What your student should know about taking the SAT or ACT


Taking the SAT or ACT is one of the steps to take if your student is planning to go to college. But before getting into the specifics, let’s start with some preliminaries.

The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Test) are known as college entrance exams. College entrance exams are standardized aptitude tests used to evaluate students for college admission purposes. When researching universities, your student should check the admission requirements to figure out which exams are required by each school and the scores they’ll need to be admitted.

Which test should your student take? 

While one test is not better or easier than another, different types of students may do better on different exams. According to The Princeton Review, different students tend to do better on one test over the other. Students can take both practice tests to help determine which one suits them better. Many students choose to take both exams, and most universities accept both but require just one. Some universities may not require students to submit standardized test scores.

Let’s start by comparing tests. Both tests have about a three hour testing time. The SAT includes reading, writing and language, and math tests while the ACT includes reading, english, math and science test components.

What to expect

It’s a good idea to check the testing center, online or by phone, on the morning of the test to make sure there have been no changes. On test day, your student should bring a few things with them:

      • Face covering
      • Admission ticket
      • Photo ID (acceptable)
      • Two No. 2 pencils with erasers
      • An approved calculator
      • EpiPen (if necessary)
      • A watch (no audible alarm)
      • A bag or backpack
      • A drink or snacks (for breaks)

Do not bring recording or computing devices or music players.

Student seating is assigned, so they should wait to be seated. Once seated, the test coordinator will read all the instructions and can only answer questions about the test process. The test has multiple timed sections and the coordinator will tell everyone when to start and stop working on each section.

Test registration

Students should register online for either test. When registering, they’ll have to create an account and answer questions about themselves. All students must provide a photo and submit payment or a fee waiver. Students will be able to indicate if they would like their information shared with colleges and universities and which schools they want their test scores shared with.

Accomodations can be made for students who need to take the test on a Sunday instead of Saturday. You’ll find test dates and deadlines, testing centers, registration instructions, policies and other information at the College Board website and ACT online.

Learn more

Find out more about when to take the SAT or ACT and how to prepare for the SAT and ACT.