October 9th, 2014

Up Up & Away! Superscoring the SAT & ACT Tests

Can’t quite get your best critical reading and math scores on the same SAT? Does the difficulty level of the ACT’s four sections seemingly change at random from test to test? Most universities offer a fix for these problems through superscoring. When you submit all of your test scores for the SAT or ACT, most schools will take your top score from each section to create a “superscore”. For example, say you sat for the SAT this past May and June earning CR scores of 550 and 580 and math scores of 600 and 550 respectively. Schools would superscore your test by combining your June CR score of 580 with your May math score of 600 for a total combined score of 1180.

While superscoring certainly benefits students, colleges have a stake in the game too. By creating superscores for every student, they boost the overall average scores of thunnamed (1)eir incoming freshman, and thus they climb in college rankings.

Some students worry that taking lots of tests is a black mark on their applications, but most schools utilize computer programs that compile scores and spit out ranked lists of applicants making admissions officers’ jobs a little easier. In other words, most admissions officers never see how many tests you take save at a few select colleges. This may sound like an invitation to take as many tests as you can, but there are good reasons to limit the number of tests you sit for which we covered in our last blog article.

College Board helpfully keeps an up-to-date list of schools that superscore the SAT at SAT Score-Use Practices by Participating Institution. A brief list of colleges that DO NOT superscore the SAT can be found here. The list of schools that superscore the ACT is a bit more elusive. I always encourage students to get in touch with the institutions that they’re considering applying to. The most up-to-date ACT list I found is at Schools that Superscore.

So take a deep breath. When taking your seat on test day remember that your performance on that one test may not solely decide the score a college will use to admit you.

September 19th, 2014

How Many Tests Should I Take?

Open season for SAT and ACT testing typically runs from the beginning of junior year through mid-December of students’ senior year. Over that span, ten SATs and nine ACTs are offered. So how many should you take? While there is no definitive answer, there are many considerations to help you decide.

First, look at the research. Statistics from SAT and ACT indicate that scores plateau after a second test. The numbers from the 2013 ACT, for example, show that 57% of the students taking the test a second time increased their composite score. Research also shows that re-testing too many times can negatively impact your scores. You’ve heard it before – moderation! So is two times the best plGet prepped!an?

Two important caveats to consider before you walk away after only two tests. The first is that you need to be prepped before taking a test. Test prep companies have proliferated for a reason: prep works. Again, research proves that gains are made on the second attempt AFTER preparation. So, if I meet a student who’s taken one ACT, but hasn’t been prepped, there’s a good chance I’ll recommend he take it twice more after prep to maximize his score potential.

Why else would students take the SAT or ACT more than twice?

a) If a college they are applying to “superscores” the tests, students may want to chance a third to earn the best combined score among the three. (See our next blog for more on superscoring).
b) If you are trying to reach a particular score because of athletics or scholarship opportunities, then test away. When accepting athletes, colleges often require a specific score be earned to attend. In this instance, take the respective test as many times as needed to get that score. Similarly, every time you hurdle a milestone score on the SAT or ACT, say 1200 or 29, schools typically kick in more scholarship money. The cost of additional prep and test registration may be peanuts compared to the THOUSANDS students may potentially earn with better test scores.

Also keep in mind that both the SAT and ACT tests are accepted by every four year college. ACT prep is much less time consuming so it’s cost effective. Therefore consider an early ACT test before committing to the SAT. In fact, I usually suggest students take one of each and then focus on the one which they like better and scored better on. Finally, simply taking more tests does not guarantee improvement. Students must take practice tests, utilize strategies and tactics and be conscientious in their preparation.

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!

Posted in ACT, News, SAT | No Comments »

January 23rd, 2012

The Boot Camp Model

Drop and give me 20 sentence completion questions!

The boot-camp format for SAT and ACT prep is booming not just in Western New York, but across the country.  There are a few good reasons.

First, teenagers’ schedules make President Obama’s look lackadaisical.  In early for a club meeting, after- school practice, tournaments on weekends, room for another commitment simply doesn’t exist.  And even when a few hours can be carved out of the schedule, there is no regularity to them, so a weekly prep class isn’t feasible.  Test Preps’ Boot Camps are held over school breaks.  We target the calm spot in the school schedule so kids can focus on improving their scores, getting into the colleges of their choice and earning more scholarship money.  What’s more, boot camp attendees are taught the same tactics and strategies that they’d learn if they signed up for our traditional SAT or ACT class, they receive the same interactive instruction, the same personalized attention.  

Another benefit of boot camps is their intensity.  No lectures, no tedious note taking. Teens are active right from the get go internalizing strategies, perfecting pacing, and taking tests.  Much like the no-nonsense test day itself, our boot camps are single minded about improving teens SAT and ACT scores.

©2021 Test Preps, Inc. All Rights Reserved. SAT® is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product. ACT® is the registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Test Preps has no affiliation with ACT, Inc., which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this product. Test names and other trademarks are the property of the respective trademark holders. None of the trademark holders are affiliated with Test Preps or this website.