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

ACT/SAT Prep

Our counselors answered:

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

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

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

Start your planning early so you'll be able to satisfy each school's requirements. If your scores keep increasing, keep taking tests. Remember this: Plan your work, work your plan. No one plans to fail, but too many people fail to plan.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

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

ACT versus SAT? It depends of what type of tester you are. My motto is do many practice tests and take either test a maximum of three times. For the subject tests, a student will need 2-3 depending on where he or she will apply.

Eric Beers, Ph.D.
College and Career Counselor Air Academy High School

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

As a sophomore, you can most likely take the PSAT in the fall (with the juniors). If this is not available, sign up and take the PLAN test (pre-ACT). This should be widely available in your area. As a junior, for sure take the PSAT in October. This is the only test that qualifies you for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. A high score here, with a corresponding high score on the SAT, can result in a lot of scholarship money for you! Plan on taking the ACT and SAT in the spring of your junior year. Almost all 4000 college or universities will take either score. So try both, and they will use which ever one you score higher on. If you are disappointed in your score, you can always retake either test. Many colleges let you super score, which is creating your highest SAT or ACT. So trying multiple sittings of the test can greatly boost your score.

Zahir Robb
College Counselor The Right Fit College

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

I recommend that students take both the SAT and ACT. As a freshman and sophomore see if you can take the PSAT or Plan tests to prepare for the actual exams. In the spring of your junior year sign-up for the SAT and ACT and compare your scores. This way you can create a preparation plan over the summer based on your performance. Typically the last time you can take the test is in December of your senior year, but check with individual colleges for deadlines. Realistically I would not recommend taking the test more than two times. If you can, schedule your tests for May of you Junior year so you can review your scores with your counselor and have enough time to prepare for the summer. If you wait until June, your counselor may be long gone before your scores are received.

Mike Kent
Founder / Director CollegeMax Counseling

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

Today, colleges and universities accept either the SAT or ACT on an equal basis. This is different from years ago when many colleges accepted either one or the other (you may need to help your parents understand that things are different from when they went to school). You should get experience taking both tests to help you better understand which one may be the stronger test for you, then focus on that test. Generally speaking, you should plan to take either the SAT or ACT two to three times. That will give you the best shot at achieving your best score across sections. Taking it more than that will typically not lead to any measurable increase. Don't forget the Subject Tests for schools that require them. These are best taken shortly after completing the course. For example, if you are taking AP Chemistry and think you might want to take the Chemistry ST, do it in May or June of that year when you have completed the material, and are also in the mode of studying for the AP test and/or final. Sometimes, a college may not require the Subject Test, but it may be a good idea to submit a strong score if it may help you. Mike Kent CollegeMax Counseling mdkent99@att.net

Jenn Cohen
Owner Jenn Cohen Tutoring

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

The answers to these questions vary radically from student to student. Anyone who tells you there's one right answer for everyone isn't as knowledgeable about the tests as they should be! There's no way to thoroughly respond in this format, so I'll just provide a few guidelines. All students should take a full-length practice SAT and ACT before deciding which one to pursue. The PSAT or PLAN is not an acceptable guide since these tests are truncated versions of the real thing. Having the full experience of each test (in all it's exhausting, mind-tangling glory) is essential for making an informed decision. Other factors may include available test accommodations for students with disabilities, preferred test dates/centers and access to prep materials. Most students develop a clear preference for one or the other, so when you know which one is for you, stick with it! Many students think they need to take both tests, but I disagree. The SAT and ACT are very different animals and it can be confusing to prep for both, not to mention a giant time-suck in your already busy schedule! As for when to take your test of choice, the only guideline is to allow ample time to retake it at least once before applications are due in the fall/winter of your senior year. In general, you should take it for the first time no later than May/June of your junior year. But if you prefer to get it out of the way earlier, please do! If you have plenty of time to devote to preparation the summer after your sophomore year, do it. Then take the test in the fall while the information is still fresh. Be sure to also plan for AP exams and SAT subject tests if they're on your agenda. The answer to the last question is a little easier to answer. If you're applying to a selective school, many (most?) require you to submit all of your test scores from the SAT or ACT. A general guideline is to take the test no more than three times, unless you have a very good reason for doing so. More attempts implies that you're hoping luck is going to shine down on you rather than putting in sufficient preparation before test day. Each time you take the test should be "for real," with you putting in your best effort. Don't use a real exam for practice...that's what prep materials are for! Hope that gets you thinking about a plan. I recommend talking to a test prep pro to discuss your specific needs, especially if you're intending to apply for testing accommodations. Good luck!

Heather Tomasello
Writing Coach The EssayLady, LLC

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

Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are designed to allow college admissions officers to judge all students by a common measurement. Scores on these tests can compensate for differences in high school curriculum, grade inflation, and quality of teaching. Many students ask me, "Is it a good idea to take both the SAT and ACT at least once?" I'd say, "yes- depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform much better on one test than the other." Try taking free practice tests online or through your school. Think about how you felt about taking each test. Did you understand the format? Was one more stressful than the other for you? Many students find they do much better on one than the other- use this to your advantage by taking the tests early (junior year) so you can re-take if necessary.

Ronald Harris

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

Both SAT and ACT. Take it until you meet the requirements of the university that you are applying to.

Natalie Sanchez Campos
Owner Next Step LLC

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

I recommend taking the college entrance exams suggested or required by the college or universities. For some, the list of tests will include the SATII/subject tests, AP (Advanced Placement) tests and/or the TOEFL.