Performing Well on the Entrance Exams

Top colleges require their applicants to take the ACT or SAT exams. Admissions officers usually look for applicants with high scores on these tests, but performing well on them won’t necessarily get your child into a top school. On the other hand, low scores on the entrance exams could keep your child from being admitted into their target schools.

In this article, we provide an overview of the ACT and SAT exams and explain why your child must strive to perform well on them.

Overview of the ACT and SAT Exams

The ACT and the SAT are aptitude tests intended to assess the test taker’s analytical and problem-solving skills. The organizations that design and administer these tests claim that these exams can be used to evaluate learners’ high school learning to determine whether they are ready for the academic rigors of college.

These tests have strict time limits and produce a range of scores that help differentiate students. Opinions vary concerning these exams’ effectiveness, but admissions officers from top colleges typically use standardized test results when deciding whether an applicant’s profile is strong enough to merit admission.

The ACT and SAT exams differ in their structure, number of questions, and provided time:

Section Questions Time (min)
English 75 45
Math 60 60
Reading 40 35
Science 40 35
Writing One prompt 40
Section Questions Time (min)
Reading 52 65
Writing 44 35
Math 58 80
Essay One essay 50

The ACT has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. In contrast, the SAT is composed of two sections that include three tests: Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. Both tests offer an optional Writing or Essay section. The total time allowed for the ACT (including the optional Writing section) is 3 hours and 35 minutes. The total time for the SAT (including the optional essay) is 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Why ACT and SAT Scores Matter

ACT and SAT scores are just numbers. They measure the applicant’s performance on the test. Although these scores are somewhat impersonal, they do provide admissions officers with a metric they can use to evaluate the applicant’s academic readiness for college-level work.

Your child’s test scores will be used to compare them with the other applicants. Naturally, this adds a level of competitiveness to the ACT and SAT; your child needs to do well on them to stand out.

Many applicants to top colleges have phenomenal test scores. The most selective schools could even require perfect ACT or SAT scores and still have plenty of qualified applicants. Even though perfect scores are not required, statistics show that your child needs high scores if they want to craft a competitive admissions profile.

The higher your child’s test scores, the better their chances of admission will be. A low score could significantly harm their profile’s competitiveness. Unless your student is an athletic recruit, an underrepresented minority member, a legacy applicant, or the like, their chances of gaining admission with poor standardized test scores are slim.

Also, keep in mind that the more selective schools will require higher entrance exam scores. The standards are high, so your child needs to perform well on these tests. Many students who apply to top colleges have perfect or near-perfect scores; if your child does not, the rest of their application will have to make up for it.

However, perfect scores won’t differentiate your child’s admissions profile by themselves; they certainly are not the only important component of a strong college application. Ivy League Prep would be glad to provide you with personalized guidance throughout the entire admissions process and help your child fulfill their academic dreams.