Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Lily Trayes
Founder and CEO Ivy League Placement

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Jane McClure
Partner McClure, Mailory & Baron Educational Counseling

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

4 Basic Test Strategies

1. Test the waters, early All students should plan to take the PSAT (practice SAT exam) and PLAN (practice ACT exam) during both sophomore and junior years. Early exposure to the format of standardized tests will improve both confidence and performance for the official sitting. Students should plan to take their first SAT and ACT exams early in the spring semester of junior year. This timeline offers students ample opportunity for targeted preparation for a second sitting. 2. Familiarity breeds success The more familiar students are with the format of an exam, the higher the likelihood of earning a score befitting ability. Both the SAT and ACT formats are similar to a crossword puzzle, or the popular television show, Jeopardy!, in that the questions are posed in an unusual format. Frequent puzzlers or quiz show loyalists have an advantage over novices because they get the quirks of how questions are posed. Prior to taking the SAT or ACT, students should understand the layout, question types, and directions that they will encounter. One of the most effective and proven forms of test preparation is taking full practice exams. 3. Senior year sitting Unless you earned a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, always plan on taking a standardized test during senior year. Something happens in the summer between junior and senior year that more often than not improves performance on standardized tests. Whether it is maturity, information synthesis, or greater seriousness of purpose, senior year testing is often the time students earn their strongest score. 4. Take both the ACT and SAT Nearly all colleges and universities accept either the ACT or SAT. It is to a student’s advantage to try both tests and determine a preference. It isn’t necessary to repeat both exams. Only repeat the stronger of the two tests. Keep in mind that colleges and universities want to report high scores, too. So, they will take your best score regardless of test administration.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

Create an individual strategy

Each student learns (and tests) differently so there is no cookie cutter recommendation for all students, but here are some good suggestions for everyone: 1. Take the PSAT in 10th grade. This will really give you an idea of what the SAT will be like the following year (NO ONE will see your grade so it is purely for practice). 2. If you happen to be in an advanced level class in school, you should look to take the SAT II exam for that particular subject in either May (if you take AP) or June (if you are not in an AP class) while the material is fresh. 3. Take a practice ACT (if available) or register to take the actual ACT in September of your junior year. 4. Take the PSAT again in October of your junior year 5. Your PSAT scores will come out in December. At that point compare your PSAT score with your ACT score and see if one is drastically higher than the other. If one of them is, you should definitely opt to focus on that one. If not, you can take both. 6. You should opt to take the SAT or ACT at least twice, if not three times before applying to college. Target SAT test dates should be March, May, October (of senior year) or January, May, October (of senior year) for international students who don't have a March test. Target ACT dates should be April, June, September (of senior year). 7. Plan to take more SAT IIs in June of your junior year (or May and then take your SAT in June). WHICH ONES? The SAT was designed as an aptitude test—it tests your reasoning and verbal abilities, not what you've learned in school. In fact, the SAT was supposed to be a test that one could not study for (though this is hardly the case today). On the other hand, the ACT, is an achievement test, meant to test what you have learned in school. However, this distinction between "aptitude" and "achievement" is dubious. There's concrete evidence showing that you can study for the SAT, and as the tests have evolved, they have come to look more and more like each other. HOW MANY TIMES? There is no set number of times that a student should take the SAT; however, most students will take the test at least twice. Some students choose to take the test three times, if they have been working hard to prepare and are confident that their scores will increase. It is not recommended that a student take the test more than three times, and it is recommended to only take the SAT subsequent times after doing some form of preparation, since you definitely do not want colleges to see a lower score on the second test. Hope this helps!

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

There is no one "right" answer

There are choices now as to which test you might prefer- the ACT or the SAT I. With my students, I would say that about one third score better on the SAT, one third score higher on the ACT and the final third score about the same. As a result, I suggest to my clients that they sit for both the SAT I and the ACT in the Spring- compare the results and if they are happy- then they do not need to retest. If they feel that they could do better- then choose either the ACT or SAT I to prep for over the summer and give it one more shot. I hate to see too much time and money spent on test preparation at the expense of student's schools work as that is much more important in gaining admissions! SAT II's are one hour achievement test which are only required by the more selective schools. I advise students to sit for two of them, if they are applying to those colleges, in the areas of their greatest strength i.e. Biology or History etc.

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.adMISSION POSSIBLE.com

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

How to know whether SAT or ACT, when, and prep As an independent counselor who has been working with students for more than twenty years, my recommendation to students is to take practice SAT and ACT tests before they do anything. They can do this for free online with College Board or Princeton Review (or go to a local Princeton Review office). Once they get the results back from each of the tests, then they can decide which test, the ACT or SAT, fits them best. Colleges accept either test. After deciding which test to take, then it's imperative for students to do some preparation. As I tell my students, would you play an important tennis game without practice or some coaching? Whether working with a test tutor, online prep with the likes of mymaxscore.com or on their own, students who prepare do better than students who don't. The time to take a test is when you are best prepared. Finally, the number of times to take a test depends on each student's circumstances. In general, two or three times is enough; but again it depends on whether the student is fully ready to take the test and do his/her best. Sometimes circumstances, such as a flat tire on the way to the test site or being sick, will dictate whether a test should be taken again. Students should do what makes sense for them.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School

SAT and ACT

I suggest that students take the SAT one time AND the ACT one time during their junior year. Which ever test the student did better on, I recommend taking that specific test a 2nd or 3rd time in order to improve scores. The SAT has 3 sections...reading, math, and writing. The ACT adds in science. When signing up for the ACT, it is important to register for the ACT with Writing. Some of the more selective schools require SAT subjects tests, I suggest students take these in May of their junior year, due to the fact that many students will be taking AP exams in similar subject areas around that time.

Jill Karatkewicz
Counselor East Hampton High School

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

There is no single answer that will fit all students. Traditionally, the standardized test "process" begins in sophomore year when students can take the PSAT (practice for the SAT) and/or the PLAN (practice for the ACT). The PSAT can be taken once more during the fall of junior year. Following this, most students make a plan to take one or both tests during the second semester of their junior year. If the student has had the opportunity to take both the PSAT and PLAN, they could use their scores and experiences from these tests to help determine which regular standardized test is best for them. If they have only taken one (or none), it would be my advice to take both the ACT and SAT at some point prior to the end of the student's junior year (e.g. April ACT, May or June SAT). By doing so, the student can evaluate which test resulted in a more favorable score and make plans to retake a test in the fall of senior year, if necessary. Most students take the SAT and/or ACT two times. Studies show that taking three or more tests does not typically result in a significant increase in scores. Any student looking to apply to a highly selective college will also want to be mindful that some colleges will require them to take 2-3 SAT Subject Tests as part of their admission process. Subject Tests can not be taken on the same day as the regular SAT Reasoning Test.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

SAT and ACT

most colleges accept SAT and ACT, but I personally believe most students prefer SAT instead of ACT. it is better if the student can test first and pick the right test to prep. no one should take it more than three times. if you allow yourself with enough time to take it test three times, the best time frame is over two years period.