Rising Juniors: ACT vs. SAT?

The following points are distilled from conversations I have many times a day with parents of tenth graders. I hope they help. Please take it for what it is: general advice; every kid goes through a different path and we need not add to the stress caused by the competitive echo-chamber. I’d be happy to talk about your child’s circumstances - just call or text me anytime at 732-412-1416.

ACT vs. SAT? This question seems to cause people stress and to sometimes make decisions that conflict with their own best interests.

The simplest piece of advice is to choose one, prep to master it, but then plan to take the other, because mastering one goes a long way to mastering the other. Consider the following points:

  • There is no reliable test that will predict which test is better for you child. There are 2-hour tests that I can buy wholesale and re-sell to clients that purport to make this distinction, but a single test is just a snapshot in time, and sophomore year is still too early to tell.
  • The best thing to do is to take a full-length practice SAT (a PSAT result can substitute for this) and ACT, then have an expert compare the results. Even then, the advice is merely conjecture. Some kids prep for one test yet go on to do better on the other!
  • Which one does your kid like more? This is probably the most important piece of data to answer in the “Which test?” question. If he or she scores roughly the same on both a practice SAT and ACT, then the tie-breaker should be based on his or her impression. It’s important to try to factor out a kid feeling more familiar with SAT because he or she has had more exposure through the PSAT.
  • If SAT is the choice, prep hard to master it. Since there is so much overlap between the SAT and ACT, I strongly advise students to do just a little bit more prep and take an ACT soon after the SAT. In fact, since there is no downside to taking these tests (and such great upside), I say it would be silly not to take the other test ... you’ve gone a long way to master both while mastering one, so take a shot at them both!
  • If ACT is the choice, my advise is the same as above - do a bit more prep and sit for an SAT soon after taking the ACT. Strike while the iron is hot!

What if the practice SAT and ACT scores are roughly the same, and my kid doesn’t express a preference for either? My advice is to prep for the ACT first, then follow my advice above and take both tests. Since the SAT changed in 2016, it has been my experience that kids who start with ACT prep become better test-takers and thus are better off on the ACT and also the SAT. Most kids will report that the SAT feels easier after they have prepped for ACT ... we do not hear this if a kid does it the other way around. In fact, I would argue that kids who prep ACT first are even better off on the SAT than had they done SAT prep all along.

Important point: By suggesting that kids take both tests, I do not mean to suggest that a kid should do double the amount of prep. Rather, by taking both tests you are capitalizing on the fact that as you master one test, you are going a long way to mastering the other, and therefore the second-choice test should require far less prep time.

During the school year, Foley Prep has practice tests every Saturday and Sunday. During the summer, we have them 4-5 times a week. Everyone is welcome to take a full-length practice SAT and a full-length practice ACT free of charge. To book one, please visit FoleyPrep.com/practice-acts-sats

Attention Sophomores taking Honors PreCalc

You should seriously think about taking the Math Level 2 exam in June. I've talked with a bunch of moms this past month who were unaware that the SAT Subject Math Level 2 exam is essentially a very tough PreCalc final exam. You should not until after Calculus to take this exam because there are so many concepts in PreCalc that will go stale as you move through Calc. 

I've given this advice to many students and parents over the years and have never come to regret it. Certainly if you otherwise have plans for the June SAT administration, you should think about taking the test in August.

I shot this PSA while charging my car yesterday. Enjoy!

Early Decision Under Investigation by the Department of justice

About time Early Decision is investigated. Collusion among competing entities is uncool & illegal. The link to the full article is below, the DOJ is asking ED colleges for the following info:

  • "Agreements, both formal and informal, to exchange or otherwise disclose the identities of accepted students with persons at other colleges or universities.
  • Communications with persons at other colleges or universities relating to the transmission of identities of accepted students, including the justifications for such transmission.
  • Internal documents relating to the transmission of identities of accepted students to or from persons at other colleges or universities.
  • Communications in which identities of accepted students are sent to or received from persons at other colleges or universities.
  • Communications with persons at any other college or university relating to any student accepted at the college or university.
  • Records of actions taken or decisions made based in whole or part on information received from another college or university about the identities of accepted students.
  • Admissions records of any individual identified in any transmission as accepted by another college or university, including applications from, internal analyses of, and communications with the applicant."

Tangentially related: when you're persuaded to choose test prep or private college counseling, are you sure that recommendation is honest, or might there be kick-backs to the referring mom, educator, or tutor? If it's legitimate, they should always reveal that a professional referral fee is involved. 

Foley Prep never engages in hidden incentives to get referrals or reviews ... we've grown over 50% each year on the merits alone! 


This was originally posted on our Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/tutoring.


The University of Pennsylvania announced last week that it had admitted 3,731 applicants for the next first-year class, anticipated to be 2,445 students.

Penn, like Brown, offered spots on the waiting list to more applicants than the size of its incoming class. In Penn’s case, the figure for the waiting list was around 3,500.

In recent years, a Penn spokeswoman said, the number admitted off the waiting list has ranged from 20 to 175.

Tell your story.

I'm going to try to follow through on the advice I have given to countless kids over the years: "tell your story in a blog."

Start one now. Tell your story, even in small daily bites. You will get better at it and if you keep at it, it just might take a life of its own ... and, heaven forfend (because teenagers are motivated by pure altruism), help you get into college!