As I discussed in my last blog post, the SAT and ACT are different tests with different goals and emphases. Depending on strengths and weaknesses, the majority of students are likely to score higher on one exam versus the other.

In a highly competitive college admissions environment, every advantage counts – and that can include a higher standardized test score. Knowing clearly which exam could give you an edge is a key first step in the test prep process.

Of course, to be advantageous a diagnostic test must be accurate! In this regard there is no substitute for learning analytics combined with expertise and experience with the tests themselves.

Test expertise supports construction of the most authentic and accurate sample tests. Learning analytics give “insights beyond scores” so you get the most for your time and money. Some of the data you should expect from a top diagnostic test like The SAT/ACT Diagnostic include: your raw score, scaled scores, percentile ranks, score summaries by section, a response summary, and your performance by question type and question difficulty.

The best diagnostic tests can tell you accurately which test you’re stronger on, or if it’s too close to call. The test should also provide guidance on identifying specific problem types where you have weaknesses. Thirdly, a test should give you a top-level breakdown of your scaled scores by test section, with the statistics weighted for question difficulty – again, pointing the way towards where you need improvement. A graphical representation of this data is particularly useful.

What does all that data get you? Here are three advantages that taking a SAT/ACT diagnostic test can confer in the college admissions scramble:

Advantage #1 – You save time and money.

It’s a lot easier and cheaper to prep for one exam than two – especially when you know exactly where you need to focus your energy to improve, and where you’re already well prepared. If you know the topics and core concepts where you’re weak, tutoring and other forms of test prep can be much more effective. For example, standardized SAT prep programs allocate predetermined amounts of time to Algebra I and Critical Reading. If you know for sure you’re comparatively much stronger in algebra, you can put more energy into improving your reading skills.

Advantage #2 – It can improve your chances of admission to your top-choice school.

Based on anecdotal evidence, it’s not uncommon for a student to score 20 percentile points higher on either the SAT or ACT. That could be significant! The higher your standardized test score, the better for your college applications.  Many schools report that they’re decreasing their emphasis on standardized test scores. But when admissions officers at top colleges are making choices about who to accept and who to wait list or reject, any potential advantage could make the difference. One thing is for sure: knowing which test your likely to score higher on can’t hurt.

Advantage #3 – It could increase your chances of receiving “meritorious” scholarship money.

One way that the highest possible standardized test score can benefit you is the opportunity to be awarded “meritorious money” – the money that schools offer students whose stellar SAT or ACT scores will serve to increase the school’s average test score – and hence it’s national ranking. With education loan debt so much in the news lately, and student loans outstanding approaching $1 trillion, many students want to go to schools where their tuition costs will be lower.

Featured image courtesy of Chloe’s World

SAT vs ACT: Choosing the Right Test [NEW EBOOK]

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Our free 20-page ebook is a step-by-step guide on how to select the right test for your student. Learn everything you need to know about using the PLAN and PSAT to improve student scores, how to leverage learning analytics to select one test over the other, and other tips on how to take the guesswork out of selecting the ACT vs the SAT.

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  • jaymesreyns

    I just took my SATs a few months ago and I did terribly! I’ve never been the best test taker and I feel like I was totally unprepared for the timed portions. My parents are looking into some Bay Area Tutors, but I don’t think that it’s going to help with my test anxiety. Do you know of any tips to prepare yourself mentally for taking tests like these?

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