Properly evaluating whether the SAT or ACT is right for your child
A proper diagnosis involves asking the right questions, doing enough research, and performing the right tests. This is just as true in the doctor's office as it is in school or when doing test prep. Recently, a mother came to see me to discuss her son's test prep. He is about to enter his senior year at a NYC private school and had been prepping for the ACT for many months with another tutoring company. She told me that he had done several mock ACTs with this company, but was still having trouble finishing the test sections on time and scores really hadn't budged. Given his lack of confidence, he didn't sit for the ACT this June and instead opted to push for one of the fall tests - hence her visit: what could Bespoke do for them since she didn't think the other tutor was helping?
I started by asking many questions relevant to taking the ACT: Was her son a reader? Did he like to read and did he read books for fun as a younger child? No, she said, reading was a chore, and he read as little as possible. His math was weak and he was being tutored for his school math course. And, yes, he continually had trouble finishing the ACT sections. When I pushed her to explain how her son had initially been evaluated by the other company, it was clear they did so without any full-length testing, without any scores to look at, and with seemingly little attention to the fact that her son was not a reader and struggled in math. This is not the profile of a student who can be expected to excel on the ACT, a test heavily based on fast reading and a knoweldge of math up through trigonometry. His profile suggested someone who could do well by learning the "tricks" of the SAT reading sections and by dealing with SAT math questions that didn't require much calculator use or memorization of formulas.
Applying to college means putting one's best foot forward at every turn. Selecting the right test - ACT or SAT - is an essential step. But good decisions about which path to select come from good diagnoses, and those in turn arise from having hard data such as test scores and a thorough understanding of a student's academic and personal history. It is important that parents and students seek out this information before spending time and money on a path that may end up frustrating them.