Whitefield Academy Blog

The ACT vs. The SAT: Which to Take and When

by | Sep 19, 2018 | College, Upper School | 0 comments

As you get closer to applying for college, it’s important to have a plan for taking the ACT and/or SAT standardized tests.  These tests are not the only part of applications that colleges consider, but they are one important aspect, so you should know as much about them as you can.


What’s the Difference?

According to the College Board, “The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college.” By contrast, the ACT test is more of a measure of what you have previously learned. While the SAT tests three areas (reading, math, and writing), the ACT tests five (English, math, reading, science, and potentially writing.) Most colleges will take one or both standardized tests.

Do I Take the ACT, the SAT, or both?

Recommendations vary. Our recommendation is that you take your first ACT in the early or late spring of junior year to establish a baseline score. Students may then want to take the SAT. Note that the SAT tests knowledge based on the Common Core curriculum used in public and some private schools. Many private schools do not use any of the Common Core curriculum.

You may request a full report of your scores for additional information on which areas you need to study. Use that full report to study for a second round of test-taking in the summer or early Fall of senior year. It is unwise to take the ACT or SAT repeatedly without any study in between tests. You are unlikely to improve your scores and will waste money.

Should I take the ACT Writing?

Yes. Schools that accept the ACT normally want to see these results at least one time.

How Do Schools View My Scores?

Many schools practice what is called “super scoring.” This is when the university looks at your highest scores no matter the test date. They will combine the best scores from each testing session. Some schools, however, will only look at a single test date. It is perfectly acceptable to ask an admissions officer when visiting a school if they practice “super scoring.” While test scores are very important, especially in qualifying for certain scholarships, they are not the only element of the college application.

When Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

Before Junior Year:

Decide what is best for you. A student may chose to test in June at the end of their sophomore year. Most do not test at all until their junior year, after taking the PSAT in October.

Junior Year:

October: Take the PSAT

December, February, April: Take the ACT

March or May: Take the SAT if you want a comparison to the ACT

April, June, July: Re-take the ACT

Senior Year:

September through December: Take the ACT or SAT one last time if you need to improve your scores.

Students can continue to take the ACT or SAT into senior year, but it is highly recommended they conclude all testing by the last exam of the calendar year at the latest.


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