Can you prepare for the SAT or ACT?

August 26, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Almost every student planning to go to college faces one of two hurdles- the SAT or ACT.

Just about every college in the country requires applicants to take one of the two tests. The SAT - Scholastic Achievement Test - is more popular on the coasts. The ACT - an organization acronym that formerly stood for the American College Testing program - is preferred throughout the interior United States.

How a student does on the tests can be the difference between being accepted or denied entrance to a chosen college.

These are tests you can't cram for, said Tom Dracz, career guidance counselor at Greencastle-Antrim High School in Pennsylvania.

"The best way to get ready is to take English and math classes," he said.

To prepare for the math portion of the SAT, Washington County Public Schools Director of Secondary Education Boyd Michael said students should take as many math courses as possible.


A good way to prepare for the verbal portion of the SAT is to "read, read, read and write, write, write," Michael said.

The ACT test is divided into four parts - English, math, reading and science.

"The best thing for our test is study hard in school and take hard classes," ACT spokesman Ed Colby said.

"Work hard in all your courses," Michael said.

ACT and SAT representatives also recommended students take practice tests to become familiar with the format and types of questions on the tests.

Prospective SAT-takers can take the PSAT, which is a short version of the SAT.

There are also private test preparation courses which promise to increase a student's score.

Michael said Washington County students are encouraged to take SAT preparation classes.

But Kristin Carnahan, spokeswoman for The College Board, which owns the SAT, said there's no proof those courses work.

"Opinions differ on how valuable they are depending on who you're talking to," Dracz said.

Last year, more than 3.3 million SATs or ACTs were taken, Carnahan and Colby said.

Most students take the tests during their junior year and early in their senior year. Many students take either the SAT or ACT more than once, they said.

Michael said students should take the test several times, until they are happy with their score or until the score "flattens out."

Being prepared for the tests takes more than studying.

"On test day, be well rested and have a good breakfast," said Frank Aliveto, deputy superintendent of Berkeley County Public Schools. "Those things might sound silly, but the tests are long."

SAT information can be found on the Internet at

Information on the ACT is available on the Internet at

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