Differences between the SAT, ACT and Tips for Tutors


Many colleges accept either the SAT or ACT, therefore choosing the test that better suits your student’s skills can facilitate the process of applying to the right school for you. They differ in format, but both offer an optional essay. Students that struggle with math may find the ACT significantly harder as it contains a wider range of concepts, more questions regarding geometry and trigonometry, and the ACT does not give any formulas like the SAT does. Keep in mind that the ACT has a science section that differentiates from the SAT.


While the SAT may not cover as much content as the ACT, new changes to the SAT require that students only use a calculator for one section of the math test and the scale is back to a 1600. The ACT on the other hand allows for a calculator for the whole test; if the student relies heavily on calculators for math, the ACT may be the better option. Knowledge of scientific terms and data can also provide an advantage on the ACT, as the science section factors in the ACT composite score and can lower or raise the overall score.


Furthermore, when it comes to reading both the SAT and ACT require attention to detail, but the SAT will gives a line number to refer to and questions proceed in chronological order, making the answers easier to find. High schools usually recommend some type of test preparation prior to enrolling for the official SAT or ACT. Furthermore, the tips and strategies required for tutors to facilitate tutoring sessions for their students include a 7-step tutoring plan for successful SAT or ACT Prep mastery. This is a systematic guide to help your students achieve higher scores and obtain testing confidence.


Step #1: Make sure your student has a diagnostic test score from an unofficial SAT or official PSAT. These tests will give a topic by topic analysis of what areas the student has strengths and weaknesses. The report that is generated by different test scoring providers will highlight areas of topic on the SAT, difficulty level, cross sectional analysis of the test and much more valuable information to help in preparing the student for the exam.


Step #2: Familiarize yourself with the test; know the sections; know the amount of time per section; simulate a testing environment for yourself as a tutor as well as the student.


Step #3: Set a target test goal from your student’s diagnostic exam. There can be many methods for doing this, either in tiers or levels based off student performance throughout tutoring sessions, but setting a goal and knowing what you as a tutor are accountable for and letting the student know the goal are vital for test preparation and testing success.


Step #4: Have a resource list of materials that you will use for preparing for the SAT or ACT by obtaining official materials from the specific testing organization. Having the right resources is important; don’t get trapped and have too many resources as this could hurt you in preparation because different authors emphasize different strategies. Stick to only a couple of valid resources.


Step #5: Have a study plan. Set a test date and then work backwards to determine how many days you’ll have your student prepare, and then determine when you will administer mock exams.


Step #6: Teach the test, and stay focused on big picture success. The details come once you master the big picture, and figure out what are the core objectives the test is evaluating per student.


Step #7: Eliminate your weaknesses and focus on student strengths. These are confidence-based exams; the success comes from student testing confidence.


With these steps, a systematic approach, as a tutor you will be able to find success with your students.


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