SAT & ACT Testing FAQ

When should my student take the ACT/SAT?

The ACT/SAT for most students is a process, not an event.  Many students take the ACT/SAT in October of their junior year, again in the Spring of the junior year, and again the fall of the senior year.  We recommend that they take the test in October, January, or May because of the extra score report that is offered with those tests (see questions below about this score report, called the QAS).

Is it better to take the test once and then follow up with a course or get the course first?

Taking our course first provides students with a true baseline score.  This provides a realistic picture of the student’s current testing ability and allows them to develop a testing plan specific to their strengths and weaknesses.  Taking our course first also helps eliminate any poor test taking habits or strategies before going through the actual process.

Does the writing section matter on the SAT?

Not usually.  Students must take this section on the SAT (unlike on the ACT), though most colleges and universities do not use the writing score as part of the admissions process.  Neither is the writing score considered when determining South Carolina state scholarships.  (Read more about the requirements for the Life and Palmetto Fellows scholarships below.) Be sure to consult a school’s admission office for a definitive answer.

Do I have to take the SAT or the ACT to go to college?

It depends on which college you want to go to.  There are some schools that are “test optional.”  You can see the list of those schools here

Which test is easier? The SAT or the ACT?

The ACT has a reputation of being “easier” but, in reality, neither test is easy; they are different.  Their differences are mostly structural.  For example, the SAT has 54 math questions divided into 3 sections totaling 70 minutes, whereas the ACT has 60 math questions in 1 60-minute section.  As a result, though the question design of the ACT may be more straightforward than the SAT, the pacing of the ACT is more difficult.

So should my student take the SAT or the ACT?

It depends on your student.  We recommend that students take both.  Most students find that their scores correlate.  If a student scores “higher” on one test then they should pursue more in-depth preparation for that particular test. 

How to SAT and ACT scores correlate?

Both tests are norm-referenced, which means that they are scored against the average.  A 900 (combined critical reading and math) SAT score is about an 18 ACT composite score.  A 1000 combined SAT is about a 21 ACT composite.  1100 SAT is approximately a 24 ACT, a 1200 SAT is approximately a 27 ACT, a 1400 SAT is approximately a 32 ACT, and a combined 1600 SAT is equal to a 36 ACT composite.  The lowest possible combined SAT score is a 400 and the lowest ACT composite score is a 1. 

How is the test scored?

The SAT and ACT are both "norm-referenced" tests. This means that scores are scaled relative to an average, or "norm."

What is an SAT “Super Score?”

Super score is a term to describe taking the highest scaled math score and the highest scaled critical reading score as the combined SAT score - even if those scores came from separate test dates.  For example:  a student takes the January SAT and scores a 500 in Math and a 500 in Critical Reading.  Their combined score is now 1000.  The student takes the test for a second time in May and scores a 400 in Math and a 600 in Reading.  Their “Super Score” is now 1100.  Virtually every college accepts a Super Score and you can use your Super Score when qualifying for state scholarships. 

Can you “Super Score” on the ACT?

No. Each composite ACT score stands alone. 

My student has a high GPA but is a “bad test taker.” Can you help?

Yes. We discourage parents from using the phrase “bad test taker,” which implies a deficiency on behalf of your student.  There is nothing wrong with your student.  They are not a bad test taker, they are simply taking a test unlike any they have been given before.  But in short, yes, we can help them. The ACT/SAT is not the same as a test given in school that tests students on a particular subject or set of facts.  The ACT/SAT is a critical thinking test that tests a student’s logic and reasoning skills.  One reason students do not perform well is because they don’t know what to expect.  We teach students the structure, scoring and strategies specific to each section.  We help students create an individualized plan of action to achieve the score they want to get.  We do not teach math, English grammar, or vocabulary, but instead teaching critical thinking strategies that they can apply on those sections. 

My student has taken the ACT/SAT several times and their score has not improved. Why not?

The test is the same every time it is offered.  The questions change but the structure and way it tries to confuse students does not.  The only thing that can change is how your student will approach the test.  We coach them on how to change their approach, mindset, and confidence so that they can be better prepared and achieve the score that they need. 

What is the highest level math my student needs for the SAT?

Algebra II.  First of all, the ACT/SAT is not a math test; it is a reasoning test.  Topically, the test uses Geometry, Algebra I, and some Algebra II questions to assess thinking skills.  However, students who have not taken an Algebra II class can still achieve a high math score if they are observant and use critical thinking skills. 

How many times can my student take the ACT/SAT?

There is no limit to the amount of times you can take the test. 

Does registering for your class sign my student up for the SAT test?

No.  SC Test Prep is a separate organization from the College Board.  To register for the SAT you must visit www.collegeboard.com and create an account to sign up for the test.  If this is your first time to sign up you must submit a photo with your registration for the SAT. The photo you provide will become part of your student's Admission Ticket. You can read more about the photo requirements here

What is the Question and Answer Service (QAS) and why should I order it?

If your student plans on taking the test again then we strongly recommend that you order the extra score report called the Question and Answer service.  It is $18 extra and is only offered on the October, January, and May test. It takes about 6 weeks to arrive by mail.  It is an analytical tool that can show your student what types of questions they are getting right and wrong. We are able to analyze the report with a student for an additional fee. 

What score is needed to get the Life Scholarship or the Palmetto Fellows Scholarship?

To receive the Life scholarship a student must have 2 of the following:  a 3.0 GPA, a 1100 SAT/24 ACT score, and top 30% of their class in their sophomore, junior, or senior year.  To receive the Palmetto Fellows scholarship a student must be in the top 6% of their class in their sophomore, junior, or senior year and have a 1200 on the SAT (or a 27 on the ACT) OR have a 4.0 weighted GPA and a 1400 SAT score (or 32 ACT).  You can read more about the requirements for the Life scholarship here and the Palmetto Fellows scholarship here

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