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


Our counselors answered:

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

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.

Riche Holmes Grant
President Innovative Study Techniques

Devising a smart test prep strategy

Which test should you take? The SAT and ACT are two very different tests that are designed to test different things. The best way to figure out which test to take between the SAT and ACT is to try both beforehand. Most test prep companies offer free practice tests with no further obligation to sign up. There are some that even offer "hybrid" tests that have questions from both exams and project your likely scores on each test. At the very least, you can try the free practice tests on-line that are offered by and Go with which ever test you do best on and that you feel most comfortable with. When should you take test? I recommend that you take the SAT or ACT for the first time in the spring of your junior year. You should allow at least 8-10 weeks prior to the test to study. I mean actual studying, not just buying a book and then opening it up once or twice before the test. I'm a huge proponent of organized test prep, not just because I do this for a living, but because for many students, it actually works. Ultimately, no matter what route you take, however, there's no substitute for practice. Simply put: if you practice your scores will go up; if you don't, they won't! How many times should you take the test? Ideally once, but more realistically twice. Generally, scores start to level off and you start to really hate the test (which doesn't help at all!) if you take it more than three times.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

When to take Test, and how often

I am probably alone in this response but it has proven to work over my years of advising students and my own children. I suggests students take the SAT during the second half of their 10th grade year mostly to become familiar with it. Although most advisors would say just take the PSAT, they are not the same and since you do not get penalized for taking the SAT as often as you want with the higher scores being accepted, I just believe if I have to take the SAT/ACT for admission then why not test drive the real test rather than waiting until my junior and senior year and being unprepared for the process. It is not the information but the process that I believe students need to know early...the testing environment, the structure of the tests, a baseline of where they start and where they need to be for their preferred school so that they will have time to reach the mark. Take it early and definitely as soon as you complete algebra 2 and geometry you stand a better chance of doing your best on the math section because it is fresh in your mind.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

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

I always suggest that students take standardized tests as follows: Junior Year: March.. SAT May... Subject test (if required) June... ACT Whichever test the student did better on (ACT or SAT), I would take that test a 2nd time during October of their Senior Year. If Subject tests are needed, you may take them a 2nd time in November.