SAT Frequently Asked Questions

Your SAT Questions Answered

I’ve heard that colleges prefer the SAT to the ACT. Is that true?

No. Any U.S. college or university that requires standardized test scores accepts both the SAT and ACT and gives absolutely no preference to either test. That said, colleges will sometimes have slightly different requirements for SAT Subject Tests, depending on whether you are submitting SAT or ACT scores. It’s always worth checking with the individual schools your child is considering.

How many sections are there on the SAT? How long does the whole test take?

The current version of the SAT has five sections: Reading, Writing & Language, Math without a calculator, Math with a calculator, and the Essay (which is optional). If you take the test without the essay, the test lasts three hours (180 minutes) excluding breaks. If you take the test with the essay, it lasts three hours and 50 minutes (230 minutes) excluding breaks.

When should a student take the SAT?

A student should only take the test when they’re ready to put their best foot forward. For most students that tends to be in the winter or spring of their junior year. It’s worth noting that almost all students take the test more than once.

When should a student start preparing for the SAT?

How long a student will need to prep will be dependent on their goals and current facility with the material that the SAT covers. Our comprehensive diagnostic process can be a great way to find out where your child stands. Most of our students take diagnostics with us in the spring of their sophomore year or the fall of their junior year.

What is Score Choice?

Score Choice is a service offered by the College Board that allows students to choose which SAT and SAT Subject Test scores they send to universities as part of their college application. Many schools participate in Score Choice, but some do not. These schools tend to require that students send all of their test scores.

What are the primary differences between the SAT and the ACT?

The similarities and differences between the SAT and ACT are too numerous to include here, but in a nutshell, the SAT tends to require a deeper understanding of concepts but isn’t a particularly fast-paced test. The ACT, on the other hand, asks a little less from students in terms of content knowledge but requires students to work at a very efficient pace. You can always learn more about the tests here.

How do I know which test is right for my child?

At Private Prep, we take this decision very seriously and have developed a comprehensive diagnostic approach. First, we’ll have your child take a full version of each test and then run their results through our diagnostic algorithm, which will analyze your student’s performance in terms of the peculiarities of each test. The algorithm will then make a recommendation as to which test will be the best fit for your child. However, numbers aren’t everything. Your education director will also have an in-depth discussion with you and your child about their experience with each test to help you and your child choose which test to prepare.

What if my child starts out working on one test, but then we want to make a change?

This is quite rare, but it does happen from time to time. Though there are some key differences between the SAT and ACT, they are in many ways vastly similar. Much of the preparation your child undertakes for one of the tests will be applicable to the other test. Private Prep tutors are experts at easing this transition for students. Your director will want to have an in-depth discussion before any change is made, just to make sure that it’s the right decision for your child.

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