North Shore Counseling Department

December News

SAT or ACT? That is the question!

One of the most common questions counselors are asked pertains to college admissions testing. Students and parents want to know how the ACT and SAT are different. While it is true that colleges will accept either the ACT or SAT there are differences between the assessments that may result in a student earning a higher score on one test over the other. For this reason counselors recommend that students take both assessments to see which one is best for them. Five key differences between the ACT and SAT are noted below.

#1. Time per section: Students that like a little extra time to answer questions may prefer the SAT since this test allows more time per question. For example, on the reading section the ACT allows 53 seconds per question as compared to 75 seconds per question on the SAT.

#2. You are a science whiz: The ACT has a devoted science section while the SAT does not. This does not mean that the SAT never tests science concepts because they may include these items on reading passsages. Students who excel in the sciences may like the ACT for this reason.

#3: Calculator use and math content: The ACT allows you to use a calculator for all math questions. The SAT allows students to use calculators for a portion of the exam, but there is a short section (20 questions) that do not allow for calculator use. It is important to note that all questions are designed to be answered without a calculator. If you struggle with solving math questions quickly you may want to try the ACT.

The math content also varies on the ACT and SAT. Both exams have a large emphasis on algebra. The ACT also includes a much larger focus on geometry (35-40% of the test compared to about 10% on the SAT). Why does this matter? If you are good at algebra and data analysis you will like the SAT. Students who are strong in trigonometry and geometry may prefer the ACT.

#4. How important is math in the final score? The ACT counts math as one-fourth of the total score and math counts as half of your total score on the SAT. If math is a weakness you might prefer the ACT.

#5: Strong readers who are good at evidenced based reading may prefer the SAT. Evidenced based reading and writing is a large part of the SAT, but it is absent on the ACT reading section. Evidenced based reading and writing means that students can cite specific lines or paragraphs in the reading passage as evidence for the answer.

Students should visit and to try sample questions. if you have any questions, see your counselor.

Big picture

Student Stress

Teens and preteens today face enormous stress. They experience academic stress, social stress, traumatic events, and even world events that may cause stress and anxiety.

Middle school and high school stress looks a lot like adult stress. Teens lose sleep, snap at friends and family, experience physical distress and may even experience cognitive changes such as increased forgetfulness. As parents you may recognize these symptoms in your own child, but what can you do to help? There are a lot of things that parents can help with when it comes to teenage stress. Stress management is an important life skill and teens do care what their parents think.

Step #1: Help your teen understand what a reasonable work load is. Have they taken on too many extracurriculuar activities? Is the part-time job too much? Have a conversation with your child about what is reasonable to accomplish in one day and then develop a schedule that supports his/her needs.

Step #2: Re-establish healthy lifestyle choices. Students who have been living under stressful conditions for a long time have often developed unhealthy habits such as poor eating or not sleeping enough. Help them to get back on track by ensuring that they eat healthy meals and help them to establish healthy sleep routines.

Step #3: Help your teen find quick, fun, distracting activities to relieve stress. It can be as simple as taking a break to dance to music or shooting a few hoops. These little breaks can actually help them to complete homework a little more quickly by providing the brain with a quick and energizing break. The key here is to keep them short, energetic breaks.

Step #4: Establish relaxation time. We all need a break from the daily demands to just do something fun. Help your teen find some relaxation time. This could also be fun family time.

Step #5: Limit access to electronic devices. The blue light of a cell phone can keep students up later into the evening. Teens also become stressed by some of the content on social media.

Proper stress management is a critical college skill. The high school years are a great time to teach this skill because parents still have influence over their teens and can direct them towards healthy stress management habits.