There are several rumors about the SAT and the ACT that many high school students and even parents believe to be true. One rumor is that some ACT and SAT tests are easier than others. Another rumor making the rounds is that taking the test on a particular day, if the “easy” test is offered that day, can automatically help a test-taker get a better score than would have otherwise been possible. Yet another rumor making the rounds is that both the ACT and SAT are graded on the curve. This means that your grade could be positively or negatively affected based on the performance of other test takers.
Neither the SAT nor the ACT is graded on the curve. Your performance is the sole factor in determining your final score on either. However, you should be aware that scoring significantly lower than many of your fellow test-takers can make it difficult for you to gain acceptance to the college or university of your choice. Many educational institutions rely heavily on SAT and ACT scores when making admissions decisions, and even the difference of a few points could make or break your educational dreams.
The rumor about some tests being easier than others is actually true. There are a number of SAT and ACT test variations and some are actually easier than others. This means that, in some instances, taking the test on a particular day could be easier than taking it on a different day. However, it’s important to note that taking the test on a so-called “easier day” doesn’t make any difference in your final score. The reason is that both the ACT and the SAT use a scoring method called “equating” to score all the tests. Equating is a universally accepted scoring method and it ensures that everyone gets a fair score no matter when they took the test or what test they took. If you got an easy test, each correct answer will be worth a little less than it would have been had you taken a more difficult test. Conversely, taking the SAT or the ACT at the “wrong” time means that correct answers are worth slightly more. In the end, your score is fair no matter when you take your test or what test you get.
The Best Month to Take the ACT or SAT
When is the best month to take the ACT or SAT? That depends on how prepared you are for the exam you are planning to take. Most experts recommend scheduling your first SAT or ACT exam three to six months in advance. Doing so will give you time to identify and shore up weak areas so you can get a good score. If you qualify for a modification to the SAT or ACT, you’ll need the extra time to gather paperwork, fill out an accommodation application and submit it. If you are taking the SAT or ACT a second time in order to superscore your test, allow yourself a month or two between tests.
Instead of focusing on which SAT or ACT exam you get, focus on improving your reading, writing, math and science skills in order to earn a high score. First of all, set aside between 15 and 30 minutes each day to study. Set up a quiet study area where you can work without distractions. Gather the items you’ll need to study, including reading material, pencils, erasers, a notebook, a SAT or ACT-approved calculator for the math section of the test and a timer for SAT or ACT practice exams.
UWorld offers a plethora of practice ACT and SAT tests to help you get used to the test formats. Simple, easy to understand explanations are included for wrong answers to enable you to improve your score the next time around. Additionally, the College Board and act.org websites offer various resources to help test-takers study in an efficient, effective manner.
Your SAT or ACT score can have a big impact on your future. While you can take the test more than once, you’ll naturally want to do your best the first time around to avoid investing time and money in taking an exam a second or even third time. Thankfully, you can earn a good score if you are willing to work hard for it. Learn everything you can about the exam you are going to take and then study effectively in order to reach your current and future educational goals.