College Admissions

Parents often ask how important are standardized college test scores. The importance of the SAT or ACT scores should not be underestimated. Colleges certainly take many factors into consideration when they make an admissions decision, but scores on the ACT or SAT give them the easiest tool with which to compare students. 

Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer for a moment. Which should you value more: Applicant A's semester in France or Applicant B's solo performance in the all-state symphony? It's a hard call. But a 34 on the ACT is undeniably more impressive than a 28.

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How Does Your SAT Score Compare?

The SAT score range is 400-1600 for your total score, and 200-800 for each of your two section scores. One section score is Math, while the other is a combined Reading and Writing score called Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.  As you would expect, the higher your score, the better you did compared to all the other test takers. But is there a certain SAT score cutoff that marks a "good" score?  You may wish to download this helpful guidebook from College Board.

How Does Your ACT Score Compare?

I strongly recommend you download this year's PDF booklet, Using Your ACT Results and also visit Understanding Your Scores at the ACT website. 

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ACT SAT Tutor Libertyville, IL  Lake County, IL

Can ACT and SAT Scores Predict Your Success?

Despite detractors, these tests do well at predicting college success. There are very good reasons why America's top colleges and universities continue to insist that students submit test scores.  First, the SAT and ACT are often the only objective measures by which students from different school systems may be compared.

Second, the SAT and ACT do a good job of predicting college success, particularly when combined with high school grade-point average and other standardized tests such as SAT and AP exams. The following article from September 26, 2011 The Christian Science Monitor discusses how ACT scores can predict a student's success.  

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This blog from May 20, 2016 Huffington Post discusses how important SAT and ACT scores are for college admissions. It recommends that students take at least 3 months in between tests to have adequate time to prepare. Consistent practice, practice across books, types of tests, and timed practice exams are really helpful.

Preparing for the ACT and SAT

As a general rule, students should begin the preparation process as early as possible. There is no one rule for everyone of course, but little will be gained by trying to "cram" the week of the exam. A recent article posted on the About Education website states, "Months are reserved for studying huge life-altering tests like the ACT."

Study Skills Lake County, IL experienced licensed professional tutor
act-preparation Lake County, IL experienced licensed professional tutor

Most test prep centers such as Princeton Review and Kaplan administer 30 hours of test preparation classwork. If you are considering working with an individual tutor such as myself, I usually recommend a minimum of eight weeks preparation prior to the exam date.  

2016 Changes to the SAT

College Board completely redesigned the SAT in 2016, and Illinois contracted with them to administer the new exam at all Illinois high schools. Because of this change, nearly all Illinois students will need to prepare for the SAT. 

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Several significant changes were made in the SAT.  Students are no longer penalized for wrong answers, and there is a stronger focus on core knowledge and skills. The required English portion of the exam is divided up into two required sections: SAT Reading and SAT Writing. The third portion, called SAT Essay, is optional. While the SAT is now somewhat similar to the ACT, the SAT is still a very different test. I assist the student in determining which of the two exams is a better fit. 

 Chicagoland Tutor Libertyville Lake County, IL 60048 SAT

2021 Changes to SAT and ACT

As of 2021, both the ACT and SAT have dropped the optional written essay portion of the exam.  In 2020, fewer than 10 institutions had required or recommended that students submit essay scores for admissions or placement purposes, so this change was inevitable. Most schools had already transitioned away from the SAT and ACT essay in favor of the college entrance essay.  I strongly recommend that once students take either the SAT or ACT (or both), they place their focus on preparing their common app college entrance essay as well as their choice schools' specific college entrance essay prompts.  I have considerable experience assisting students with college entrance essays.   


 Chicagoland Tutor Libertyville Lake County, IL 60048 SAT

For further information, please visit the College Board website.

Which Test Should I Take?

Many students and parents begin the college prep process by comparing the ACT and SAT. Two of the most common questions they ask are:

  • Is the ACT easier than the SAT?
  • Do colleges prefer scores from the SAT or ACT?

The SAT and ACT generally test the same types of content. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions and merit-based scholarships. The biggest differences between the tests are that the ACT has a Science Test, and there’s one SAT Math Section for which you cannot use a calculator.

Colleges don't prefer one test over the other, so explore both tests to decide which one is right for you.

 Chicagoland Tutor Libertyville Lake County, IL 60048 SAT - ACT
 Chicagoland Tutor Libertyville Lake County, IL 60048ensed professional tutorChicagoland Tutor   Lake County, ILexperienced licensed professional tutor