How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

Susan Smith

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

I recommend all students take both the SAT and the ACT. Why do both? Every college in the country will accept either test and have no preference for which set of test scores you submit. The SAT is more of a reasoning test while the ACT is more of an achievement test, so some students do much better on one over the other. It’s impossible to tell before taking the test which one will leave you with a higher score, so it’s in your best interest to take both. The SAT has three parts: Critical Reading, Math and Writing. The ACT has four main components: English, Math, Reading and Science with a fifth, optional Writing component. Most colleges do want to see the optional Writing scores if you choose to take the ACT.

Diane Smith

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

Trying to figure out when you should take your standardized test(s)? The best time to take your first round of tests (both the SAT and the ACT) is in the spring of your junior year. After you have taken the tests once and see which one you did better on, you may want to take that test a second time in May or June of junior year or in the fall of senior year. It would be wise for you to look at all your academic obligations for junior and senior year. In addition to taking the SAT and ACT, many of you may take AP exams in May. You need to allow plenty of study time to keep your grades in every subject as high as possible. Prepare a calendar with all of your commitments and time your standardized test-taking dates with these in mind.

Robert Smith

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

If you’re taking standardized tests, consider looking into SAT subject tests. These are 1-hour achievement tests in five general subject areas. Some colleges, mostly the more highly selective ones, either require or recommend that students take these in addition to the SAT. You need to look up the colleges in which you are interested in to determine which subject tests each requires. These subject tests are offered on the same test dates as the regular SAT. A student can take up to three tests on a particular test date. The best time to take subject tests is right after you have completed the course in a particular area.

Lisa Smith

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

Trying to figure out how many times to take the test? Once you take the SAT and the ACT, you will be able to see if your score is higher on one over the other. You may want to choose the one on which you scored the best and take it a second time. Look up the colleges in which you are interested in to see how your scores compare to the mid-50% of students they usually accept. In rare incidences, you may choose to take a test for a third time. After taking a test three times, your score is unlikely to improve with additional attempts.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

I tell my students to try both the SAT and ACT but only retake the test with which he or she is really most comfortable. Some students are fortunate enough to do well on the first try, but that isn't the norm. Depending on the timing and preparation, student performance varies. Also, I've found that high school seniors taking standardized tests in the fall often do very well; they are relaxed and know what to expect. Certainly, a student should take the SAT or ACT no more than three times. Regarding SAT Subject Tests, a student should take the test when the material is freshest in his or her mind, usually in June of that academic year (sometimes in May). Hopefully, the timing of the test won't interfere with AP tests (if in May) or finals (if in June). The student can take up to three at one sitting; he or she should take advantage of that and just report the top scores.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

have a plan to work with

have a goal in mind and find out the requirements about different type of schools in terms of the standarized tests. ACT and SAT are both good for selective schools. try not to take it more than three times. Take SATII as early as possible between 3 to 5 subjects for highly selective admissions.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

Students should start out with diagnostic tests for the SAT and ACT and should focus on prepping for the test with the higher starting score. The ACT is another standardized test that colleges will use to evaluate how well a student will do in college. It is scored differently than the SAT, with a maximum score of a 36, instead of a 2400. It is also structured differently than the SAT, with four sections: Math, Reading, Writing, and Science. The other difference is that the essay on the ACT is not required, whereas it is required on the SAT. Students are not required to take both tests and a student should probably decide which test to take after taking diagnostic tests for both. If a student does considerably better in one than the other, then the student should focus on preparing for that test.

Helen Cella

How can a student figure out which standardized tests to take, when, and how many times?

Act is more content driven, the sat is more of an aptitude test.

Nicholas Umphrey

Standardized tests to take..

If English is not your first language, you will want to take the TOEFL exam. It is computerized and very convenient as far as tests are concerned. In Maine where I work, the SAT is required of all publicly funded students in May of their junior year. Thus every 11th grade student in Maine gets to take the SAT for free. Unfortunately, this does not leave me with a lot of time remaining in the school year to touch base with students about their scores. If a student does not like the outcome they have a couple of choices. Colleges like to see that students have made the effort to take the SAT at least twice. Statistically, there is no advantage to taking it more than that since scores rarely increase a third time. If you have taken the SAT twice and hate the test and your scores, I would give the ACT a try, especially if you are a math/science person.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

Start With the Basics, Then Check with Your Colleges

At a minimum, juniors should take the ACT and SAT once, but many students re-test multiple times to achieve their personal best scores. If you want to re-test, focus on whichever standardized test best highlights your academic strengths. You can retake both the SAT and ACT senior year, but pay attention to application deadlines—some fall test dates may be too late. Students applying to highly selective schools also may be required to take SAT Subject Tests, and international students may need additional tests such as the TOEFL. Specific details on which tests you need and when you need to complete them will depend on where you choose to apply. Check with each college and university to make sure you satisfy all testing requirements.