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Three Common ACT and SAT Myths

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Here at the Learning Island, we spend a great deal of time providing students with strategies that help them to understand and exploit the quirks and unwritten rules of the ACT and SAT. While there is a lot of valuable “under the hood” information about these exams that ACT, Inc. and the College Board do not want students to know about, there are also countless misconceptions and outright falsehoods floating around. For this lesson, we’re going to dispel three of the most common ACT and SAT myths I have heard from students.


The ACT is easier/the SAT is easier

The problem with this myth is that “easier” an incredibly vague and subjective term. What is easier for one student might be more difficult for another and vice-versa. Furthermore, aspects of the ACT or SAT that a student might find less challenging are almost always balanced out by other factors. For example, let’s look at the reading section of each test. While it’s true that ACT Reading has a shorter time limit, the questions tend to be more straightforward. SAT Reading, on the other hand, gives students more time to answer questions. However, SAT Reading questions tend to be more involved and require a closer examination of the passages. In other words, there are just too many variables involved to be able to say that one exam is objectively easier than the other.


If you run out of time, you should put down “C” (or A or B or D)

The truth is that no letter is more likely to be correct than any other letter. While you might see “clusters” of the same letter on answer keys, both the ACT and SAT are designed in such a way that this issue resolves itself over the course of the test. Yet, there is a grain of truth to this myth. If you run out of time on a section of the exam, you should fill in the same letter for each question you have left. Using the same letter for each question is more likely to earn you correct answers than putting a different letter down for each question will. It just doesn’t matter which letter you choose.


Some ACT/SAT tests are more difficult than others

This isn’t an unreasonable assumption, but it’s one that both ACT, Inc. and the College Board work hard to keep from becoming a reality. Challenging questions are balanced out with less difficult ones, helping to ensure a consistent level of difficulty across an exam.


Because ACT, Inc. and the College Board administer multiple versions of their respective exams on the same days, minor variations in difficulty do inevitably creep in. However, both organizations have measures in place to control for these variances. You’re probably already familiar with one of these: the scaled score. Using a scaled, as opposed to a “raw,” scoring system allows ACT, Inc. and the College Board to adjust for any discrepancies among different tests given on the same test date.


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