The Ultimate ADHD Battle:  SAT vs. ACT

plan, do, check, actOver 1.84 million high school juniors and seniors took the ACT in 2014.  The increasing trend continues.  It is especially true for students with ADHD, who prefer its flexibility.

Hours-long test taking, such as the SAT and ACT, is often a major source of anxiety for students with ADHD.  There are a variety of ways to evaluate the efficacy of each assessment based on specific abilities and challenges.  Others contend that both should be avoided without adequate preparation.

These standardized tests incorporate challenges in the weakest areas faced by teens with ADHD.  Organizing study information and materials is difficult, even in less stressful situations.  Likewise long-term planning and preparing are not automatic.  Deficiencies often exist in reading, writing, and math as well.

Neither penalize for incorrect answers, but they differ in the skills that are evaluated. They also differ in delivery methods.  The SAT is a paper-and-pencil test, while the ACT is computer based.

The Scholastic Assessment Test measures critical reading, verbal reasoning and mathematics, with an optional writing assessment.  Some math sub-sections do not allow calculators.  The redesigned version was rolled out in 2016.  It lasts approximately 3 hours for a typical student.

The American College Testing/American College Test includes English, mathematics, reading, and science.  Like the SAT, it includes an optional writing section.  It corresponds with college-level English, algebra, social science, biology, and the humanities.

  • Reading (SAT) vs. English (ACT)
  • Reading passages:  SAT has 5, ACT 4.
  • SAT Math includes data analysis.
  • Science reasoning (ACT only)
  • Essays
    • Comprehension of source text (SAT)
    • Evaluate and analyze complex issues (ACT)

Traveling on the WayBack Machine…

Ten years in the classroom.  A teacher who has seen it all.  In spite of the ups-and-downs, I love what I do.  Everyday is a loving challenge.  Every day.

Harold was a high school senior, planning to go to American University.  His first choice?  His only choice.  I know how that goes.  I was the same way…just insert Texas A&M.

“Hey, what about the SAT?”  I knew where we were going.

His chest puffed out.  “My dad, my mom, and I know that it’s important for my future.”

The main challenge was getting accommodations for his physical disability.  The main challenge?  Well, the easiest one to talk about.

“Have you applied for his accommodations?”  I knew the answer before I asked.

Hard-working Dad’s smile shone brighter than his son’s.  “No, we don’t need to.  That’s what we read on the internet.  All we need is a copy of his IEP.”  

Smiling back I said, “Let’s get on my laptop.  We can apply for them right now.  I’m sure that you know the information that you need, by heart.”

They did…

Having ADHD typically affects the performance on standardized tests.  This is especially true as the testing time is 3 times the length of a typical class period.  Accommodations are designed to level the playing field.  Unfortunately, they are not automatic on these tests just because they are provided in high school.

  • Apply for testing accommodations early.
  • Evaluate baseline scores on full-length sample tests.
  • Compare the academic requirements with class performance levels.
  • Determine which test provides the most flexibility.
  • Identify the admission criteria for each college.

Consider time limits when making a selection.  The SAT has time limits per section.  In contrast, the ACT provides time limits for the test as a whole.

There has been an increasing number of high school juniors and seniors taking the ACT.  It also tends to be more popular for students with ADHD.  Another trend is seeking out colleges that don’t require either for admissions.

Don’t put it off.  Procrastination won’t help.

Just ask yourself…Which is best suited for his/her strengths?






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