The SAT is a college entrance examination accepted by all college admissions offices throughout the United States and Canada as an alternative to the ACT. Because the SAT tests students in a different manner than the ACT, some students find it better suited to their aptitude and personality. Every school in the United States and Canada accepts the ACT on an equal par with the ACT, so the focus should be solely based on which test is a better fit for the student, and Next Level Learning provides professional SAT instructors who can help make that determination.
While Next Level’s highly trained SAT instructors are well versed in the structure, content, strategy, and timing of the SAT, our experience has shown that properly assessing a student’s unique learning style and aptitude while simultaneously building effective rapport allows our instructors to design a tutoring approach that will achieve the quickest and most desirable results. Next Level instructors know the SAT well and have considerable experience successfully supporting students.
Students typically take the SAT two to three times, generally twice in the 11th grade and once in the 12th grade, allowing sufficient time between each test for additional practice and focused SAT preparation. The test is offered on 7 different dates throughout the school year. Please see our SAT Test Dates page for this year’s schedule.
The recent changes to the SAT have brought it more in line with the ACT. However, there are still several meaningful differences. Because SAT questions require more processing and reasoning, the SAT grants more time per question. Conversely, ACT questions are more straightforward, and as a result the test can feel more like an achievement test that prioritizes ”what you know,” timing, and endurance. There are also significant differences in content and structure. Please see our ACT vs. SAT page for a chart of differences. If you decide to take the SAT go to the College Board website to create an account and register for the SAT. Please read the following section about an important upcoming change to the SAT.
As of March 2024, the paper-based SAT exam will shift to the new digital SAT (dSAT) that students will take in school. The College Board has redesigned the test so that it will be shorter, more convenient to take (as well as administer), and unique to each student – meaning far fewer chances of compromising the test’s integrity should any students attempt to share answers. Please see our ACT vs. New Digital SAT page for a chart of differences.
As both tests are viewed equally in the eyes of college admissions staff, the deciding which test to take is an important one. At Next Level, our ACT and SAT instructors identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses, aptitude, and learning style to assess which test is the better fit. Typically, a student will work through sections of each test to gauge comfort and aptitude before a decision is made. After review and working through material from each test, students almost always express a strong preference or comfort level, which serves as a primary indicator of which direction to go.
The amount of preparation required for the SAT varies with each student. Just as no two students are the same, preparation for every student is also different. The following factors should be considered:
Most students begin preparation early in their junior year, but that varies depending upon the starting point and comfort level of the student. However, it is never advisable for students to wait until a few weeks before their first attempt. Just as cramming for a test in school is rarely productive, waiting until right before the SAT exam can generate significant and sometimes even debilitating anxiety. The ideal approach is to spread out preparation over a longer period so the student doesn’t feel an intensifying pressure to put it all together quickly.
For many students, the SAT is the first time they are taking a standardized test that will have a substantial impact on their future, and that realization alone can generate substantial anxiety. Getting an early start can often help ameliorate anxiety and put students in a significantly better position to achieve their greatest potential.
As part of the preparation process we recommend students take a proctored ACT exam at Next Level Learning. Taking a practice exam provides a valuable opportunity for students to work on test-taking skills and to see how they perform under pressure. A practice exam also helps students develop better time management skills.
The test consists of four separate sections, plus an optional writing test. The total time is 3 hours, plus 50 minutes for the optional writing test. There is no guessing penalty. Each question is multiple choice with four possible answer choices.
Reading Test | 65 minutes | 52 questions
Writing and Language Test | 35 minutes | 44 questions
Math (calculator and no-calculator) | 80 minutes | 58 questions
Scores are reported separately for the two sections: math and reading/writing on a scale of 200-800. These two scores are added to get a ‘total score’ on the scale 400-1600. Furthermore, most colleges “superscore” the SAT, which means that they accept the highest sub-score across all the test sittings. For example, if a student takes the SAT twice and gets a 580 in the Reading/Writing and a 620 Math the first time, and a 650 Reading/Writing and a 580 Math the second time, most colleges will accept the 650 Reading/Writing and the 620 Math. Thus, a student can use superscoring to produce a higher composite score than the score they achieved in any single test. Note: Not all schools accept superscoring. Applicants should always check with the school’s admissions department to learn the school’s policy. Students who apply to colleges that allow superscoring should consider taking the SAT multiple times to take advantage of the opportunity to present the highest scores from each test.
The SAT uses a tool called Score Choice that allows students to manage which scores they send to colleges. More information can be found here. (The tool also shows which scores each college requires the student to send.)
Contact Next Level Learning to find out how our SAT instructors can help your child achieve his or her greatest potential.