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How Preparing for the SAT/ACT Serves You Beyond the Exam

OCT 07, 2020 • 12 min read

Did you know that the hard work you put into studying for the SAT or ACT will give you valuable skills you will use later in life? Read on to find out how your standardised testing prep will help you read analytically, reason with evidence, manage your time and more.

One of the essential elements of any college application is a great score in one of the standardised tests - either the SAT or ACT. The purpose of these test results is to measure each applicant's academic ability comparative to the rest of the application pool - to see how you stand out academically.

However, a lot of students can feel disillusioned by the fact that they are unlikely to ever sit an exam of this type again. They can feel that beyond gaining admission to their dream US college, all that work has been for nothing.

But this is not actually the case. The truth is, the skills you develop in practicing for, and taking, your SAT/ACT prepares you for life well after your college application. Here are five key areas that will forever be bettered because of the hard work you put in to study for the SAT or ACT:

Performing to time

One of the keys to success in the SAT/ACT is time management. The exams require students to move very quickly through hundreds of questions over multiple sections. Students must be willing to adopt strategies such as adhering to a strict amount of time to answer each question, or quickly finding and skipping the hardest questions unless they have spare time.

When looking at the test from the perspective of time management, the SAT gives you more time per question than the ACT does. However, in many respects the ACT is slightly more manageable, especially if you’re not strong doing math questions without a calculator. Find out more about the differences between the SAT and the ACT here.

The time management skills you develop in preparation for the SAT/ACT will help you in any exam you take at university. For many students the SAT/ACT is the longest exam they have taken to date, but at university there may be exams of a similar length - some perhaps even longer! It is in these long exams where your SAT/ACT training will kick in, allowing you to keep the focus and pace high the entire duration of the exam.

More generally, learning to work quickly and accurately is something that will serve you for life, whether it be at college or in the workforce.

Reading with an eye to analysis

Both the ACT and SAT contain reading sections assessing the students’ abilities to read analytically. These involve the reading of passages of text and answering comprehension questions about the passage, such as which literary techniques are being used and the text’s deeper meaning. Students will be under time pressure, so therefore finding the balance between reading quickly, but also not missing any important information is essential.

The SAT in particular uses more difficult passages and convoluted language, and students need to be able to pick up on the nuances of each question. Look out for double negatives and contradictions.

Being able to read analytically is a skill that comes in handy in all aspects of life, including at university. No matter what course you study, you will be required to read, whether it be literature, textbooks, journal articles, papers, or any other resource. Being able to read and digest the most important pieces of information is a skill that will mean you can study more efficiently.

Critical Thinking

Both the SAT and ACT essay sections require you to demonstrate your critical thinking skills.

On the SAT, you'll be given a passage, which you must read and then analyze. Your essay will dissect the author's argument using evidence and reasoning. You'll need to have critical thinking skills in order to fully realize the strengths and weaknesses of the author's argument.

The need to demonstrate critical thinking is perhaps even greater in the ACT essay section, where you'll read a short passage about an issue and then analyze the different perspectives on this issue. You will need to critically compare and contrast different perspectives on an issue as well as give ample evidence to support your own opinion.

Clearly, these skills are applicable to your life beyond college applications, in particular the degree you end up studying. Courses in areas such as philosophy, law, history, social sciences, economics, media, journalism and english demand advanced critical thinking skills to get by at college. Great critical thinking skills is also more broadly important for any position that requires problem solving, and is considered essential by many employers.

The art of writing succinctly

The short answer questions in the SAT and ACT have word limits that force you to pack as much meaning as possible in a small amount of words. Further, both the SAT and ACT have optional essay sections, where students have to write quickly and concisely to get everything across in 40 (ACT) or 50 (SAT) minutes.

In order to get your point across using the perfect balance of brevity and style, students should use a broad vocabulary. You should also keep your sentences short and break them up using commas and semicolons. You will need to do all this using perfect spelling, grammar and punctuation, which in the digital age might seem difficult given that most students have come to rely on writing on their computer and spell check to do their schoolwork.

Writing concisely is a great skill for the future. At university, you are undoubtedly going to be required to do essays and assignments subject to strict word counts, and the top university students are often those who have mastered the art of writing succinctly. In your future employment, the ability to write emails, reports and presentations that clearly get your point across and sustains the reader’s attention will also go a long way.

Identifying literary evidence to make your argument

Questions on the reading section of the ACT and SAT also involve constructing arguments using evidence. Further, the SAT essay requires students to explain how authors use devices to make an argument and get their point across. Thus, students need to think beyond the question of “what”, but to the questions of “why” and “how”. They need to build persuasive arguments with the given evidence and be able to cite the evidence.

Using evidence to justify your arguments is the very essence of persuasive writing and argument. You will undoubtedly use this skill beyond the SAT/ACT exams, including at school and college. It is also a great skill to have when applying for jobs. In both a resume or a job interview, being able to justify why you are suited to a position and why you are the right candidate for the job may be the decisive factor.

Crimson’s Online Teaching and Tutoring

Do you need some help preparing for the SAT or ACT?

At Crimson, we engage the world’s best teachers and tutors in specific curricula to help students reach their high school and university admissions goals. We have six new key tutoring programs, including IB (International Baccalaureate); A Levels and International GCSE; AP (+ Optional SAT/ACT/ SAT II); SAT, ACT and SAT II; Bespoke Curriculum/Subject Tutoring; and Extracurricular and Leadership Mentoring.

Our online learning removes the restrictions normally applied by: geography, time limitations for students (travelling to and from tutoring), the necessity for a tutor to visit their home, or even as in the current coronavirus climate, a concern as to gathering in classrooms or other populated spaces.

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