When should I take the ACT or SAT?

You should take the ACT and/or SAT at least once during your junior year of high school. Most students take their choice of test once or twice their junior year and once in the fall of their senior year.

When should I prepare for the ACT or SAT?

Any time after your sophomore year of high school. It is best to prepare right before you take the test because the material will be fresh and your test taking skills will be at their peak.

Which Test: SAT or ACT?

For a detailed analysis, read the full article on our blog: ACT or SAT: Which Test is Better?

There is no simple answer.  Any college or university asking for standardized test scores will accept EITHER exam– no preference is given to one or the other. (You will find Texas historically was an SAT state while the ACT was more popular in the mid-west, but those are old divisions.)

Some students will do better on one test than the other, but neither is easy. Most student have similar scores on the SAT and ACT.

Other Considerations (ACT vs. SAT): 

Ignore the old rumors that say one test is more like school or the other test is better for students applying to highly-selective universities.  These rumors are NOT true. Both tests are challenging.  Both tests are equally weighed by any college asking for standardized test scores.

The difference comes down to personal preference. Here are some practical considerations to guide your decision:

  • Compare scores from previous or practice tests.  Make sure you are using NEW SAT scores not old ones. You can use this concordance table from College Board.
  • If you haven’t taken either test, obtain an official full-length practice test at no cost from your guidance counseling office at school.
  • Does one test offer a better format?  Some students like the predictability of the ACT. Others prefer the shorter sections of the SAT.  This is a personal preference.
  • Does one test / class better meet your schedule? Check for conflicts with school holidays, sports or extracurricular, and family activities.

Unless your previous scores say otherwise, go with your gut.  Take the test that feels most comfortable to you.

What type of score improvement can I expect?

Results will depend on your effort. On average my students improve 100 points per section on the SAT or 3-4 points on the ACT after completing our program.

The common factor among the most successful students is their effort.  These students complete all lessons with a focus on learning and applying the techniques.  They devote full attention to homework assignments and learn from their mistakes.

Keep in mind that test taking is a performance based activity. Think of test prep like working with a trainer at the gym.  Part of the client’s success comes from the information and inspiration provided by the trainer, but the client still has to do the work. Your results will be based on your effort.

I have a learning difference. Can I get accommodations on the ACT/SAT?

Yes, students with documented disabilities can receive accommodations on the ACT and/or SAT, but you need to contact ACT and College Board directly and present appropriate documentation. The process can take weeks and not every student is approved. For additional details see the ACT’s information for Requesting Accommodations and College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities page.

What is the PSAT and do I need to take it?

The PSAT is given each year in October and it serves two purposes: to qualify students for National Merit Scholarships (junior year only) & 
to offer students and parents feedback on potential SAT scores, strengths, and weaknesses. For more information on who needs to take the PSAT see Frequently Asked Questions about the PSAT and National Merit Scholarships.

Will College Prep’s SAT course prepare me for the PSAT?

Yes!  The PSAT is a shorter version of the SAT and doesn’t have a written essay component.  The rest of the questions on the PSAT are just like those on the SAT, so the SAT Mastermind will help you address the subject matter, test strategies, question types, and overall approach.

How do colleges look at my scores when I take the ACT or SAT more than once?

Colleges expect students to take the ACT or SAT more than once. Don’t panic that schools may see your lower scores; they are looking for and focus on your best score. Colleges will determine your best score in one of two ways:

  • Best total score from a single test date, or
  • Best reading, math, and writing scores even if individual scores are taken from different test dates. (This method is called “superscoring.”)

Can I keep taking the SAT until I get the score I want?

Taking the test over and over will not increase your score. Before you take the SAT for a third or fourth time you should change your preparation strategy — take a prep course or refresher, study new material, or implement a new approach. With proper preparation, it may be a good idea to re-take the SAT if you were unhappy with your previous scores.

When I sign up to take the test they ask for four college or scholarship codes.  I’m not sure where I will apply; should I send scores?

When registering for the SAT or ACT students are given four score reports which can be sent to any college or scholarship program.  These reports must be requested when registering for the test.  Additional score reports requested later at an additional cost.

Unless you are a high school senior who knows every school to which you will apply AND you need the scores sent immediately, most students choose not to use the four reports included with their exam registration. This allows you the freedom to see your results and decide when or if you want to send that score to the schools on your list.

I’m on reduced lunch at school.  Is there a discount on SAT/ ACT registration fees?

Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch can receive a fee waiver to cover the cost of testing.  Students who use a fee waiver to take the SAT/ Act qualify for three waivers of college application fees.  See your high school guidance counselor for more information.

What are the SAT Subject Tests and do I need to take them? 

SAT Subject Tests are exams designed to test knowledge in a specific subject area such as math, biology, US history, or Spanish.  The SAT Subject Tests are required/ recommended by many highly selective schools.  Subject Tests are required for Duke, UCLA, Harvard, Rice, Yale, Amherst, Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, and many more.  Many schools require math and another test of the student’s choice.

Often the best time to take the Subject Test is sophomore or junior year, before any decisions have been made about where to apply to college.  To be on the safe side, any student even considering these highly selective schools should take the Subject Tests.

The best time to take a subject test is immediately upon completion of that specific course.  For example, a sophomore who has just completed AP World History and AP Biology, might take those two Subject Tests in May or June of sophomore year, because that is when he/ she will know the material the best.  Juniors should take math and any other subjects they are completing in May or June of the junior year.