Should I Take the ACT or SAT?

Ask The College Counselor: Should I Take the ACT or SAT? 

The information below was written for the Long Islander News by Daniel Kalina, a Commack-based education consultant.

First thing’s first…The ACT and SAT are different tests that measure similar but distinct concepts. The ACT measures achievement related to high school curricula, while the SAT measures general verbal and quantitative reasoning.

Secondly: Know that colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. So which should you take? It’s all about the numbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT; others do better on the ACT. In lieu of a crystal ball, speak with your teachers and counselor to help you determine which test is a better fit with your abilities.

How do the tests compare?

  • ACT questions tend to be more straightforward
  • ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend more time figuring out what you’re being asked before you can start solving the problem.
  • The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary. If you’re ann ardent wordsmith, you’ll love the SAT. If words aren’t your thing, you may do better on the ACT.
  • The ACT has a science section, while the SAT does not.
  • The ACT tests more advanced math concepts. In addition to basic arithmetic, algebra I and II, and geometry, the ACT tests your knowledge of trigonometry, too. That said, the ACT math section is not necessarily harder, since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.
  • The ACT Writing Test is optional, but is required by many schools.
  • The SAT essay was required and was factored into your writing score. The ACT writing test is optional. If you choose to take it, it is not included in your composite score – schools will see it listed separately. many colleges require the writing section of the ACT, so be sure to check with the schools where you are applying before opting out.
  • The SAT is broken up into more sections.
  • On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading and Science) in one big chunk, with the optional writing test at the end. On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) are broken up into 10 sections, with the required essay at the beginning. You do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc. When choosing between the SAT and ACT, ask yourself if moving back and forth between content areas confuses you or keeps you energized.
  • The ACT is more of a “big picture” exam. College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they’re usually most concerned with your composite score. So if you’re weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score and thus make a strong impression with the admissions committee.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that the College Board is launching a redesigned SAT in March 2016 and a redesigned PSAT/NMSQT and PSATTM 8/9 in October 2015. More closely aligned to challenging classroom work, the redesigned assessments will focus on the few things that evidence shows matter most for college and career readiness. The exams are supposed to be clearer and more open than any in the College Board’s history.

The redesign affects the way the test is structured, administered, timed and scored. An optional essay, fewer multiple choice questions, and no penalty for wrong answers are just some of the new features. You can also expect an increased emphasis on critical thinking, problem-solving, and data analysis.

The new SAT will return to the 1600-point scale, with the math and reading sections scored between 200 and 800, and the optional essay evaluated separately. The 1/4-point penalty for wrong answers will be discontinued.

The redesigned SAT will be 3 hours long, whereas the current version of the SAT takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. If students choose to do the optional essay, the exam will extend to 3 hours and 50 minutes.

The New SAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

This part of the test will be 100 minutes long; reading will be 65 minutes, and writing/language, 35 minutes. Now, what is called “Critical Reading” is covered in three sections of 25 minutes, 25 minutes, and 20 minutes, amounting to 70 minutes total, and writing is covered with an essay and two multiple choice sections of 25 minutes, 20 minutes, and 10 minutes for 55 minutes total.

The new reading part of test will contain 52 questions on four single passages and 1 set of paired passages. Now, critical reading consists of sentence completion and passage-based multiple-choice problems from 67 questions.

The New SAT: Mathematics

The redesigned math sections of the exam will contain two sections. The first is 55 minutes, 37 questions with a calculator allowed. The second is 25 minutes, 20 questions with no calculator allowed. Now the SAT math test has three sections: 25 minutes, and 20 minutes with 54 questions total and a calculator is allowed in all. On the new SAT, there will be

Now the SAT math test has three sections: 25 minutes, and 20 minutes with 54 questions total and a calculator is allowed in all. On the new SAT, there will be

On the new SAT, there will be 45 multiple choice questions, 11 grid-ins (each worth 1 point), and one extended thinking grid-in question worth 4 points. Now there are 44 multiple choice questions and 10 grid-ins, for a total of 54 questions.

On the new SAT, many of the questions will focus on solving algebraic equations, inequalities, and polynomials. Graphing and modeling will also be important, as will percentages, proportions, rates, ratios, and unit conversions. Now, just over one-third of the math section focuses on algebraic equations and inequalities, and a little less than a quarter of the math section tests percentages and proportions. Graphing and modeling does not seem to be tested extensively.

Finally, on the new SAT, only six questions will focus on geometry. The areas covered could include arc length, sector area, trigonometry, complex numbers and volume. Now, there are 14-16 questions on geometry and measurement.

When selecting a prep plan, you should choose one that best addresses your score goals, while providing adequate time to balance your schedule and studies. Most colleges and universities are still deciding whether they will require the essay in 2016. Check with your target schools to see what they require or will review as part of their admissions decisions.


Spring is on its Way

spring is on its way

I wonder how long we would last if we moved up to northern Alaska or even the North Pole? Few of us would be able to survive for long even with the proper equipment and supplies, even fewer would be able to enjoy living in such harsh, unforgiving conditions.  But I bet most people would be willing to try it out, if they had the assurance that at a moment’s notice they could be airlifted to a much more comfortable place, ie. Hawaii, Malibu, Florida, etc.  I have heard so many people lament the winter challenges of all this snow and cold temperatures, and I too have shaken my fist toward the snowflakes dropping from the sky when it’s been the third or fourth time in a week to shovel. However, if you haven’t noticed yet, spring is on its way. Listen closely and you may hear some birds chirping early in the morning, or notice the sky has lightened a few shades of blue. The mountains of icy snow have started to shrink little by little, and seniors are bounding in the hallway because Spring is on its way. This hope of warmer days already has put pep in our step, and in the same way, this is what drives the Christian in his or her journey through life – hope. The hope that the Eternal Spring is on its way. One thing to note is that right behind Godly hope follows pervasive joy. When we walk in hope, life is full of real joy. When we have been drained of hope, life is dismal and frustrating.

So if you find yourself, your family, or your students acting like life is stuck in a forever-winter, consider posting these verses in a place that they will readily see them.

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13


Taking a Look at Biblical Integration

What Does God Have to Say About 2+2=4?

Taking a Look at Biblical Integration

Dr. Lynn Swaner, Academic Dean

If you ask parents who have chosen Christian schooling why they made that decision for their children, you probably should sit down and get comfortable – because most parents will have a lot to say! They often start by explaining that their investment in Christian schooling is well worth the cost, given the long-term impact it will have on their children’s lives. And then they will give you a long list of the benefits they readily see in their children’s lives, most of which fall into two main categories:

1.  The Christian environment of the school, which includes the hiring of Christian faculty and staff, admission of Christian students, exalting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and upholding of Biblical moral and behavioral standards. All of these elements help create a godly and nurturing atmosphere for learning.

2.  The Christian disciplines, such as reading the Bible, memorizing scripture, learning to pray, worshipping corporately, and serving others.  Parents recognize that the Christian disciplines they practice at home are reinforced – meaning taught, practiced, and encouraged – at Christian schools, whereas in many other settings, such disciplines are not welcomed or even permitted.

Each of these categories is critically important, and sets Christian schooling apart from many of the other educational choices parents have for their children.

However, neither one directly deals with what students learn academically. And ironically, isn’t that the central purpose of a school? As the saying goes, we send our children to school to learn their “Rs” – reading, writing, and arithmetic. And yet, Christian schools really do offer a unique benefit in this area as well, and one can argue that it has a profound impact on the rest of students’ lives. This benefit isn’t as readily obvious as #1 or #2 above, so it’s important to take some time to discuss what Christian schools do differently in terms of academics – which after all, is the main reason students go to school. This brings us to #3:

3.  Biblical integration, which means the Bible is integrated (or woven) into every subject area that   students learn. In other words, students learn every subject – math, science, literature, and so forth – from the perspective of God’s Word, which we hold as the ultimate source of truth.

While this may sound obvious, it is much harder to imagine what Biblical integration actually looks like in the classroom. Most of us can pretty readily imagine what it looks like for students to learn the Bible, and we can also imagine what it looks like for students to learn math, but what on earth does it look like when students learn math through the perspective of the Bible?

What Does Biblical Integration Look Like?

Figure 1

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                                 Figure 1

It’s helpful to use a visual to understand Biblical integration. Let’s represent education as students looking through a telescope. Specifically, students look through the telescope directly at whatever they are learning (see Figure 1). However, how they use this telescope determines whether their education is Biblically integrated or not. In Figure 1, students use their telescope to look at either the Bible (the top graphic on the right) or their academic subjects (the stack of books toward the bottom). In this figure, which shows us what Biblical integration isn’t, students must switch between the two – they can either look at the Bible, or they can look at their subjects (math, science, literature, etc.). They must make a choice, because they cannot look at both at the same time. This is exactly what a lack of Biblical integration looks like. This is the “default” situation for children who attend public school, as they cannot learn the Bible alongside the subjects they are learning in school (and it’s up to parents to make the connections at home, typically in those precious few hours in the evening after sports, music lessons, etc.). Or at a Christian school that doesn’t do Biblical integration well, students will typically have a period or time of the day “set aside” for Bible, but the Bible is not mentioned or discussing in any other subjects or times like math, science, and literature.the two – they can either look at the Bible, or they can look at their subjects (math, science, literature, etc.). They must make a choice, because they cannot look at both at the same time. This is exactly what a lack of Biblical integration looks like.

In contrast, when students’ education is Biblically integrated, they look first at the Bible and then through the Bible to examine their subjects. This is illustrated in Figure 2, where students begin with the Bible as the starting point for all of their learning, and it is from the perspective of the Bible that they continually look at their subject matter. The Bible becomes a kind of “holding tank” for all of the students’ subjects, as the Biblical perspective is regularly referenced and discussed. Along these lines, Christian educators will often explain that “God has something to say about every subject, and every subject has something to say about God.” Some examples of Biblical integration include:

Figure 2

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                                      Figure 2

    In science, students begin with learning about the origin of the universe through studying the Genesis 1 account, and move from there to explore the different kinds of plants, animals, and physical elements that God created.

  • In math, students learn that the laws of mathematics, which are orderly, elegant and perfect, are  the design of a God who created all things (Colossians 1:16), who never changes (Hebrews 13:8), and in whom all things are held together (Colossians 1:17).
  • In literature, students will examine the motives of main characters through what the Bible has to say about human desires and actions and the consequences of such; for example, in the classic tale of Moby Dick, students analyze the plot and main characters not solely as literary elements, but also in terms of what the Bible says regarding the destructive outcome of pride (Proverbs 11:2)and the futility of revenge (Romans 12:18-21).

How Does Biblical Integration Happen?

Unfortunately, Biblical integration doesn’t happen automatically, and Christian schools need to be intentional in a number of ways. This includes faculty training and evaluation, by regularly providing workshops for teachers and including Biblical integration in feedback on their teaching.  But perhaps the most important thing a school can do is to select high-quality textbooks and curricula that are already Biblically integrated. Purchasing books from Christian publishers is sometimes the more expensive option, especially in places where public school textbooks are made available to private school students for free. However, just like Christian schooling itself, the benefit of textbooks and curricula that are already Biblically integrated far outweighs the cost.

The difference is that with Christian textbooks and curricula, teachers and students alike have Biblically-integrated subject material at their fingertips. This means that the Biblical perspective no longer is an “add-on,” which requires more work for already busy teachers, is awkward at best, and teaches students that the Bible is separate from the subjects they are learning (more on that in a minute). This holds true even if secular textbooks and curricula are values-neutral – and they aren’t (even a cursory glance at a secular science text, with its foundation in evolution, will reveal).  As Proverbs 9:10 explains,  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” It stands to reason that choosing educational resources that have their foundation in the fear and knowledge of the Lord will only benefit students’ attainment of wisdom and understanding in their studies. 

Biblical integration can have a profound impact on how students view truth.

What are the Benefits of Biblical Integration?

The first benefit of Biblical integration is that students are presented with the Gospel throughout their day. In every subject area – whether math, science, literature, history, and so on – students are shown God’s purposes in creation, the corruption resulting from mankind’s fall, and the redemption of the cross. Science students, for example, will learn about caring for the environment (Biblical stewardship as commanded in Genesis), the human tendency to exploit natural resources (the corrupting effects of the fall), and how conservation efforts can mitigate environmental damage (which echoes Christ’s redemptive work). In this kind of learning environment, students don’t have to wait until their Bible class to hear the Gospel, because the Gospel is seamlessly presented throughout their day and in every subject.

Second, Biblical integration can have a profound impact on how students view truth. If their learning is not Biblically integrated, students learn that the Bible is separate from their academic studies – and they often infer that “truth” can exist apart from the Bible (e.g., the Bible as separate from, and equally true as, the equation 2+2=4). If students develop this view of truth, they are in for a world of trouble in the future, particularly if they attend a secular college. Such students (who believe the Bible has little or nothing to say about the subjects they study) often come to view the Gospel as a matter of personal belief or preference. Further, in the postmodern culture of today, it becomes difficult for a student who looks at the world and sees multiple, separate truths to argue that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life”  (John 14:6, emphases added). In contrast, the student who has learned a subject like math (and the equation 2+2=4) in a Biblically integrated classroom understands the relationship between the Bible and math: math has its origin in the divine creation of an ordered and predictable universe, and the truth found in math emanates from its creator, who is Himself truth. In other words, the 2+2=4 is true precisely because God created it as such.

Finally, an education that is Biblically integrated can have a lasting and profound impact into adulthood. Because the connections between the Bible and the subjects they learn are continually placed before them, students can more easily see the connections between God’s Word and other areas of their lives (such as college, career, volunteering, etc.). The sacred/secular dichotomy – in which our work Monday through Friday is “secular” and has little to do with a “sacred” Sunday – is less likely to exist in their thinking, because they were never taught to think that way. Students who learn God’s Word only during Bible class or at home are more likely infer that most of their daily life has little to do with God, whereas students in a Biblically integrated environment readily learn that every part of their life has everything to do with God.

While providing a Christian environment for learning and nurturing the Christian disciplines are important components of Christian education, the hallmark of the academic enterprise of Christian schooling is undoubtedly Biblical integration.
We are most privileged to have our students learn from Christian teachers and develop their ability to worship God in various ways, but we would consider their education a failure if they didn’t thoroughly learn math, literature, science, history, and so forth. And it’s through a Biblically integrated Christian education that students learn not only their subject matter, but also that God has something to say about every part of their lives – and in turn, every part of students’ lives will have something to say about God.