When to take the ACT or SAT

Taking the SAT or ACT

Taking the ACT or SAT is a part of going to college for many students. Though they can take it as early as their freshman year of high school, most students take it their junior year. If your student is going to take it, they should consider completing it by December of their senior year. It's a good idea to check with individual schools for deadlines.

ACT, SAT or both? 

Your student will only need to take one, and schools will accept either. It can’t hurt to take both tests, but if your student is on the fence about which one will fit them best, here’s a comparison of the two.

Preparing for the test

Your student shouldn’t go into the test unprepared — encourage them to take the PreACT or the PSAT during their sophomore year. These prep tests can give your student an idea of what it’s like to take a timed, proctored test, how much they’ll need to prepare and which test they prefer. Your family can find ACT and SAT prep resources at:

Taking the test

If they don’t do so well the first time they take the test, they can take it again. In fact, they can take it as often as they like. But remember, the tests are offered only a few times a year, and it costs money to take them. So unless your student vows to study harder and do better the next time, they probably won’t improve their score by simply taking it again.

Test scores

The ACT and SAT score on different scales. ACT ranges from 1 to 36. The SAT scores the two required sections (math and evidence-based reading and writing) from 200 to 800 and those scores are combined for an overall score of 400-1,600. Wondering what a “good” score is? Here’s an idea for the ACT and here’s an idea for the SAT. If you’re wondering how your student’s ACT score will convert to an SAT score, or vice versa, try one of these tools:

One more thing your student should know if they go with the SAT: They can also take an SAT subject test, which are standardized tests on specific subjects. See a list of colleges that require SAT subject tests here.

There’s so much to know. Here’s a handy parent SAT fact sheet.  

Best of luck!