Students can find out whether SAT or ACT is better by taking a mock test of each. While mock tests are official, released tests, taking one does not count towards college admissions. Oftentimes, parents want to use the PSAT to compare to the ACT, but the PSAT is out of 1520, not 1600, and is usually too old to get an accurate comparison. The date and scoring difference also does not make it great to use as a baseline test.
We recommend at least a practice test to start (to establish a baseline score), one when prep is halfway done (to assess improvement) and one before the student takes their official test (as a dress rehearsal). That being said, students with the biggest score improvements are usually those who take mock tests consistently.
This is the advantage of mock testing vs testing on your own:
- Sally might not be a “morning person.” She could be a rock star at 4pm, but she’s going to need to perform at 8am. Students arrive at our tests at 7:45am, just like they would on test day. They have to train themselves to perform well at that time.
- Most people’s attention spans are 2 hours. That’s why movies are 2 hours. On the SAT and ACT, students have to focus for a full 3 hours. Practice focusing for that long period of time will get students better at focusing for that long period of time.
- When a parent calls to tell me that Sally is a nervous test taker, as you know, what that means is that Sally gets so nervous that it hurts her performance. There are actually 2 types of stress—distress and eustress. Ask any athlete if he/she was nervous before and during their best performance and they will inevitably tell you that they were. That’s the eustress…that’s the good stuff. If Sally is a nervous test taker, taking mock tests with some consistency can bring down her level of stress from distress, to eustress.