Do I need to take the SAT or ACT?
These are different tests and can, in some cases, appeal to students in different ways. Knowing that colleges value these tests equally, we always suggest that students familiarize themselves with the structure, content, and format of each test before deciding which test is the better fit. That most juniors will begin their official testing in the spring of junior year allows for plenty of time for this assessment to take place. Students should take a practice SAT and a practice ACT at home in the late fall (November) and then compare the scores and experiences in order to make a determination about which test is best. Students should work closely with their assigned college counselor to devise a testing plan that makes the most sense for their learning style.
When should I take the test for the first time?
Students should never take the official test for practice purposes. Given that several highly selective colleges require students to submit all test scores, it is not in any student’s best interest to take the test prematurely.
If a student is taking the SAT, we recommend they take their first formal sitting in March of the junior year. That leaves multiple future dates for the student to take both the SAT I and the SAT II Subject Tests. Keep in mind, too, that students tend to do better on standardized testing the more mature they are. By March of a student’s junior year, they are usually at a place in both their mathematics and English courses to do well on the test.
For students who prefer the ACT, typically February or April of the junior year is a good time to try the official test.
What happens if my testing never results in scores I am happy with?
Not every school requires the SAT or ACT. Some schools accept alternative testing requirements, or no testing all together. The website fairtest.org lists all 'test optional' schools.
I am applying to university abroad-do I still need to take standardized tests?
Yes! In fact, students who are interested in going to college overseas, especially in the UK, should plan on sitting for as many standardized tests (SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, and AP exams) as possible.
Should I take test prep, and if so, when?
Here is what we suggest: wait until the results of the PSAT come out. We realize this will take some patience, both for the student and the parents of that student. After receiving the results, the student can determine which area(s) need some attention. At this point, students might choose to enroll in a test prep course. If a student does, remember what was mentioned earlier regarding timing of the first sitting of the SAT. Essentially, the student has three months to prepare for the SAT after receiving the PSAT results. We believe that provides students plenty of time to prepare for the test. Many students benefit from taking timed tests on their own. Not every student needs to take a test prep course.
Athletes hoping to be recruited should plan on taking the SAT in January or March or ACT in February.