Karl Schellscheidt, PSAT, SAT and ACT Expert

Karl Schellscheidt is co-founder, president, and CEO of ePrep Inc., the first company to provide online video-based test preparation services for students who plan to take the PSAT, SAT and/or ACT. All ePrep study programs offer online grading, expert video instruction, study hall powered by ePrep Analytics, scheduler, vocabulary builder and parent center to keep parents in the loop.

Karl has been a teacher and private tutor for the past 20 years. He holds a BSE in civil engineering from Princeton University, an MS in secondary education from Seton Hall University, and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Karl was kind enough to share his PSAT, SAT and ACT expertise with Tests.com.

If students are given a choice between SAT and ACT, which one should they choose? Is it ever beneficial for a student to take both exams?
Virtually every college will accept either SAT or ACT scores. Thus, all students can take the SAT, the ACT or both.

In general, the SAT is considered to be an aptitude test. Students are asked to use their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to answer questions that are “tricky” and/or awkwardly phrased. The ACT, on the other hand, is considered to be an achievement test. Students are asked to use lessons learned in school to answer questions that are straightforward and very much like those that appear on high school final exams.

Every student should experiment with both tests. More specifically, a student should take both an SAT and an ACT practice test. The student should then compare performance percentiles to determine which test best accommodates the student’s nature skill set. The student should then continue preparing for the “better-fit” test.

In the event that the performance percentiles are on par with each other, the student may want to prepare for, and take, both tests. Doing so, however, is often difficult given the busy schedules of most high school students.

How does preparation differ for each exam?
The process of preparing for the SAT is identical to that of preparing for the ACT. The best way to get ready for either test is to complete as many practice-grade-review cycles as possible before test day. A cycle includes:

(1) Taking a short practice test under test-simulated conditions
(2) Grading the practice test immediately upon completion
(3) Promptly launching into a guided review of questions answered incorrectly or skipped.

What methods of preparation work best for a student? There are dozens of flashcards, workbooks, courses, practice tests, etc., available. Is one method preferable to another?
In addition to completing as many practice-grade-review cycles (described above) as possible before test day, students should also consider reviewing solutions to problems that were answered correctly, but with a guess or with great difficulty. Vocabulary building is also important for both tests. Students with large and varied working vocabularies tend to outscore those with limited vocabularies. Vocabulary building is best done incrementally over time. Flashcards are a great idea.

When in high school should a student take the SAT or ACT? Should students always leave enough time to take the exam a second time, just in case?
Students should feel comfortable waiting until the spring of junior year to take their first actual SAT or ACT. They will then have plenty of time to retake either test before applications are due in the fall of senior year.

Who should take the PSAT?
Every junior should take the PSAT. The PSAT is administered every year in October only. Juniors who score exceptionally well on the PSAT will automatically qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

How much time should a student expect to devote to test preparation?
Despite the hectic schedules of most high school students, they should prepare for about three hours per week during the six weeks that precede test day.

What advice do you give to students the night before an exam? How about during an exam?
Students should not prepare the night before the exam. They should relax and go to bed at a reasonable hour –not too late, but not too early either. They should collect everything they will need for the test (e.g., admission ticket, photo ID, calculator, pencils, etc.) the night before. Doing so will help avoid pre-test anxiety.

During the exam, students should focus on working quickly to maximizing their scores. Spending too much time on any one problem is generally a bad idea that will adversely affect a given student’s final score.

For more information on the PSAT, please read The PSAT Test Guide, or visit the PSAT Test Directory.

If you’re preparing for the SAT, please read The SAT Test Guide, or visit the SAT Test Directory.

Thinking about the ACT? Please read The ACT Test Guide, or visit the ACT Test Directory.