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4 Stubborn ACT and SAT Myths

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Some ACT and SAT myths are more resilient than others. For this lesson, we’re going to debunk four of the most stubborn ones. If you are a regular reader of this blog, chances are you’ve already seen why these myths can’t be true. If you are a new reader or have not taken the ACT or SAT before, this lesson will help you to understand why taking either of these exams requires its own special type of preparation.


  1. The ACT and SAT test what you’ve learned in high school


The ACT and SAT do cover subjects that most students study in high school. However, the way that the tests present those subjects can be very different from how they are covered in the classroom. While there are a variety of reasons for this discrepancy, the primary one is the nature of standardized tests. In order to assess critical reading and writing skills in a multiple choice format, these subjects have to be radically simplified so that each question can have a single objectively-correct answer. Expectations for mathematics also differ from high school. ACT and SAT math questions require only a final correct answer. Whether students actually solve problems correctly or resort to workarounds and shortcuts to get to those answers is totally irrelevant.


  1. If you do well in a high school subject, you will do well on the ACT/SAT’s version of that subject


Closely-related to number one is the myth that just because you are skilled in a certain subject, you will automatically excel in that same subject on the ACT or SAT. In reality, both exams demand a greater level of precision with grammar rules and the literal impetration of texts than most high school students are accustomed to. Likewise, the sheer number of mathematical concepts presented on the ACT and SAT can overwhelm even the most gifted math students. While you will probably do better on the sections of the ACT or SAT that play to your natural strengths, do not assume that you will be able to knock out a perfect score on a test section because you have an A in an analogous school subject.


  1. You don’t need to prepare for the ACT or SAT


ACT, Inc. and the College Board, the companies that design and administer the tests, have fought long and hard to hold onto this myth. Both organizations have an obvious vested interest in claiming that their tests are completely accurate indicators of college readiness. As we’ve seen with myths one and two, this is obviously not the case. While ACT, Inc. and the College Board cannot come right out and say so, the existence of official prep books and websites are tacit admissions that you won’t do your best on the ACT or SAT if you go into either exam cold.


  1. High school is the best preparation for the ACT/SAT


This myth is partially true. To excel on the ACT or SAT, you need to master both the test content and the test format. Doubling-down on classes that you are struggling with and taking electives in your weakest areas will help enormously with the former but will do nothing to address the latter. For that you will need a well-designed test prep guide or, even better, an experienced ACT/SAT test prep teacher.


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