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The math aspect of the SAT & ACT



:  THE ACT test has one math section of 60 questions.  Students are given 60 minutes to complete the entire section. 


FACTS: This is a positive point test. Student receives credit for all questions answered correctly, no deductions for any wrong answers. 

-- Calculators may be used throughout, and there are no 'fill in the blank' questions.

-- Math knowledge required is Algebra I, Geometry, Trigonometry.  Some less well known topics that students may not have practiced, but will need to, include matrices.

-- An average score (considered approximately a 22), requires a student to complete 35 out of 60 questions correctly.   In comparing to the old SAT, you can see that the student must be more efficient in order to complete this mark. 

DOWNSIDES/Considerations Preparation for this test does not prepare the student for taking the October PSAT.  If your student is a consistently high tester (90th percentiles or higher) , he or she will probably still want to prepare for the PSAT, which is the qualifier for National Merit Scholars, and will be in the SAT new format.

-- If processing speed affects your student, you should be aware that this test requires faster processing, even at average testing goals
-- Students must stay focused in one area for a longer period of time, breaking up a larger portion of the test into sub-portions and managing throughout to optimize performance.

-- ACT includes a 'Science Section', which features extensive graph and comparative reading comprehension of scientific tracts.  Some students find this section confusing, (especially if visual scanning or graph knowledge is weak), others like its factual and scientifically based material.

-- ACT approves test accommodations only one test at a time, complicating scheduling and test site selection


FORMAT:  The math portion of the test is made up of two subsections.

One section -- 37 questions, 55 mins.   The second section is completed WITHOUT A CALCULATOR.  There is one "extended length" grid-in question, which will be valued at 4 points.

FACTS: It is unclear if the Collegeboard folks are merely trying to scare us all, but so far test practice work in this section has been HARDER material (more Algebra II and trig work), without benefit of a calculator.  The 'no-calculator' section is intended to test a student's depth of recognition of mathematical concepts from Geometry through Algebra II and Trigonometry.  Only students who have had truly exceptional preparation without a calculator are likely to be comfortable in this section.

-- There is one complex question which is worth four points

-- Problems that students may not have practiced adequately include graph and statistical work.
-- There are multi-staged questions (that is, in order to get question #2 or #3 correct, one must first get question #1 correct), and statistical theory and application (knowing what a standard deviation is, for example). 

-- You must have both mathematical AND interpretive skills in order to do well on this test due to the level of complexity in question formats.

-- Math skills needed include Algebra II, Trigonometry, Pre-Calc and Statistics

-- If your child is very, very strong in math, including working without a calculator, he or she may thrive on this test.

DOWNSIDES / Considerations:

CONSIDERATIONS:  If you are preparing for this test, your student will be more ready for taking the PSAT.  So, if your student is a consistently high tester (90th percentiles or higher) , he or she will want this preparation for the PSAT, which is in the SAT new format.

DOWNSIDES:  This test is still clearly in development.  Students that we are seeing who have prepped in a variety of settings, from studying on their own, with Kahn Academy, and even with private tutors or prep classes have been shocked at the level of difficulty of the actual test in comparison to the prep materials the College Board has published.











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