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?

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.

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.

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.

Trevor Creeden
Director of College and Career Counseling Delaware County Christian School

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

My advice is that you take both the SAT and ACT once to see which test you do better on. You may hear that a certain type of student does better on one that the other but these circumstances are not normally consistent across the board. There are ways to take practice tests like the PSAT or ACT practice tests to get an idea of whether you score better on one test than the other. Once you determine which test you do better on, I recommend that you take that test twice before the end of the junior year and then once at the beginning of your senior year. You may determine two times is enough and that is fine, but I see more scores come up when seniors take it in October of their senior year than at any other time. The SAT is more critical thinking and the ACT is more subject based. The ACT has a science section on it that is more science terms and interpreting charts than anything. The ACT math has some Trigonometry on it. The ACT is also a bit shorter and doesn't take any points off for a wrong answer which helps some students with test anxiety.

Jeana Robbins
Counselor

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

Students should consider the colleges they wish to apply to when determining whether they will take the SAT, ACT or both. Some colleges may have a strong preference or may only accept one of these exams. Many colleges will accept either exam. Do NOT wait until your senior year to take these exams. Plan to take the SAT and/or ACT during your junior year of high school. You may retake the exams as many times as you want to and know that any lower scores that you subsequently receive will not replace higher scores. Some students may retake these exams over and over in hopes of obtaining a certain score, as many universities have stringent requirements.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

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

Some of this will depend upon what the schools want and need, for there is a wide variation in requirements. Some schools want only SAT I or ACT, some want SAT II subject tests, some will take the ACT in lieu of the SAT II, and some are test optional, but might want to see some graded work. Be sure you know what each place requires. Some may not require them for admissions but may for scholarship consideration. As to how often to take them, that may well depend, at least in part, on how well you do. A low first-time score gives you a sense of what your weaknesses are and may serve as a wake-up call about the need to do some test prep. Generally, it is wise to take the basic SAT or ACT at least twice, once as a junior and again as a senior—and if you are applying early decision, it had best be the first date in your senior year--but beyond that it may will depend on your own performance.

Ted Skowron
Counselor Brophy College Preparatory

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

I recommend that a person take both the ACT and the SAT in the spring of junior year. Based on your performance and test preference, you should then take either the SAT or ACT in the fall of senior year. Some more selective universities will also want SAT II scores so you may need those as well.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

For the most part, students take both and then use the data as a benchmark to determine which plays up their strengths. Once this is identified, then we determine how much work they need to put into studying and retaking a test based on the type of college programs they are interested in attending.

Natalie Sanchez Campos
Owner Next Step LLC

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

I recommend referencing your college application list to determine which tests to take. Of course, please remember if a college or university requires an ACT or and SAT score, they will accept either test and convert the score. Unless there are unusual circumstances, I recommend students take the ACT or the SAT only up to two times: once in the spring semester of the Junior year and, if needed, again in the fall semester of the Senior year.

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

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

Every college has its requirements, and the test dates are a matter of public record. As far as multiple tests, if your scores keep increasing, keep going. Start early in the 11th grade so you'll have plenty of time to take all necessary tests & re-test if necessary.