It is interesting and very confusing that the NMS Selection Index is based on the three “Test Scores” (on the 38-point scale), not the PSAT score (on the 1520-point scale).

The current NMS Selection Index system was devised in 2015 when the redesigned PSAT was launched. The NMS Selection Index places equal weight on reading, writing and math scores even though the 1520 PSAT scale puts more weight (50%) on math and less on reading and writing (25% each). The 1600 scale of SAT scores also places more weight (800 points) on math.

To calculate the NMS Selection Index score, you double the three Test Scores in Reading (38 max), Writing & Language (38 max) and Math (38 max) for a maximum total score of 228. The exact NMS cutoff score is different for each state. The last two years, the NMS cutoff scores for Georgia were 219 and 220. Georgia students with NMS Selection Index scores at those levels or above were declared National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists. Other students with NMS Selection Index scores of 209 (in 2015) and 211 (in 2016) were declared Commended Students. The National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists are announced each year in September, about 11 months after the PSAT/NMSQT test.

Dogwood students have established a very successful track record of qualifying for National Merit Scholarship recognition. As you search for the meaning behind your child’s PSAT/NMSQT scores, it can be a daunting task to figure out what your next steps should be. At Dogwood, we are always here to help you understand the test results and the process for helping your child achieve his or her educational goals. Call us at 678-735-7555 to arrange a complementary consultation. We are your trusted, expert resource for SAT/PSAT prep and ACT prep in Metro Atlanta.

What if my child didn’t take the PSAT? Are there other options for practice testing?

What is new about the redesigned SAT?

What are the differences between ACT and the redesigned SAT?

ADHD: What Every Parent NEEDS to Know

Let’s start with a clarification. ADHD is a medical condition, not a personality flaw. Just as you need to be aware of, monitor, and support any other medical condition your child might have, the same is true of ADHD. Here’s why:

A child who isn’t paying attention, isn’t learning

Even if your younger child is managing now, you will find that as they progress in school and the workload gets greater, what was once manageable through some extra time on homework or parent support, is no longer sustainable. It’s like the old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Only in the case of a child who has ADHD, “You don’t know if you don’t know what you missed.”

Unidentified ADHD impacts social skills, particularly in girls

Ever hear the words “flighty” or “spacey” to describe a child? Chances are, she was a bright girl with ADHD who was overloaded. Imagine the impact on a child’s self-esteem when instead of supporting her when she needs help, we laugh it off to a character flaw. It might at least partially explain the under-diagnosis of girls with ADHD.

Consider the ADHD reality. Boys with ADHD are more likely to run around and play sports during recess. A recommended strategy to support ADHD. What about girls? They are far more likely to walk and talk, just the opposite of the type of mental health break a girl with ADHD probably needs. And when she misses part of the conversation, her friends get mad thinking: She doesn’t care, doesn’t listen, and never remembers what we tell her. As a result, if a girl doesn’t know how to cope with her attention needs, it could impact her friendships.

Unsupported ADHD can lead to risky behaviors

stop buttonKids with weaker attention tend to have more cognitive difficulty controlling their impulses. It’s not that they are any less aware of the consequences, but everyone, especially teens, contemplates taking risks. The problem is that kids with ADHD are more likely to take the risk. Let’s just say their “stop button” often doesn’t work as effectively without training. Unsupported ADHD is linked to behavior problems in school, eating disorders, dangerous and distracted driving, addiction, and earlier sexual activity.

What’s Next?

  1. Don’t assume your school will alert you. Remember, ADHD is a medical condition. So while asking the school to help you identify if your child shows signs of ADHD is a legal right, the teachers and support team at school might not recognize your child’s struggles.
  2. Don’t jump to conclusions. There probably isn’t a parent alive who hasn’t at one time or another wondered if their child has ADHD. Every child can show symptoms. Only a professional using an objective measurement tool is qualified to tell you if your child has ADHD. Don’t make assumptions, but do seek out expert help if you have concerns.
  3. Consult a professional. A psychologist, psychiatrist or pediatrician who specializes in ADHD is the best path to an accurate diagnosis and a comprehensive support plan. Of course, this is also expensive, and depending on where you live and the time of year, potentially a long wait.
  4. Use an Attention Screener. If you’re uncomfortable talking to the school and not yet ready for an outside professional, consider an objective screening tool to understand if your concerns are well-founded. Parent observation checklists are a good start. Child Mind Institute’s symptom checker and Understood.org’s Checklist of ADHD symptoms are two options. Ultimately, you will want an objective test. Mindprint’s free objective attention screening test is similar to the type used in some doctors’ offices.
  5. Begin supporting your child. Having difficulties with attention doesn’t equate to needing medicine. However, it does equate to having strategies to support time management, focus, and organization. Fortunately, most of the strategies for supporting students with ADHD will help all students. They are just a necessity for students with ADHD. ADDitude, Understood, and Mindprint all provide free strategies to support attention.

Guest Blog by:  Mindprint Learning

What Makes SSAT the Toughest Admissions Test?

SSAT logo2The admissions process for private schools is highly competitive, requiring strong grades, good SSAT scores and more. Take a look at the caliber of questions asked on the SSAT for grades 5-7, and you’ll see how tough the test can be. More than the SAT or ACT taken in high school for college admissions, the SSAT requires students to demonstrate excellent reasoning skills as well as solid foundational reading, verbal and math skills.

The SSAT, or Secondary School Admissions Test, is one of two national tests used for admission to private schools like Westminster, Holy Innocents’, Galloway, Marist and many others. Despite the similar name, there is no connection between SSAT and SAT. The SSAT Middle Level is for students currently in grades 5-7, and an Upper Level for grades 8-11. The test is designed to measure the verbal, quantitative, and reading skills that students have developed over time, both in and out of school. It emphasizes the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for academic success.

Below are examples of math and verbal questions on the SSAT Middle Level test for students in grades 5-7. See how well you can answer them! The correct answers are below. On the math section, students must do more thinking than calculating. In fact, calculators are not allowed for SSAT. The analogy questions in the verbal section require strong verbal reasoning skills in addition to vocabulary. Even straight-A students find the SSAT to be challenging. Plan to have your child take the SSAT two or three times.

qmath

qverb

Dogwood’s expert tutors work one-on-one with students to build key subject skills and deliver proven strategies for the best SSAT scores:

  • We identify each student’s needs, then customize each lesson to meet those individual needs.
  • We motivate students to strengthen their foundational math, reading, writing and vocabulary skills.
  • We provide effective strategies that students will use to answer difficult SSAT questions and manage testing time effectively.

All Dogwood tutors have a Master’s degree or above, as well as professional teaching experience. Their higher qualifications and teaching experience lead to more focused lessons, custom tailored for your student’s unique personality and learning style. With our help and guidance, students come to respect how their hard work will serve them well on the SSAT test and in school.

You may schedule SSAT Test Prep tutoring at the Dogwood learning center in Sandy Springs during the day or evening, including Saturdays and Sundays by appointment. Call 678-735-7555 to schedule a free SSAT practice test.

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Answers to math questions above: A, D, A.  Answers to analogies: C, D, B.  How did you score on this test for 5th, 6th and 7th graders?!

Optional SAT-ACT Essays – Take Them or Leave Them?

essay writerWhen your student takes the ACT or SAT, should it be with or without the optional essay? The ACT Writing section (essay) has always been optional. Not so coincidentally, students now have the same option when taking the SAT. The essays are the very last section of each test. Students who opt out of essay writing get to leave the test center, leaving the essay writers behind for another 40 minutes for ACT — or 50 minutes for SAT. The scores on the ACT and SAT essays are reported separately, not included in the composite scores.

The SAT essay is a pretty standard five-paragraph essay where students read a passage and analyze the author’s effectiveness. On the ACT, students read three different perspectives on a given topic, then evaluate at least one perspective, as well as explain their own position. The ACT prompts can be quirky, requiring a bit more preparation. In the end, good writers will have little problem other than the fatigue that sets in after three-plus hours of testing.

Which students should take the essay section of the ACT or SAT? If they are applying to colleges that require or recommend the essay, students should definitely comply. In addition, we recommend that all high-scoring juniors and seniors do the essay to demonstrate their writing skills, which are so important to success in college. Generally this includes students scoring 1350+ on SAT and 30+ on ACT. In fact, most colleges do not require the essays — although admissions officers like to compare the quality of ACT/SAT essays to the essays written as part of the college application. They know that the students actually wrote 100% of the ACT/SAT essays, while many applicants get outside help on colleges’ essays.

At Dogwood, our expert tutors help students improve their writing skills, which they’ll demonstrate through college and beyond.

Use the following links or visit college websites to see each school’s ACT/SAT essay policy.

SAT Essay: List of colleges with their SAT Essay Policy

ACT Essay: List of colleges with their ACT Essay Policy