Why Is ACT More Popular Than SAT?

By: Ivan Mervis with Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep - Georgia

For over five years, ACT has been the most popular test for college admissions and scholarships. In March 2016, College Board threw out the 2005 version of the SAT — but ACT remains number one. Why is that?

Two years ago, the redesigned SAT adopted many of the features of the ACT. The SAT essay is now optional and they removed the quarter-point penalty for wrong answers. The SAT Reading and Writing sections now look quite similar to the ACT. That said, there are still some ACT-SAT differences that stand out – and help to make ACT more popular:

1. The pace of the ACT is faster than SAT: fewer seconds for each question.
When students take the ACT for the first time, it is quite common to run out of time. Once they learn to manage time using strategies – and get lots of practice – they can beat the clock and get more questions right.

2. ACT is more straightforward than SAT: the answer choices are more clear and distinctive.
SAT often gives two answer choices that look right. It can be stressful and time-consuming for students to figure out which answer is THE right one. ACT gives answer choices that are simpler to differentiate.

3. The ACT Math section is built differently than SAT Math: all multiple-choice and all calculator-allowed. The redesigned SAT Math includes a non-calculator section for the first time, which many students find more challenging. SAT Math also includes the dreaded grid-in questions, where you can’t guess the answer or work the problem backwards. ACT Math has none of these disadvantages. On top of that, the SAT Math score is 50% of the total SAT score, while ACT Math is only 25% of the ACT composite score.

4. ACT has a separate Science section (a data exercise), while SAT includes a few data questions in their Reading, Writing and Math sections.
The ACT Science section is unlike any test your student has seen before. The crazy thing is the Science score is weighted the same as Reading, English (multiple-choice writing) and Math. First, ACT Science really doesn’t test science knowledge. It’s a data exercise where students answer questions by finding the right nuggets of information in tables, graphs and charts. Then they apply some light data analysis to identify the right answers. Students can usually improve Science scores pretty quickly by applying strategies and getting plenty of practice – without having to build underlying subject skills.

Use this link to see a section-by-section summary of ACT-SAT differences.

How should your student get started? If they took the PSAT in October, we recommend they take a full-length ACT practice test (3 hours) to experience the look and feel of the fast-paced test. Then we’ll meet to compare the PSAT scores with ACT scores to see which test results are better. We’ll also answer your questions and discuss how your student feels about each test in order to select the least objectionable one.

If your student did not take the PSAT in October – or didn’t test well that day – we can administer our ACT vs SAT Comparison Test. It’s a pared-down version of both tests and takes 3.5 hours. In any event, Dogwood does not charge you to proctor any ACT-SAT practice tests. We then use those results to identify each student’s needs so our tutors can customize each one-on-one lesson. Call Jennifer at 763-559-8378 to discuss how your child can achieve his or her best results on the ACT and/or SAT.

Combined ACT and SAT Prep

We’re not saying ACT is better for all students because SAT is still a good fit for many. For students interested in taking both tests, Dogwood offers a combined ACT and SAT program to prepare for both tests simultaneously. That’s not as ominous as it may sound. Our expert tutors work one-on-one with your student in our professional learning center, encouraging them to improve their skills.

SAT Scores Cause a Scandal: There's More To Your Student's Score from the New SAT Than Meets The Eye.

Since the first scores of the New SAT were released last week, there has been a great deal of speculation and skepticism surrounding the scores, and quite frankly it is for good reason.  Although many students in Plymouth were thrilled to see scores better than they expected, the sheer numbers reported in and of themselves are actually a bit misleading, as the Washington Post reported in an article titled “Why your new SAT score is not as strong as you think it is.” 

At first glance, the scores from the new SAT appear encouraging.  However, the reality is that a score of 1300 for example on the new SAT, is not as strong as a score of 1300 on the past exam.  In fact, you need a calculator to adjust your new score, to the appropriate score of years past.  (Incidentally, there is also an app available through the College Board to help convert scores).  However, what the conversion calculators unanimously reveal is that the new scores don’t stack up to the old scores, and the discrepancy between scores can be as much as 80 points.   

That means that students who were counting on a specific score to lock in admission to a certain school are liable to find out they need a higher score than they thought.   Consider the example of student Bill Jones.  Bill believed he needed a 900 total SAT score to fall in line with the Median Score of Incoming Freshman at West Virginia University in 2015. However, with the new SAT scoring system, Bill actually needs a 980 score.  Likewise, at Penn State, where the 2015 Median Score of Incoming Freshmen was an 1190, students taking the new SAT need to score 1260 for the score to carry the same weight. 

Confused yet?  You’re not alone.  At Achieve Academics, we predicted that there were going to be some hiccups and obstacles and problems with the new SAT.  A change of this magnitude simply wasn’t going to go off without a hitch, which is why we continue to recommend that high school students in Plymouth take both the SAT and the ACT for the foreseeable future.   

The ACT has become the more popular of the tests in recent years, and with such big changes to the SAT, it is highly advisable that students preparing for college study take the ACT in addition to the SAT, until this scoring is better understood.  As a private tutoring and test prep services company serving the Plymouth area for a number of years, at Achieve Academics our sole goal is to ensure your student performs their best in school, and on all college prep tests they choose to take. 

In the meantime, if you are struggling to understand what your student’s new SAT score means for them, in regards to college admissions, feel free to contact us anytime at 763-559-8378, or via email at

The March 2016 SAT Scores Are Finally Here! What's Your Next Step?

In this day and age, it is increasingly common to turn to the Internet and digital platforms to resolve life’s daily tasks and conundrums. Though plenty of web services make life easier or more efficient, one particular digital area’s true value still remains to be seen: online tutoring. Though some online tutoring services tout cost efficiency and accessibility, can education via the Internet work as effectively as the time tested and proven face-to-face tutoring model?

There are plenty of reasons that students and their families seek out tutoring services, often to prep for major college admission tests like the SAT or the ACT. In addition to choosing the college admission test that’s best for a student, it is just as important to determine the delivery method by which a student is best served. Even online tutoring courses that promise real-time online SAT or ACT support from teachers tend to come up short when it comes to lasting results. Though a quick online course may modestly boost scores, it is no match for a small group or private one-on-one tutoring where actual, in-person tutors can strategize alongside a student and cater to his or her specific strengths, weaknesses, learning style, and goals.

Personal Tutoring With a Professional Tutor

In fact, one of the most effective tools a tutor can employ is the bond forged between teacher and student which is built through spending time with one another. When trust is built between a tutor and his or her pupil through a small group setting or one-on-one study, comfort and communication result—which ultimately paves the way for the formation of positive and lasting study habits. A good tutor doesn’t evaluate from afar, via a screen located potentially thousands of miles away. Instead, the face-to-face, interaction between tutor and student puts the student at the center, and the ensuing strategy and set of goals are developed from a personalized starting point. While the nuances of test prep can get lost in translation when utilizing an online tutoring service, an experienced tutor can assess a student’s needs, progress, and long-term retention, and adjust along the way, when they are personally and routinely meeting with the student.

While online tutoring can be good at providing free generic instructional help and repetitive practice exercises, they also use generic approaches, not keeping in mind a student’s learning style/ difference/ psyche. An experienced tutor teaches a student how they can personalize and make the strategies and concepts their own. Using verbal and nonverbal cues, they diagnose and assess a student’s unique learning style, resulting in improved learning skills and self-confidence. Online programs have yet to bridge that human touch.

The College Board will be extending the regular registration deadline for the 6/4/16 SAT until 5/11/16. Please contact us to learn about our small group and private one-on-one tutoring options.

At Achieve Academics, we seek to meet the needs of each and every student, no matter his or her goals, interests, or academic background. Through one-on-one personalized tutoring and small group classes, we address the individual learning needs of all students, especially during the critical end of the year stretch. Finishing strong during final exams keeps transcripts and GPA’s on track, showing teachers and future college admission committees that a student is consistent and serious about his or her education. Whatever your student’s academic needs may be, Achieve Academics has a summer program that can help. Contact us today at 763-559-8378, or via email at