January 15th, 2013


I’m often asked which test should my teen take and when should s/he take it. My answer is an unequivocal BOTH! I typically follow this up with an explanation of the plan I laid out for my niece. I had her take the January SAT followed by the April ACT (There is no February ACT offered in NY). We then stuck with the test that she liked better and performed better on. In her case, it was the ACT. So she took her second ACT in June. This left the fall of her senior to take another ACT test if needed. Since she finished with a 28, one point shy of the equivalent of a 1300 on the SAT and thus one point away from significantly more scholarship money, I had her take the ACT one last time in September.

This strategy of taking an SAT followed by an ACT and then focusing on one or the other has a number of benefits. The first is that one never quite knows which test students will perform better on and with college admission and scholarship money riding on these scores, it is well worth taking a shot at each. Visit this link to see the differences between the tests – Second, students get fatigued by the preparation and effort of taking each test 3 or 4 times. If one test score stands out, it is worth putting in the effort to become an “expert” on that test. Of course, this doesn’t happen if the student doesn’t practice sufficiently. Expecting a rise in score on a second or third test without any additional practice is not realistic.

The best answer as to when to take the test is to look at a student’s high school extracurricular and academic schedule. My niece played field hockey in the fall and softball in the spring so I targeted test prep for the winter months when she had more free time in her schedule. If her falls were free and her winters busy with say basketball, I may have had her take the SAT in November or December. Regardless of when a test is taken, I tell every one of my tutees that they are doing themselves a disservice if they do not take each test and then become a master of one!

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