Should I take the SAT or ACT? When should I take them?

Which Test Should I Take?

In regards to admissions, colleges do not prefer one test over the other. Although both tests cover very similar material, the ACT provides much less time to solve each problem. As a result, the ACT is more fast-paced and time-intensive, requiring that students work more quickly and efficiently. Additionally, the ACT contains a science section that tests students' abilities to analyze and interpret charts and graphical information.

Both the SAT and ACT contain an optional essay section. Keep in mind that although many colleges do not require the essay, some do. Because the ACT tests slightly more complex math concepts, students that prefer math generally perform better on the ACT than on the SAT. However, the best way to decide which test is right for you is to take practice tests for each. You can find a number of practice tests on the Junior Year and Senior Year pages.

To learn more about the difference between each test, click here.

When Should I Take Them?

Deadlines for College Admissions and Scholarships

Due to the stress of college essays and application deadlines from October to January of 12th grade, it is ideal to take your last SAT or ACT test before your senior year.

Timing of Mathematics Coursework

Since the concepts on the SAT/ACT do not advance beyond Honors Algebra II Trig, we encourage students to consider preparing for either test after they have taken Geometry and Algebra II classes, when the content is the most recently recalled.

Continuously Improving and Mastering the Test

These tests are all about practice and addressing specific weaknesses, so it is important to schedule your test on a date that gives you sufficient time to study and prepare. (We recommend 40+ hours.)

A General Note about specific test-taking periods

PSAT in 11th Grade*: provides an opportunity to get early exposure to the SAT and to earn scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Feb. ACT or March SAT in 11th grade: first test dates after winter break, and give you enough time to improve after

April/June ACT or May/June SAT in 11th grade: make sure to spread out your studying and balance your preparation with your schoolwork/finals

August SAT or Sept. ACT in 12th grade: if you still need to improve your score, make sure to prepare during summer break

SAT/ACT in Late Fall of 12th grade: due to college application deadlines, these testing dates are your last chance to boost your scores. Make sure to prioritize college essays and resume-building as well.

*If you want to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship (NMSQT), then it is important to do extremely well on this PSAT (95th – 99th percentile required for consideration).

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