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The format of the SAT dramatically changed in early 2016. On the contrary, the ACT has changed very little over the years. As a result, the tried-and-true materials that Ivy Bound licenses for all its students are far more abundant for the ACT than the SAT.

blog-study2Unfortunately, the SAT has almost no tried-and-true materials to help students prepare. The College Board offers sample problems and even simulated tests, but a full practice test has never been released to use in an actual testing situation. The scales for the SAT are also unreliable, as the College Board needs at least a full year to make true correlations.

Thus, our strong recommendation at Ivy Bound is for students to study the ACT. Since the ACT material covers all but two aspects of the SAT, the ACT study allows a student to prep for the SAT at the same time. The two unique areas of the SAT are:

  • Vocabulary — difficult vocabulary is tested in Reading Comprehension questions.
  • Essay – the SAT’s essay is very different from the ACT.

Ivy Bound prepares students for vocabulary and the SAT essay without the need for tutoring. The vocab comes via spreadsheets, from which we create our “macro lists” of every difficult word invoked by the SAT on released tests from 1995 – 2013. Our lists contain the difficult words used by the College Board in SAT samples leading to the new 2016 Verbal sections. Our tutors show students how to master a large vocabulary on their own.

The essay is covered in once-a-month phone sessions. Students pay a one-time fee to have up to three SAT essays individually evaluated, but tutoring is rarely necessary.

Though all students have unique needs, here are generalities to consider as the best approach:

Seniors willing to work hard for a better admission and/or scholarship award:

  • Take ACT in September, October and December
  • Take SAT in October, November and December
  • Continue in January, February (ACT) and March to improve for the sake of college admission wait lists and scholarships

Seniors not so willing to work hard:

  • Take ACT in September, October and December

Juniors willing to work hard for a better admission and/or scholarship award:

  • Take ACT in September, October and December
  • Take PSAT in October
  • Take SAT in October, November and December
  • Take SAT Subject Tests in May and June

Juniors not so willing to work hard:

  • Take ACT in September, October and December
  • If your ACT scores are not satisfactory, consider SAT in January and March
  • Take SAT Subject Tests in May and June

Sophomores willing to work hard for a better admission and/or scholarship award:

  • Take ACT in September, October and December
  • Take PSAT in October as a practice
  • Take SAT in December, January and March
  • Take SAT Subject Tests in May and June

Sophomores not so willing to work hard:

  • Take SAT Subject Tests in May and June. Subject Tests offer good credentials for low effort
  • Wait for next summer to study the ACT and/or SAT
  • Take ACT in September, October and December or SAT in September, October and November

To ALL: Remember that colleges do not care how many times you take the ACT and SAT; they’re looking for one of the scores to be really good.