A few things your kid needs to know before the big test


School will soon be in session again, and it’s time to start thinking about how to help your child have a great year. If you have a kid who is nervous about tests, there are a number of things you can do to help them overcome their fear, and do well on the test. It is all about preparation. We are seldom afraid of challenges for which we are well prepared. For a dragon-slayer, the prospect of facing a dragon is exhilarating. It can and should be the same way when it comes to tests. If you know the test does not ask you anything that you do not already know, you will be relaxed. Therefore, with any test, all you need is the right prep tool to turn that dragon into a butterfly.

Here are a few things that will help you prepare for your next big test, especially college entry exams:

The first thing a student needs to know about the two college entry exams: SAT and ACT, is that they have a choice. There was a time when it was SAT for the coastal schools and ACT was for the middle. That general rule no longer applies. There still may be some exceptions. But for the most part, all schools accept the results from both tests, and weigh them equally. While guidance counselors and teachers can help with the decision, it is student’s choice. They both have reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the two tests are very different.

The tests are different enough so that being proficient in one does not equate to being proficient in the other. Since schools value them equally, there is also no value in taking them both. Whichever one you choose, the key to doing well is preparation and practice. If you decide to go with the ACT, you will need a good ACT prep course. If you go with the SAT, you will need different prep materials, as they are not interchangeable.

Here are a few major differences:

  1. The SAT focuses on reasoning; the ACT on knowledge. Both tests have a reading and writing component. The SAT tends to focus on lengthy passages with a lot of information that challenges comprehension and memory. The ACT tends to focus on grammar and syntax. The SAT math component favors involved word problems, while the ACT offers more straightforward math problems. The ACT is an achievement test. The SAT, an aptitude test. That is a rough generalization. But it should go a long ways towards helping to choose based on your personal style.
  2. The ACT has both science and trigonometry. The SAT has neither. If you are strong in math and science, you should consider taking the ACT. There, your skills will shine. Although it is important to note that the science section is more about critical reading than hard science.
  3. The SAT has a guessing penalty. Since early in school, teachers have been counseling students to just take a guess at the right answer when in doubt. If you choose to take the SAT, you need to throw that advice out of the window. The SAT imposes a 1/4 point penalty for wrong answers, while there is no penalty for not answering at all. The ACT welcomes guessers. There is no additional penalty for wrong answers. If guessing is a big part of the key to your success, take the ACT.

These are not the only tests you will have to face in life. There is the Work Keys test you might have to take for some trade schools or jobs, a myriad of certifications such as insurance and real estate. Many of your professional certifications and licenses will have to be renewed on a regular basis. We never get away from tests. The one constant is that the right preparation removes the stress. There is almost no test you will encounter that does not have a corresponding prep course.

About the Author

Jenna is a freelance blogger who is most often writing about finance and savings, especially for families. In her spare time Jenna is usually reading, riding her bike, or working on some wacky DIY project!


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