Generally speaking, the SAT is not designed to test students on things that they haven't learned. It is a test to see how well a student has mastered the material that they have learned over the past few years, and is also a test simply of a student's comprehension and analysis skills. There will be some tricky questions on the test, but missing some of those questions will most likely not have a huge impact on your score. The best things you can do to prepare are to take practice tests to get familiar with the test structure, and make sure your brain is in its sharpest mode when taking the test by getting a good nights sleep and eating a good breakfast. It is just as important to be able to use good test taking strategies to adapt and problem solve your way through the test as it is to know how to solve an equation with complex numbers. The SAT calculates a score out of 800 for the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section (the reading and grammar sections combined) and does the same with the math sections (no calculator and calculator sections combined). Then the two scores are added together to get the composite score out of 1600. The SAT is useful because most schools will superscore your tests and take your highest score for each section of the exam to create your superscored score. So if you get a 650 on reading, and a 540 on math in one sitting, but a 700 on reading and a 500 on math during another sitting, your superscored score that most schools will consider will be 1240.
The SAT's structure is:
- Reading: 52 questions, 65 mins
- Writing (Grammar): 44 questions, 35 mins
- Math (No calculator allowed): 20 questions, 25 mins
- Math (Calculator allowed): 38 questions, 55 mins
- Essay (Optional) - 55 mins, analyze how an author builds an argument
The College Board website has a free practice test and information about the test. Use this site to register for your test. Generally speaking, if it is an option, aim to take the test multiple times to allow for improvement and superscoring. If you are financially challenged, talk to your guidance counselor about getting a fee waiver. College Board SAT
Khan academy also has some great resources for the SAT, it's a good idea to do the daily SAT prep: Khan Academy
Grammar Rules for the SAT: Rules
Here's a page with a lot of SAT advice with links to helpful sites as well:McElroy Tutoring
The ACT is newer than the SAT but has recently grown in popularity and is now given, taken, and accepted nation wide. With the new ACT and SAT design, the tests have become increasingly similar. However, the ACT still has a few major differences than the SAT. The first is that the ACT has a science section along with the reading, grammar, and math sections that the SAT has. This science section does not actually test straight scientific knowledge. Instead it tests your understanding of experiments, the scientific method, and comprehension of experimental results. As such, it is often described as being very similar to the reading section. The second difference between the ACT and SAT is that the ACT has faster pacing, with questions that usually as a result, require less analysis. The third difference is the way that the tests are scored. The SAT calculates a score out of 800 for the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section (the reading and grammar sections combined) and does the same with the math sections (no calculator and calculator sections combined). Then the two scores are added together to get the composite score out of 1600. With the ACT, each section is graded out of 36 points. Your composite score then is the average of all four sections. So if you got a 30 on reading, a 31 on writing, a 29 on math, and a 30 on science, your score would be a 30. Unlike the SAT, not as many schools will superscore the ACT. As with the SAT, the most important thing to do to prepare is to get used to the structure of the test and ensure that you have the best brain function possible on the day of. There's no use in cramming all night only to get a stuck on a problem because your brain is too tired to comprehend the question.
The ACT's Structure is:
- English (grammar): 75 questions, 45 mins
- Math (Calculator allowed): 60 questions, 60 mins
- Reading: 40 questions, 35 mins
- Science: 40 questions, 35 mins
- Essay (Optional): 40 mins, argument essay based on three perspectives
The official ACT page of resources: ACT Test Preparation
A good page of ACT tips: 18 ACT Tips and Tricks
While Khan Academy does not provide official resources for the ACT, here is how you can use Khan academy to study for the ACT: Khan Academy for ACT Prep
Page with lots of ACT resources including flash cards and practice tests: Union Test Prep
So what test should you take?
Take practice tests of both and see which one you like better/do better on. Generally speaking, people who do better under a time pressure do better on the ACT while those who prefer more time to analyze a possibly more difficult problem might prefer the SAT. If you are able to, you can always take both tests. Remember that most schools will superscore the SAT while most will only take one sitting of the ACT.