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Which test: ACT or SAT? Mixed Results on Practice Tests

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Dd is just about to start her senior year (I guess I should update my signature).  She just decided *last week* that she wants to try to go to the local university her freshman year, rather than attend the cc for one or two years.  The application deadline is mid January.


She has never taken the SAT or ACT.  She did take the PSAT and had a fairly lackluster score.


I just had her take an official practice SAT and ACT to determine which test would be best to prep for.  On the ACT she didn't finish the last two tests in time - not even close, but got a good score on the English test (32/40) and was doing well on Reading  except for the time problem. Final ACT was 22.  On the SAT she finished but with only an 1100 score.  She just doesn't test well, never has.


Crunching through this, her math scores stink.  No surprise, here. We might get some improvement with practice.

For english/reading/verbal  she did way better on the ACT than the SAT, but didn't finish the reading or the science.  Science wasn't a strong score and she didn't finish.


She does not have any sort of accommodations (last evaluation was a dud).  She did not take her ADHD meds for these tests.  She doesn't have much "testing stamina."


Which things can we realistically improve and which are going to stay the same? Can we increase speed significantly through practice and familiarization?  I don't think we can increase her inherent tempo.  Can we increase "testing stamina" with practice?


Reading back over my post, it looks like SAT will be the best option because we don't have to prep any science.  Unless public universities consider individual test scores, so that a stellar English score could balance  poor science and math.


Does anyone have any wisdom on to share on this?

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I would think a score without meds wouldn't be especially accurate.


SAT has more time per question than ACT but might be less straightforward. In particular, the math questions may be unnecessarily wordy (this criticism has been publicly discussed). There are testing strategies to cut down on the amount of reading. Beyond the obvious (reading the questions before the passage), I do not know what these strategies entail, though my dd is learning them from an experienced SAT tutor. All I know is last week they were working on math strategies that didn't involve her knowledge of math.


How much higher would her SAT need to be in order to get admitted to the university you are considering?

Edited by wapiti
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75% of this year's freshman class have higher scores than Dd.


She didn't take ADHD meds because she forgot the first time and I wanted to be comparing apples and apples. She's about to go away for a week as a camp counselor and I'm trying to make a decision so I can line up a prep class for when she gets back.

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I would definitely recommend working one-on-one with a SAT/ACT tutor if at all possible. Students who are not "good test takers" have the most to gain by test prep. Learning strategies will help her speed up significantly. There is much more time pressure on the ACT, but math is only 1/4 of the score rather than 1/3 on the SAT (or is it 1/2? my girls are both much stronger ACT students so I'm not as familiar with SAT). Good luck!

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