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ACT & SAT: What You Need to Know

If you or your high school child plans to attend college, you probably have already heard about the ACT and SAT tests. Post-secondary institutions require prospective students to complete at least one of these exams, and post an acceptable score. You must determine which test to take, and identify the subjects you need to study in preparation for it.

The SAT

The Scholastic Assessment Test was called the Scholastic Aptitute Test when it was created in 1926. Either way, it has always been known as the SAT. The Educational Testing Service administers the exam, which was developed by a nonprofit organization called the College Board.

The test is designed to measure whether a student has the literacy and writing skills required to be successful in college. Students have 3 hours and 45 minutes to answer the questions. With breaks, the process takes 4 hours and 30 minutes. Students earn a score between 200 and 800 points in critical reading, writing and math. Each subject features 10 sub-categories, with questions ranging from easy to difficult.

The critical-reading section requires students to complete sentences and answer questions about information contained in blocks of text. Skills measured are vocabulary, knowledge of sentence structure, and the ability to comprehend reading passages regarding various subjects.

The math portion of the SAT, also called the “quantitative” or “calculation” section, has three components that take a total of 70 minutes to complete. Most of the questions are in multiple-choice format, with some “grid-in” queries that require students to write answers inside grids on the answer sheet. The subjects covered are numbers, algebra, geometry, statistics, probability and data analysis.

The writing section consists of multiple-choice questions and a short essay. Students identify errors in sentences, and decide the best way to improve sentences and paragraphs. Grammar, word-usage, sentence structure and other skills are measured.

To take the SAT, an online reservation is required at the College Board’s website. Reservations, which must be made three weeks in advance of the test, also are accepted by telephone or mail. The test is administered seven times a year in the United States. There is a fee, though low-income students are granted exemptions. A number of organizations and companies provide books, classes, tutoring and online courses to help students prepare for the SAT.

The ACT

The American College Testing (ACT) exam has been used since 1959. According to ACT Inc., which administers the test, it measures students’ educational development, as well as their ability to succeed in college English, math, reading and science courses. A score on a scale of 36 points is determined in each category by answers to multiple-choice questions. The test takes 3 hours and 25 minutes to finish.

The English section, which lasts 45 minutes, consists of 75 questions that test a student’s word-usage, punctuation and other literacy skills. The math section features 60 questions that must be answered within an hour. The subjects include algebra, geometry and trigonometry.

The ACT reading test, which must be completed in 35 minutes, covers prose, the humanities, social science and natural science. The science-reasoning section contains 40 questions with a 35-minute deadline. Students read passages regarding scientific principles, then answer questions about them. Concepts include interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving.

An optional writing section is sometimes included in the ACT. Students have 30 minutes to write an essay on a given topic. The results are included in the English-section score.

The composite of the test scores on the various sections is computed on a scale of 36 points. Depending upon the university, a composite score between 17 and 31 is required for admission. The average student receives a score of about 21. The ACT is administered three to six times per year, with states differing in their schedules.

Choosing a Test

In the past, universities on the East and West coasts of the United States tended to require prospective students to take the SAT. In the South and Midwest, the ACT was preferred. Today, most colleges accept both tests. However, it is crucial that students ask the institutions they may wish to attend about their policies.

The ACT and SAT measure slightly different academic skills, with some some variations in subject matter. Students are advised to figure out which exam is best suited to their knowledge and test-taking skills.

In general, the ACT is considered a content-based exam, while the SAT entails more problem-solving and critical thinking. Put another way, the ACT is an achievement test and the SAT is an aptitude test.

The ACT, unlike the SAT, measures science reasoning, trigonometry and grammar. The SAT is more concerned with vocabulary, and is not solely comprised of multiple-choice questions. It also imposes a penalty for wrong answers, which is not the case with the ACT.

Universities consider numerous factors in deciding whether to admit a student. The ACT or SAT score is a major consideration. It is important for a student to determine which test to take, learn about the subjects it covers, and then take the time to study in advance of the exam date. Earning an acceptable score can make the difference between being accepted or denied at a college.

How to choose a university

Deciding where to go to college is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. How to choose a university entails a number of considerations. You want to find the college that best meets you priorities, in terms of academics, facilities, policies and other factors. Of course, your budget will play a significant role. Selecting the university that is the right match for you can result in a rewarding career. On the other hand, if you go to a school that does not meet your needs and inspire you to learn, you might get discouraged and drop out before earning a degree.

Begin by compiling a list of colleges in your area, as well as those elsewhere that you want to consider. If you are looking for a school close to home, your list will be shorter. You can save a lot of money by commuting to classes from your family home. However, many consider getting away from home part of the college experience. Staying in a a dorm involves living with different people, managing your money, and providing for yourself in terms of meals and other needs. You have to make choices and decisions not faced while living at home. The life skills you attain may be as valuable as the academic lessons.

Decide whether you want to consider small colleges, large universities or both. A college in a little town may offer smaller class sizes and a more personal environment. Major universities have more classes, facilities and activities.

Research which universities offer degree programs in the field that you plan to study. Consult the various college-rating schemes to see how the institutions on your list rank. Learn their tuition rates, fees, and cost of room of board. This step will likely eliminate some of the candidates. However, a seemingly expensive school may fit in your budget if it offers scholarships or other types of financial aid for which you are eligible.

Find out colleges’ requirements regarding ACT and SAT scores, to make sure you qualify. Consider class sizes and the faculty’s qualifications. If you are physically disabled, struggle with a learning disorder, or have emotional or social problems, see which schools offer the facilities and policies you require. Check out extracurricular activities. Some colleges feature an array of recreational facilities for students, while many offer clubs and programs for the arts and other interests. Academics are just part of the college experience. Make sure the school you choose provides enriching opportunities outside the classroom.

Find out about the academic performance of the students at a college, and the kinds of jobs that graduates have gotten in your field of interest. Learn about schools’ teaching methods, which may be traditional or alternative. You also may be interested in policies regarding grading, safety and campus security, discipline and other matters.

Don’t pay a lot of attention to a school’s reputation, whether good or bad. A college may not be right for you, even if it is considered prestigious. A bad reputation may be unfounded or misleading. Take with a grain of salt any advice offered by friends or family members. They may be basing their opinions on limited personal experience or anecdotal evidence. Find out for yourself.

Reading the information that colleges send you does not provide the whole picture. They spend a lot of money to produce slick brochures and other materials designed to entice you. View their publications and websites as critically as you would a television commercial.

Once you have reduced your list to a few colleges, start scheduling campus visits. Meet administrators and professors, and talk informally with students. Tour the classrooms, library, cafeteria, student-activities areas, dormitories and other facilities. Make sure the information technology is up-to-date. Sit in on some classes to get a feel for what it would be like to attend the college. Try to determine whether it is a place where you will feel secure, happy and eager to learn. Get a sense of the social and political climate on campus. It’s a good idea to take friends or family members with you on the tour, so you can benefit from their perspectives.

Knowing how to choose a university is a complex matter. There are myriad factors to ponder, based on your needs and budget. Start your search early, with an eye on colleges’ deadlines for admissions and student-housing applications.

You will need to set your priorities, because some compromises are inevitable. If you accurately assess your requirements, and thoroughly consider the universities that fit the bill, you have a good chance of finding the right place for a rewarding post-secondary learning experience.

Analysis of an Issue - a preparatory guide

So you are ready for your GRE exams? A little extra preparation never hurts!

The GRE exam is quite basic and does not demand a lot of professional or advanced level preparation. It has three sections – verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. Of these three, the analytical writing section proves to be quite a challenge as there is no singularly correct method of solving the problem. It tests your deduction, creative and analytical skills to get the best out of you and on to the paper!

The analytical writing section is divided into two parts – “Analysis of an Issue”, and “Analysis of an Argument”. Here, we will only be talking about the former part “Analysis of an Issue”.

What Is Involved In This Section?

This section involves a situation or topic of general interest. You are required to analyze it critically and express your thoughts about the topic. Since the topics can be attempted in an infinite number of ways, it is important to read the instructions carefully and approach the question with the right direction. More often, you will be required to take a stance in favor or against the topic under deliberation and justify your decision with arguments and logical deductions.

How to Attempt?

This section lasts for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, you do not have a lot of time to toil around the topic or try to reattempt the topic if you realize halfway you are not headed on the right course. It is important to divide your time in the best possible manner.

Devote ample time in reading and understanding the problem. Once you have understood what the examiner is looking for, formulate your strategy of answering and jot down the structure briefly. You are now ready to write your essay.
The best way to structure your essay is to give an introduction paragraph followed by at least three reasons to support your choice and a short conclusion. It is important to proof read your essay for possible errors and spelling mistakes in order to improve your scoring chances. If you think you will not have time in the end to reread your essay, try to proofread your article while writing it.

How to Prepare for “Analysis of an Issue”?

There is a list of possible topics given of GRE’s official website that can give you an idea about what to expect in the examination hall. There is no better way to prepare for the test other than practicing on the given topics.
Take time out of your busy schedule to attempt the questions. Make sure you mark the time you spend on a question so you can improve on it and thereby perform better in the actual examination.

A Handful of Helpful Tips

There are a few things you might want to keep in mind while attempting the questions. For instance,

  1. Make sure your essay has a proper focus. You need not beat about the bush. Be clear and straightforward in putting forth your points and reasoning out with the examiner to vote in your favor. Also, make sure your response is relevant to the question being asked. It is easy to lose track while writing about reasons. Make sure you do answer the question that was asked rather than the question you liked to answer!
  2. Keep the organization intact. There should be a continuous flow throughout the essay. Good points put forth in a random order will not be able to create the impact you need to do in order to win the examiner’s heart.
  3. You want the reader to be engaged in the essay. The last thing you need is to put the examiner to sleep while reading your essay. Keep the sentences short and assertive while also using connectors. Make sure you do emphasize your choice at the end of each reason/paragraph.
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