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


Our counselors answered:

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

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Which Standardized Test? What Does Youir School Want?

While few things in the application process are more nerve wracking than standardized tests, with more and more schools reducing their reliance on them, an applicant can now navigate the path to college without overdoing it on the test sittings. While the SAT is arguably a bit more about basic intelligence, the SAT II's and the ACT reflect better how effectively a student learns so they may better showcase some students' strengths. Utimately, it is important to be sure you know what the schools need since the requirements vary widely. Then it is probably a good idea to talk with a teacher or your counselor to help assess your profile and see which approach best highlights your strenghts

Jolyn Brand
Owner & CEO Brand College Consulting

The SAT vs the ACT

Some students perform better naturally on one test over the other. The only way to find out for sure it to take both. Start during your junior year so that you have time to prepare and study for the retakes. Most students will need to retake one of these tests at least once. The last chance to take them is usually fall of senior year.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

No Standard Answer for Standardized Testing

Your test plan will be unique to you, your strengths, and where you’re likely applying. Most students take the PLAN or PSAT in 10th-11th grade. All juniors should take the ACT and SAT at least once. These tests are different; one is not easier than the other. Once you determine which test format best matches your strengths, retake it to improve your scores. Because colleges and universities will use students’ best scores, most opt to take tests two or three times. In addition, students applying to some highly selective schools may be required to take SAT Subject Tests, and international students may need additional tests such as the TOEFL.

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network


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.

Carita Del Valle
Founder Academic Decisions

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

Unfortunately the best answer is it depends! Each student's desires for higher education is different and once this is determined then we can decide the strategy for standardized testing. Usually one time for each is important then we use the data and move forward.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

ACT , SAT, SAT Subject Tests - Which to take?

Some students do better on the SAT and some on the ACT. Others school about the same. Each test has pros and cons. The ACT may seem more like tests you are used to taking in high school and you are not penalized from guessing. The SAT works well for students who are good test takers and you do lose points for guessing. I suggest taking both at least once and then decide which to retake. Generally scores tend to go up on a second try. Beyond three times is overkill. Most schools super score tests, that is they will combine your best scores from various tests, sometimes between tests to come up with your best score. Francine Schwartz, M.A., LPC, NCC Founder and President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

What's the Diff?

The ACT and SAT are widely accepted at many of the selective colleges across the United States. Although both are accepted, they are extremely different. Your strengths as a student will determine which test provides you with the greatest advantage while demonstrating your abilities to admission officers. What’s the Diff? The ACT and SAT have both different content and different scoring rubrics. Each test will require its own strategies. Some of the main differences to help you decide should be the following: She Blinded Me With Science. The ACT includes specific science content and the SAT does not. If you are not comfortable with science and working with scientific information, then the SAT may be a better choice. Write of Passage. The SAT essay is required and the essay is optional on the ACT. If writing is not a strong suit, the ACT may be an advantageous choice. Score Card. The SAT deducts 1/4 point for each incorrect answer (except the math grid-ins) and the ACT has no wrong answer penalty. Guess strategies will be different for each test. To understand if a certain test will provide a particular advantage you should take a practice test for each. Many test preparation companies have assessments that will help you better understand which test is better for your admission goals. Regardless of the ACT, SAT or both, you will need preparation specific to that test.

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting


Each school will let you know if a test is required and what one. Often the ACT and SAT are equally accepted. Tests need to be taken in time for scores to arrive by the application deadline. If you are not satisfied with your score you are welcome to retake the test. Please don't waste your time and money retaking the test without doing a better job preparing yourself. Also, taking the test more than 3 times is probably not going to result in a significant improvement in your score.

Patricia Aviezer
President Inside Track To College, Inc.

You Took the SAT and ACT, how many times?

SAT and ACT, six little letters that can cost families of college-bound students thousands of dollars in test preparation and test costs. How do you plan and prepare for standardized testing and which test is right for you. Here are some suggestions: 1. Start to get familiar with these tests early on, don't wait until your junior year. Sign up for College Board's word of the Day, take a PSAT in Sophomore and Junior year, take a PLAN/mini ACT to get familiar with both tests. 2. Don't practice publically until you're ready-Some school districts apply all test results to transcripts! There are so many "free resources" for an early introduction to these tests. ACT offers a whole test online, "" lets you practice SAT for free and covers both the SAT and the ACT. Your guidance department has "free" booklets for both tests with the answers in the back so you can calculate your scores. 3. And about "How Many Times Should You Take The Test?" Hopefully, with enough advanced "silent" preparation--once will DO! But realistically, students will usually take the test more than once. Although most colleges across the country will "superscore" the SAT, fewer offer this option for ACT. Superscoring is when colleges will split your scores from other test dates to give you the "best" score. You need to check your college's website, however, for their policy on multiple testing to make sure they don't average after 3 tests or only take your top scores from one test. 4. Don't PIN your acceptance into college on SAT or ACT scores-remember, academics and the quality of the courses you're taking is always number 1 on the priority list for getting into college. Put you're energy where it counts most and don't hang your acceptance into college on a SAT or ACT test score!

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

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? 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.