College Corner: How to Prepare: ACT vs SAT

Ashley Smith, culture editor

Junior year is college crunch time. Not only are junior grades the most scrutinized by colleges, the third year of high school is also the first year when most students are introduced to the ACT or SAT. The thought of these standardized tests can cause even the most chill Edina High student to sprint to Barnes & Noble and purchase a practice book.

Which standardized test to take is up to the student. Edina High School counselor Bill Hicks said, “It doesn’t matter which one you take, but students that plan on going to a four year college should take one or the other.” According to The Princeton Review, the biggest differences between both are that the ACT has more straightforward questions and has more advanced math questions and the SAT has a greater emphasis on vocabulary.

There are multiple ways of studying for these tests. “For the ACT, they say the best way to prepare is by having a good college prep curriculum, which Edina offers already,” said Mr. Hicks.

Some students use tutors to prepare, who give helpful hints to crack the tests. Junior Laura Beurelein commented, “My tutor gives me practice tests for homework, tips for taking the test and tells me how long I should spend on each section… I can see myself improving every practice test I take!”

Senior Morgan Rolfing, who scored a 35 on the ACT, suggested taking at least one practice test before taking the actual exam. “ They are exactly like the actual test so it is really good preparation,” she said.

Rolfing also recommended taking the test as early as possible. “Then if you do well, you’re done with the whole process, but if you don’t get the score you wanted, you have plenty of time to retake the test,” she commented.

Some colleges don’t even look at ACT/SAT scores. According to Mr. Hicks, “More and more schools every year become test optional who don’t require students to submit test scores. One close-by is Gustavus Adolphus College. There are about 100 test-optional schools in the country.”

Grades are still most important to colleges, so don’t put regular studying off to prepare for a standardized test. “Colleges look at the correlation between test scores and academics to make sure it’s consistent,” Mr. Hicks said.  A good score won’t necessarily get a student into his or her dream college but it could seal the deal if the student’s grades are good.

According to Mr. Hicks, an ACT or SAT score is the third most important point on a college app, right after the strength of a student’s schedule and their grades, so study hard for the tests but don’t sacrifice grades for a good score!