ACT/SAT Test Selection Process

As colleges have moved over the last two decades to treat the ACT and the SAT as interchangeable options, it has become essential that students choose the test that best fits their individual learning and testing styles. When The College Board redesigned the SAT in 2016, the need to choose the right test became even more acute as the differences between the tests became even more significant.

Which Test Is Right For Me?

ACT

The ACT is like a series of wind sprints: a series of quick exercises in which managing your time and conserving your energy are the biggest obstacles.

SAT

The SAT is like an obstacle course: a slower series of varied and difficult problems in which thinking creatively and looking for shortcuts is more important.​

Every student will be better suited to one or the other, but how can a student know which test to take without taking both multiple times and comparing the results? That’s where our Agnostic Diagnostic comes in.

Our Agnostic Diagnostic

Inspirica’s Agnostic Diagnostic is a proprietary practice test developed by a team of our most experienced tutors and test experts. It is designed to simulate both the ACT and the SAT in a single testing session by incorporating all the major structural and conceptual challenges unique to each test, from the question types to the order of the sections to the amount of time allotted per question. After completing the test, each student’s results are analyzed by Inspirica’s test experts, who use official score data from both the ACT and the SAT and a variety of performance metrics to produce a starting score range for each test and a customized test recommendation for each student. With that recommendation in hand, students can then confidently prepare for the test knowing that they’ve selected the one best suited to their individual style.

The Agnostic Diagnostic is divided into seven short sections, each modeled on one of the sections of either the SAT or ACT. The test takes about three hours to complete. It does not include an essay, and nearly all questions are multiple-choice.

The first section is a Reading Test. Students read several passages from college-level fiction and non-fiction works in a format that models the SAT. The questions in this section test reading comprehension with a focus on understanding the development of themes throughout the passage.

The next section is an English Test. This is a fast-paced section that tests familiarity with the conventions of written English, including punctuation and sentence structure, within the context of analytical, persuasive, and first-person passages. This section models both the SAT and ACT, as the two tests are nearly identical in format for this set of tasks.

The next three sections are each Math Tests. The first of these is modeled on the ACT that focuses on concepts learned in math class from pre-algebra to precalculus, with a special emphasis on word problems and abstract algebra. The second test models the SAT in challenging students to complete a variety of tasks in each individual question, which are often presented as real-world applications of algebra and geometry. The third test also models the SAT; it challenges students in many of the same ways as the previous section, but with the added difficulty of completing the test without the use of a calculator. These questions often test multiple concepts at once, challenging students to see connections between topics in a manner that requires creativity.

The sixth test is a second Reading Test, this time designed to model the ACT. As before, students must complete questions spread across three passages, but in this section they are given ten fewer minutes with which to work, forcing a frantic pace that matches the one required by the ACT.

The final test is a Science Test modeled on the ACT. This test is not so much a measurement of scientific knowledge as it is a test of a student’s ability to read and interpret data. Tables, charts, graphs, and figures are the central focus of the seven passages in this section, each of which poses five or six question about the scientific methods or experimental results detailed within. No calculator is permitted on this section.

In a single test session, students face all the major structural and conceptual challenges posed by each test, allowing them to complete two tests’ worth of material in the time it takes to complete one official test. The test takes about three hours to complete, and with setup instructions and breaks the entire testing experience should take fewer than four. The test does not include an essay, and nearly all the questions are multiple-choice. The timing of each section is as follows:

Reading 1: 28 questions, 35 minutes
English: 30 questions, 20 minutes
Math 1: 30 questions, 30 minutes
Break: 10 minutes
Math 2: 15 questions, 20 minutes
Math 3: 15 questions, 20 minutes
Break: 5 minutes
Reading 2: 28 questions, 25 minutes
Science: 40 questions, 35 minutes

Each student will receive a comprehensive score report and test analysis, with accurate starting score ranges and sub-ranges for each test section and composite scores for both the SAT and ACT.

Score ranges are calculated based on data collected from all available official practice tests for both the SAT and ACT. Inspirica’s team of test experts aggregated the raw score numbers required to hit certain benchmark scaled scores in each section for all released official tests, determined the average raw score for each benchmark, and then scaled those raw scores to match the lengths of the corresponding AgDi sections. You can be confident that your student’s scores are  based directly on the most accurate data available.

Each student’s results are analyzed by Inspirica’s test experts, who use official score data from both the ACT and the SAT and a variety of performance metrics to produce a starting score range for each test and a customized test recommendation for each student. A student’s test recommendation is based partly on their score ranges, but several other factors are taken into account as well. Our test experts weigh considerations such as:

in which sections the student performed the strongest and weakest;
whether, and in which sections, the student had timing problems;
the student’s relative performance on the Math sections, which represent one of the most significant differences between the SAT and ACT.

Inspirica’s approach to test selection is grounded in the fact that just as the SAT and ACT are not the same, no two students are the same; you can trust the fact that every recommendation we give is based on the strengths and weaknesses of the specific student and how those line up with the characteristics of each test. With our data-driven test recommendation in hand, students can  confidently prepare for the test knowing that they’ve selected the one best suited to their individual style.

To learn more about the test, please contact, please contact one of our program coordinators today!

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