No matter how much we dislike standardized tests around here, eventually we were faced with the reality that we had to take a standardized test or two.
Most people think of the SATs when they think of college applications. It is true, SATs are very well known, especially on East Coast. I took the test a long time ago when graduating a large public high school. At that time I had no idea that there was at least one other option for me to explore, the ACTs.
Contrary to popular believe, both tests are looked upon equally by colleges. They are accepted by thousands of colleges nationwide. They both have an optional writing section and run about the same amount of time.
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There are several differences between the two tests. For example, ACTs have more time constraints. The cost for either test is about the same, around $50.00 without essay, and $70.00 with essay. ACTs also offer science as one of the sections, while SAT’s has more math questions. Math is addressed differently on both tests. Math on ACT includes a large percentage of geometry questions. For example, my kid is excellent at reading comprehension, and interpreting data and scientific evidence. Of course, one of the largest differences is how the tests are scored and of course, the strategies involved for each test. For him ACT was a better fit. This link has some really great information, including a nifty quiz on which test is a better fit for you or your child.
How to Register For ACTs or SATs
To register for the ACTs, proceed to https://www.act.org/ and go from there.
For SATs, visit College Board Website.
You take the test at the testing location near you. When you begin the registration process, it is pretty sequential and not difficult to follow.
For both SATs and ACTs, you can register online. However, PSATs you can’t. I have heard from many homeschooled parents that they found it nearly impossible to register their homeschool kid for PSATs.
Practicing For The ACTs, SATs and Other Tests
Personally, for us, nothing beats an actual book. We used this one for the ACTs.
Princeton Review offers free SAT practice tests in person. Really gives you a very similar environment as an actual SAT test. They do the same for the ACT practice test. Just find a location nearest you, and give it a go.
Kaplan offers free ACT and SAT prep.
Of course we also like to use Khan Academy for this. After all, who doesn’t like Khan Academy?!
Alternatives to SAT or ACT – CLT
I recently learned about a new test available to high school students, that is especially friendly to homeschoolers: CLT or Classic Learning Test. Here is what it offers, taken from their description: “The Classic Learning Test (CLT) is the new standard for college entrance assessments. It is designed for high school juniors and seniors. The CLT takes two hours, and tests for grammar, literary comprehension, and mathematical and logical reasoning; it also contains an optional, ungraded essay portion. Students take the exam on their own laptop or tablet, and receive their scores the same day, which they can then share with colleges of their choice at no charge.”
One awesome thing about CLT is that you can take it as CLT8 in 8th grade, CLT10 in 10th grade, and then later on CLT as a junior and senior, and each of the tests is tailored to age. Another great thing is that it can be done from the comfort of your home.
It is a relatively new test, just a few years old, and at the moment about 150 colleges accept it nation wide. It is a continuously growing list. Here is a full list of the colleges that accept CLT.
Go here to learn more about CLT.
Final Words of Advice
If you are applying to an Ivy League school, please, oh please, look on their website! Look early! Think 8th grade! Don’t find yourself one morning in a position where there is no time left. Most of these schools have an info page geared to homeschoolers. Many will be very clear on what they expect to see from homeschoolers. ON THAT LIST YOU WILL OFTEN SEE SAT SUBJECT TESTS! There are 20 subject tests, with over half of them being languages, followed by science, history, English and math. Look here to find out more about them.
In our case, the schools we were applying to did not require an essay on SAT or ACT. In fact, one of the said schools said to not even bother, because it won’t make any difference in their admission process. Check if your chosen school or schools want an essay section on the test! If they don’t, there is no shame in skipping it.
Don’t repeat my mistake and start taking this test senior year! Start sooner. You can begin to test as soon as 9th grade. Your top results will be the numbers that colleges will look at.
Finally, don’t worry! None of it is a big deal and everything will work out as it should!