Standardized Tests

Choosing Between Standardized Tests

The Importance of the ACT, SAT and SAT Subject Tests

Written by Lighthouse Counselor Kathleen Mixan

Colleges accept both college admissions examination scores, so this means it is entirely up to you which test you take and scores you ultimately send to the schools. Students are responsible for signing up for the tests as well as paying for them. Visit or to sign up for both tests as well as the SAT Subject tests. You will not be penalized for sending scores from each test; colleges will take into account the highest score.
ACT- Most students will take the ACT as it focuses on curriculum, based on a student’s education. The ACT measures college readiness and is designed to measure academic achievement. It has four subject area tests, English, Math, Science, and Reading, with an optional Writing portion. Scores are based on number of correct answers and are not penalized for incorrect answers.
SAT– In March 2016, both the components and the structure of the SAT were redesigned. The new components of the test are evidence-based reading and writing with a reading, writing, math, and language test. The 50 minute essay is optional; colleges determine if it is accepted or not. Total testing time is 3 hours, plus 50 minutes if you choose to take the essay portion. The SAT is an aptitude test measuring testing, reasoning and verbal abilities.
SAT Subject Tests
There are 20 SAT subject tests in five general subject areas: English, History, Languages, Mathematics, and Sciences. Students can take up to three tests on one testing day; the tests are an hour long. The subject tests test you on how well you know the material in each subject area that you have learned throughout high school. Most students taking the SAT subject have already taken an AP course in the subject area.
A good rule of thumb is to take SAT subject tests immediately after your AP exams. The information remains fresh in your memory reducing the additional amount of studying time. Most highly selective colleges ask you to take 1-2 subject tests of your choice. For example, if you are applying to become an Engineering major, the college may ask you to take a science test and/or math test. Each college is different, so be sure to do your research.
Extremely Important!
These tests are extremely important when planning for your future. The scores of either test will determine what colleges you are accepted into and more importantly, how much money you can receive in scholarships. Each year, the cost of education becomes more expensive. If you want the college to pay YOU to attend their institution, study, study, study! I highly encourage you to evaluate your strengths to determine which test may be right for you. The higher your score on the test, the more money you may receive from the school in which you apply to.
I recommend students study, at the very least, 45 minutes per night for either test. As I mentioned above, each test has different components that you need to focus on. For instance, the majority of the ACT Math test is Pre-Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, and Geometry. Most students forget the formulas they have learned freshmen or sophomore years, you will need to revisit them and take the time to re-familiarize and study.
If you receive your tests scores and are unhappy with them, take the test again. On average, our students retake the tests 3-5 times until they are pleased with their scores. Some of our students will work with a tutor in a subject area they may need more assistance with. Many students will take an ACT/SAT prep program before taking the test to be better prepare and confident with test taking. Prep programs can be costly, but if you end up receiving a $16,000 scholarship, the $2,500 prep program can be worth every penny!
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