Dispelling 6 Myths About the SAT and ACT

As I travel across the country talking to high school students about preparing for life after high school, I get asked a lot of questions about the SAT and ACT. What I find out through answering student’s initial questions and follow-ups, is that they have a lot of misconceptions about these exams.

Many of these myths have been perpetuated by their parents, pop culture and even their school counselors. In response, I decided to pen an article dispelling 6 myths about the SAT and ACT.

Myth #1 – The SAT and ACT assess your general knowledge.

These exams are all about your reasoning and logic skills. The SAT has three sections: math, reading, writing/language, and an optional essay; and they all assess your higher order thinking skills as well as foundational skills. The ACT has four sections: English, math, reading, science, and an optional essay; and they test your level of ability in each area, along with foundational, reasoning and logic skills.

Myth #2 –There is no penalty for wrong answers, so if you don’t know the answer to a question, just guess.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, you should not just guess, as each right answer can equal as many as 40 points. Because of this, your goal should be to get as many correct as you possibly can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, just skip it, and come back to it later, because usually, your subconscious is still working on the problem, although you are not aware of it.

Myth #3 – You must get every answer correct to receive a perfect score.

You don’t have to get every question correct to get a perfect SAT or ACT score. However, your raw score has to be significant enough to garner what is known as a perfect score. Bottom line; you can skip or get questions wrong and still get a perfect score.

Myth #4 – SAT and ACT questions appear in order of difficulty.

It may seem like the questions are presented in order of difficulty, but a lot of them are mixed. One reason that student believes that the items are arranged in order of difficulty is that as you progress through the exam, your brain becomes more and more fatigued, making even easy questions seem rigorous. As a general rule of thumb, treat all of the questions as though they have the same level of rigor.

Myth #5 – All you need is a good SAT or ACT score to get into your college of choice.

Although these exams are the top criteria for college acceptance, prestigious institutions are looking for well-balanced students. They just want to ensure that incoming freshmen can handle the challenging workload that comes along with attending college. Because of this, your SAT or ACT score must match up with your high school GPA, as well as community service and leadership responsibilities. This shows them that you have a track record of being an outstanding student and juggling other duties.

Myth #6 – All SAT and ACT test preparation guides are comparable.

All of them are not the same. You have good ones and lousy ones. I would suggest purchasing test prep products that are sold by the creators and publishers of the exams.


There are a lot of myths surrounding the SAT and ACT. To do well on these exams, you need to know what they are measuring, and how to study for them. There are a lot of resources on the internet that can walk you through this, but you should consult with your school counselor to confirm their accuracy.

Also, you should stay on top of your course grades and GPA. The Edvocate publishes several GPA and grade calculators that can help you do just that. Click here to use them. If you have any questions, just let us know.



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