Because most colleges accept the ACT and SAT equivalently, picking the test on which you’ll perform the best is critical to your admissions chances. But there are a few problems:
- Students have incredibly busy schedules, so their time and energy is limited
- Some students may need extra motivation
- Some students may be studying at the “last-minute” — especially upcoming seniors
It’s true — some students may be too busy. Others may need motivation to study. Top students may take test prep too lightly and underperform. Low-scoring students may find test prep programs overwhelming and demotivating.
When parents and students ask which test is easier, it can be hard to find a good answer. Since the SAT has been significantly revamped, students may not know how the tests compare to each other or how to identify the right exam for them.
Other academies simply teach content and offer practice material. They “prepare” a student for a test — but they don’t address the deeper underlying issues that result in success.
For example, what good is more homework to a student with poor study habits? How will a 3.5-hour practice test help a student who has never addressed his or her time management issues or developed a disciplined attention span?
We understand the frustration parents and students feel with traditional test preparation.
Our carefully-crafted curriculum of drills, training, classes, and full-length tests is full of tools we use to support a transformation in students’ study habits, subject mastery, time management, and confidence. It should come as no surprise that many MEK Review students see a marked improvement in their high school GPAs.
Parents and students often forget that college admission is a competition. Each university accepts a finite number of applicants based on strict guidelines followed by admissions committees. They weed out applicants based on a number of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, and yes, the SAT or ACT score.
High school students are not just competing with themselves, but also with thousands of other college-aspiring students for seats at their universities of choice.
When athletes sign up to compete in a race, they don’t “prepare” for the race — they train. This perspective is what makes MEK Review different. We train students for the competition of college admissions.
Other test prep academies provide a simplistic approach to picking a test. They advise students to take a full-length practice test of each and compare the scores.
If a student scores higher on the SAT practice test, they advise that student to take the SAT. The same goes for performance on the ACT practice test.
THIS IS SIMPLISTIC AND HARMFUL ADVICE. WHY?
- This approach merely provides a number. It fails to measure the true skill of the student in reading, writing, or math…
- It fails to account for the student’s class level (CP, Honors, etc.), which often determines the highest possible score for a student on a particular test…
- It demoralizes and confuses students by wasting their time while exposing them to two different kinds of tests too prematurely in their preparation…
- It distracts students by causing them to focus on a test score instead of the skills needed to improve.
Taking a practice test to find the one on which you score higher is not a strategy.
The SAT and ACT overlap in many key areas. The tests are similar in content, but the differences in format may affect a student’s score significantly.
College-aspiring students deserve an efficient, proven, and data-driven test prep strategy so they can earn and submit the best possible score on their college applications.
It’s been just two years since the new SAT was first officially announced, and since that time we’ve successfully tutored and trained hundreds of college-aspiring students.
MEK students have earned acceptances to the top universities in the world, including every Ivy League school, powerhouses in math and science such as MIT and Carnegie Mellon, and highly respected public and private institutions like NYU, Northwestern, Boston College, and Rutgers.
During that time, we’ve also been collecting THOUSANDS of data points, assessing the average improvement of students based on their GPAs, course difficulty level at school, and when they started their test prep.
We’ve used all of this real-world information to create an efficient, proven, and data-driven test training program so students can earn and submit the best possible scores on their college applications.
Here’s How SAT / ACT Dual Prep Works:
Students “break” inefficient study methods with the help of MEK instructors. They have already developed reading comprehension and problem solving skills in school, but they must learn stronger methods to gain test-taking confidence. Students focus on drill content in all subjects covered on the SAT (Reading, Writing, Math, Essay). Benchmarks (mini practice tests) are used during each session to evaluate their understanding of the material.
TEST TRAINING I:
After setting a score goal, students must work consistently in a real testing environment. Multiple factors affect testing performance, including test difficulty, timing, physical conditions, and student attention span. Once students complete full-length SAT practice tests, they revisit incorrect sections and critically reflect upon the most efficient way to train in their weakest areas. Instructors then guide them through the decision-making process to correct their mistakes.
TEST TRAINING II (DUAL PREP–ACT):
Advanced students prepare for both the SAT and ACT. MEK uses the similarities between the SAT and ACT to reduce test taking time thanks to student familiarity with the material. We also use the exam differences to refresh students’ efforts and help them see testing from multiple perspectives. Many students who are short on their goal score achieve higher scores on the alternate test using the skills acquired from earlier Test Training.
“WHY DOES MEK REVIEW START EVERY STUDENT WITH SAT PREP? WON’T THAT BE CONFUSING?”
Over the past two years, we’ve analyzed thousands of data points from hundreds of real-world MEK Review students.
It’s clear that test prep works best when students start with SAT materials and work toward a goal SAT score. Here are the reasons for this phenomenon broken down by each section:
SAT: Evidence-Based Reading & Writing
The SAT requires students to find evidence to support answers (using two-part questions) and to answer questions on writing style. These are much deeper, more robust skills than required by the ACT. Furthermore, the SAT tends to test more vocabulary than the ACT.
So, why not have students avoid these skills and just take the ACT? Most low to mid-level scorers will actually perform better on the SAT because its format is more conducive to their test-taking style and skill level.
For example, the ACT reading questions may be “easier” — but the frantic speed of the test can pose a significant challenge for low to mid-level scorers. They often fail to finish the test, even though the questions aren’t as challenging.
If these students start with ACT prep and neglect to develop the deeper ability to find evidence to support answers or answer questions on writing style, they will severely limit their ability to perform well on the SAT. They will also run out of time to prepare adequately for that test.
Some students — even top scorers — prefer the SAT over the ACT because of the way the test is structured. Since SAT material prepares them for the most difficult type of questions, they are prepared to excel on either test. Still, some top scorers adapt well to the ACT and others do not. But the wisest choice is to prepare with SAT materials first.
The SAT and ACT both emphasize algebra in their math sections. However, the ACT’s math section typically tests a wider range of concepts, such as logarithms, graphs of trigonometry functions, and matrices.
While these concepts aren’t tested on the SAT, they can be easily covered and mastered because of the significant amount of math material (packets, clinic courses) that we have at MEK Review.
One of the new changes to the SAT is that students will not be allowed to have a calculator for part of the Math section. SAT Math now has two parts: No Calculator (20 questions) and Calculator (38 questions), while the ACT allows you to use a calculator for all math questions.
Every question on the No Calculator part of SAT Math is solvable by hand. When students prepare with MEK Review, they will learn how to solve all of these questions in a timely and accurate fashion.
Coupled with the fact that the Math section is (by far) the section where students see the most improvement, all MEK Review exam prep students can expect to be fully prepared for both the SAT and ACT.
What about the ACT Science Section?
Some people make a big deal out of the ACT Science section, but this section is not really about science. It doesn’t test much knowledge of actual information, such as freezing points or solubility rules. It merely uses scientific language. It also uses charts and graphs.
Since the SAT is now incorporating more of these concepts into its three exam sections, students that start with SAT prep will also gain an introductory understanding of the ACT Science section.
The information below is typical of the ACT Science section:
A student can answer questions about this information without knowing that Mg means magnesium, or that mol stands for the unit of measurement mole, or that ˚C means degrees Celsius.
The skills required on the ACT really boil down to the ability to interpret data, understand viewpoints, compare viewpoints, and analyze researcher or experimental intent.
In short: the skills needed to succeed on the ACT Science section have less to do with science and more to do with critical thinking. Since the SAT tests critical thinking skills far more than the ACT, students who start with the SAT have an advantage for both tests.
When students start their preparation with the SAT in mind, they cover nearly all the content-related abilities required for both tests.
The SAT contains three sections: Reading, Math, and Writing and Language. The ACT contains four sections: Reading, Math, English, and Science. Both also have an optional essay.
When students master content-related abilities, they can assess which test they will perform best on based on format-related abilities.
The #1 comment SAT test-takers make about the ACT is how much faster they must work in order to finish the ACT. This element, coupled with the fact that the ACT has only one section for each subject, can make some students feel nervous about the format.
Other students thrive in the quick pace, and often score much higher on the ACT because they are confident in their content-related abilities, and don’t wear out from taking multiple sections of the same subjects.
IF YOU PLAN STRATEGICALLY,
YOU CAN SAVE TIME AND SCORE HIGHER.
Remember, the ultimate goal of SAT or ACT prep is so students can earn and submit the best possible scores on their college applications.
You don’t need to be a straight-A student to get a high score on the SAT or ACT. The key is in the right strategy, and if you don’t prepare the right way now, you might regret your performance later.
Avoid making the “score-sabotaging” mistake of just picking one test and committing to it. There is a wrong way and a right way to find out the correct test for your studying and problem solving abilities.
“What grade should my child start preparing for the SAT or ACT?”
As mentioned earlier, the SAT and ACT differ on two fronts: 1. content and 2. format. It is never too early for students to start bolstering their content-related abilities.
We highly recommend starting the second half of 9th grade using our SAT Core Reading & Writing program for 20 sessions. This time frame gives students time to acclimate to their new surroundings in high school without adding too much to their workload. Then, students can continue additional training during the summer between 9th and 10th grade, and if desired, prepare for SAT II tests.
An added benefit: because of their training in reading and writing, students will perform at a much higher level in humanities courses, such as Honors Language Arts or History.
“Should I write the essay, even if it’s optional?”
While the essay is optional for both the SAT and ACT, we recommend every student prepare to write the essay because top-tier schools require it. For example, as of 2017, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Amherst, Dartmouth, and Duke require the essay on both tests. Cornell, Columbia, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, and Boston College, however, are a few strong schools that do not require the essay.
Perhaps the best answer to this question depends upon the institutions to which you plan to apply.
Some students may score higher than they expected on their tests, or perform better in school — and expand their college lists. If they’ve already taken the SAT or ACT, they would need to retake it just to do the essay.
Preparing for the essay also has an added side benefit: it improves the student’s performance on the SAT Writing section.
“What is the goal score of the SAT / ACT Dual Prep?”
Remember, we don’t recommend SAT / ACT Dual Prep for every student. We only steer students toward the other test if there is evidence that they could score higher. Our goal is to help qualified students score 1500 and up on the SAT, or 33 and up on the ACT.
“What Kind of Results Have Students Obtained with SAT / ACT Dual Prep?”
The beauty of our program is that it is suitable for students in a number of different situations. Here are several case studies from MEK students in the past calendar school year.
SAT 2290 (out of 2400). Took the ACT and scored a perfect 36. Accepted to Harvard.
Trained for the SAT during summer, took ACT training and in October scored a 35 (out of 36). Accepted to Columbia.
Trained for the SAT during summer, took October SAT 2270 (out of 2400). Trained for the ACT during the fall, took the February ACT and scored a 35 (out of 36). Accepted to Cornell Engineering.
Student L (athlete, took tests into senior year):
Trained for the SAT during summer and fall, scored a 2070 (out of 2400). Took the September ACT and scored a 34 (out of 36). Even with a 3.4 unweighted GPA, received early admission at UIUC / Purdue Engineering.
MEK REVIEW TODAY
Professional. Innovative. Proven. Caring. These are the words people use to describe MEK Review. Our stellar reputation didn’t come overnight. Since 1997, thousands of students have come to MEK for the best in enrichment, test prep, and academic counseling. Now it’s your turn. You deserve the best.
No other academy provides pinpoint assessments like MEK. Students don’t just get a score, they know why they got that score and how to improve. We give details on each type of question, related concept, and problem-solving method. MEK students go further, faster.
MEK has something for every learner. Diagnostic consultations. SAT. ACT. Group classes. 1-on-1 guided instruction. Tutoring. Common Core program. College Essay Boot Camp. Professional Academic Counseling. From grades 1 through 12, MEK has it all.
MEK’s staff is a diverse community of professional instructors. Many have been with MEK for years; a testament to their talent, passion, and integrity. Most importantly, they care. Our instructors work hard to cultivate a positive and challenging learning environment—just for your child.