Episode 11: Preparing For The PSAT & SAT

Many students begin the college prep process early by taking the PSAT as a freshman and sophomore and then taking the SAT and maybe ACT as a junior. As a parent, many questions may come to mind when you start to look at the test like:

  • What is the PSAT?
  • Do colleges prefer scores from the SAT or ACT?
  • Is one test easier than the other?
  • Should my child take both tests?

In Episode 11, Amy Van Hoose, Katie Brendel, and Heidi Houchins discuss the difference between the two tests and help parents and students understand how colleges use the tests.

Kate Brendel has lived in Troy for most of her life and graduated from Triad High School in 2000. She was the first class that graduated from the current THS building! After high school, she attended SIUE where she majored in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing. She graduated in 2005 and started working in St. Louis for an Information Technology company. She realized pretty quickly that the business world was not a good fit for her and started working on her master’s degree in School Counseling at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. While she completed her master’s degree, she worked for the State’s Attorney’s office in Madison County where she gained more valuable work experiences. She graduated with her Master’s Degree in 2009 and was hired as a guidance counselor at Triad that same year. She can honestly say that she loves her job, and feels very fortunate to work at Triad High School. As a school counselor, she takes care of students’ academic, personal/social, and career needs. Her caseload covers students with the last name of Mio-Z. On a personal note, She is married and has one son, Owen. In her spare time she loves playing with her son, spending time with family and friends, running/working-out, reading, and shopping.

Heidi Houchins is in her 11th year at Triad High School currently serving as a guidance counselor. Before working at THS, she taught at Vincent Gray Academy in East St. Louis, IL. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Science Education from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville as well as a Master’s degree in School Counseling from Lindenwood University. She lives in Highland with her husband, two sons, and her dog Dodger. She is so incredibly thankful to work in a field that she loves and to spend every day with some of the most amazing people in the world: her students.


What is the PSAT 8/9?

  • This is the first test in the College Board’s “SAT Suite of Assessments” and is offered to eighth and ninth graders. The purpose is to establish a starting point in terms of college and career readiness as students transition to high school.
  • This test is used as a way to practice for the PSAT 10 and, the eventually, the SAT

What is the PSAT 10?

  • This test is designed specifically for sophomores to be a practice for the SAT
  • Parents and students can use the scores to get individualized prep for the SAT

When are the PSAT tests taken?

  • All Freshman and Sophomore students will take the PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 on April 10, 2018 the same day that the Juniors will be taking the SAT

What is the difference between the ACT and SAT tests?

  • While the SAT and the ACT are similar tests that many colleges use for admission and scholarship purposes, the two tests do differ from one another. Both the SAT and the ACT state that their tests measure what students have learned in high school. However, the SAT states that in addition to what students have already learned in high school, the SAT will also show how successful a student will be in college.
  • The time duration of the tests also differs with the ACT being 3 hours and 35 mins in duration with the essay and breaks. The SAT is about 4 hours and with the optional essay included.
  • The SAT test has a total of 154 questions and the ACT has a total of 215 questions where each question should take on average approx 1 min and 10 second (SAT) and approx 49 seconds per question for the ACT.  
  • THE SAT is comprised of Reading, Writing and Language and a Math test and an optional essay.
  • The ACT is comprised of a Reading, English, Math and Science Test. The ACT test has the optional essay portion as well.

Do colleges prefer the ACT or SAT?

  • Colleges do not have a preference for either test score. They value both tests equally, so there is not an advantage of taking one test over the other.

What do the scores mean?

  • Scores for the SAT range from 400-1600 and scores for the ACT range 1-36.
  • You can see how your ACT and SAT score might compare with this table.
  • To give you insight about local schools-SIUE is typically looking for a 940 SAT score or an 18 ACT score with at least a 2.5 GPA.

When are the tests taken?

  • Triad High School will be providing the SAT to all junior students on April 10th, 2018. There are 7 national tests dates that you can register on your own for both the SAT and the ACT. You can register for either test online.  Links are included in the resources for registrations.

Should you take both?

  • We do see that some students do perform better on one test VS the other. We are advising that our students to try both if they are wanting to increase their score.

How can a student prepare for the test day and what should they bring for test day?

  • Students should bring number 2 pencils and a calculator.
  • Students should NOT bring a cell phone or a smart watch.  Students may not be allowed to continue the test if these are present.
  • Wear comfortable clothes.
  • Bring a snack.
  • Get a good night’s rest.
  • Be early to the test site.

The Official SAT Study Guide

Review every skill and question type needed for SAT success – now with eight total practice tests.

The Official SAT Study Guide will help students get ready for the SAT with:

  • 8 official SAT practice tests, written in the exact same process and by the same team of authors as the actual exam
  • detailed descriptions of the math and evidenced based reading and writing sections
  • targeted practice questions for each SAT question type
  • guidance on the new optional essay, including practice essay questions with sample responses
  • seamless integration with Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy

Barron’s SAT, 29th Edition: with Bonus Online Tests

This completely revised edition will help students prepare and succeed on the new SAT. This guide reflects all of the question types that have appeared on the new SAT that was administered for the first time in Spring 2016. It contains:

  • A diagnostic test and four full-length practice tests with all questions answered and explained
  • An overview of the SAT, an explanation of the test’s scoring method, and study advice
  • Test-taking tactics for the exam as a whole, and special strategies for each part of the test
  • Subject reviews covering all of the sections on the test
  • Detailed instruction in writing the SAT essay, and more

BONUS ONLINE PRACTICE TESTS AND VOCABULARY: Students who purchase this book will also get FREE access to two additional full-length online SAT tests with all questions answered and explained, as well as Barron’s extensive vocabulary list in flash card format.

Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the NEW PSAT/NMSQT

This completely new test prep manual introduces high school students to the newly redesigned PSAT/NMSQT test and prepares them to get the best score possible. This book features:

  • 2 practice tests reflective of the NEW PSAT
  • Tips and strategies specific to each section of the test, including Critical Reading, Writing Skills, and Math
  • Advice for students aiming for National Merit Scholarships
  • Much more

Students will learn strategies that can take them from a good score to a great score, and find everything they need to succeed on the new test.

The Official ACT Prep Guide, 2018: Official Practice Tests + 400 Bonus Questions Online 1st Edition

The Official ACT Prep Guide, 2018 Edition, Revised and Updated is the go-to handbook for ACT preparation and the only guide from the makers of the exam. The book and online content includes the actual ACT test forms (taken from real ACT exams). In addition, this comprehensive resource has everything students need to know about when they are preparing for and taking the ACT. The book contains information on how to register for the exam, proven test-taking strategies, ideas for preparing mentally and physically, gearing up for test day, and much more.

Resources to Help Students Prepare

Khan Academy SAT Prep – With this resource, students are able to link Khan Academy with College Board to get FREE a free personalized online learning plan for SAT prep.

How to link Khan Academy with College Board Accounts – click here for the pdf

Understanding PSAT/NMSQT Scores
(Videos and information to help understand what the PSAT is telling you)

Local Businesses that Offer SAT Prep

College Prep Station
(they’ll go through strategies and take practice SAT tests)

Sylvan Learning Center
(Extensive course options and free practice SAT/ACT tests)

Club Z Tutoring
(In-home and online tutoring services for SAT/ACT test)


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