Test Prep 101: SAT and ACT Diagnostics
By Megan, IvyWise Tutoring Manager
With application season upon us, it’s time for sophomores and juniors to begin preparing for and taking standardized tests. The first step to preparing for the SAT or ACT is to decide which test is the best fit for your skills and abilities. While there are countless articles comparing the SAT and ACT and why you should take a certain exam, in reality the tests are incredibly similar. Ultimately, there is no clear sign of which test to prepare for without taking diagnostics of each exam.
What Are SAT/ACT Diagnostics?
SAT and ACT diagnostics are simply practice tests that are used to establish a baseline of your testing skills and abilities. Here at IvyWise we encourage all of our students to take a diagnostic exam of each test in order to determine which would be the best fit for them. We recognize that each student is an individual and what works for one student might not be the best option for another, so it’s important for students to take a full-length practice test in order to simulate the exam experience and get a comprehensive evaluation of how students perform on each.
Why Not Hybrid Diagnostics?
Recently there has been a growing trend to administer hybrid ACT/SAT diagnostic exams that are a shortened, less-comprehensive way to evaluate the individual’s testing scope. However, here at IvyWise, we utilize the philosophy that full-length diagnostics are the only effective way to understand fully how a student will perform on the ACT or SAT.
Given that there are pacing differences on each test, different policies for acquiring accommodations, and even varying calculator polices, we encourage students to prepare for one of the exams, not both. While some test prep programs only give students a shortened version of the test for convenience, there are some drawbacks to this approach.
You’re not able to evaluate the impact of testing fatigue.
Have you ever felt tired and mentally drained after taking a tough test or answering a lot of challenging homework questions? You’re not alone – those are symptoms of fatigue. When testing, your brain is processing an overload of information that it’s not used to, so that’s why you’ll often feel exhausted during or after an exam. In order to set a baseline of your fatigue index, it’s important to take a full-length diagnostic test. This can be used to help students better prepare for the SAT or ACT, as IvyWise tutors utilize timed drills and frequent practice tests from our test database to grow a student’s fatigue index during the test prep process.
You can’t get a full picture of students’ time management and pacing skills.
A huge component to ‘cracking’ the ACT and the SAT is simply knowing how to pace yourself throughout each section of the exam. When a student takes an abbreviated form of the exam, a tutor will not be able to recognize the student’s pacing skills. This is key for both tests since sometimes students will spend too much time on the ‘easy’ questions of certain sections or improperly pace themselves through the reading passages.
It’s more difficult to develop an effective test prep plan.
You cannot get an accurate recommendation for a tutoring plan if your tutor only knows pieces of what you’re capable of. Having a diagnostic gives your tutor the ability to see your full range of abilities, with enough questions to comprehensively analyze your areas of strength and ones for growth.
Moral of the story: Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to SAT and ACT diagnostics. While both exams do take close to four hours to complete, it is important to have a realistic baseline of your abilities in order to prepare successfully and effectively for your college entrance exams.
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