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  • Writer's pictureNancy Adis

Planning to Take the SAT or ACT?

College admissions requirements about standardized testing can feel like a ping pong game. Is it required? Yes. No. Maybe! How do you know if you should plan to take either the ACT or SAT exam, or both?

In recent years, many institutions removed their testing requirements, but some allowed for optional reporting of test scores.  Now, several well-known institutions (Dartmouth, MIT,  Georgetown…) have reinstated their testing requirements for admission applicants. In addition, the SAT exams are now offered in a new digital format which is adaptive in nature (adjusting the difficulty level based on the test-taker’s performance on previous sections) and roughly an hour shorter than the previous version. The ACT exams are still available as paper-pencil tests and they are rolling out an online version (non-adaptive) as well.

So how do you decide if and when to test? Research the colleges you are planning to apply to and see if they require testing.  Consider how well you usually do at taking tests.  Are test scores used in determining the scholarships and merit aid you are applying for? Many students benefit from taking one of these standardized tests “just in case.”  Colleges don’t have access to your scores until you share them, so you can see what your scores are and then decide if you want to use them as part of your application.  You can also take these tests more than once to improve your score. The ACT and SAT exams are slightly different, you can take one of each and then only use the highest score with your applications.   

There are many considerations, but if you are going to take an SAT or ACT exam, you’ll get the best results by making a plan to prepare for it… learn how it is set up and consider test preparation options.  There are free online SAT practice tests at Khan Academy and many private test prep services that focus on strategies to help you get the best score possible. Plan to register several weeks ahead of time for the test that best suits you. Some upcoming exam date options include May 4th or June 1st for SAT and April 13 or June 8 for ACT.

These are only a few of the things to consider about standardized testing and Confident College Planning can help you evaluate your options so you can make the right plan of action for your circumstances. Contact me at to schedule a consultation where we’ll discuss the pros and cons, timing, preparation plan, and other inside information to optimize your college selection process!

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