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Do I Need to Take Both the SAT and the ACT?

by | Aug 14, 2019 | ACT Prep, Education, SAT Prep, Test Strategies, Tutoring | 0 comments

Do I Need to Take Both the SAT and the ACT?

This is one of the most common questions that parents and students ask when I talk with them about college admissions. Often, they have been advised by a school counselor or peer to take both tests. The SAT and ACT are both college entrance exams, but they are not the same exam. The tests have many slight differences that may cause a student to do better on one exam than the other. Although, historically in our area, the East Coast, the SAT was the test of choice, now almost every college accepts both tests. So, how do you choose which test to take, and why would a student choose to go through the extra work of taking both tests? 

Most students should take EITHER the SAT or the ACT

Taking both the SAT and the ACT is usually unnecessary and causes much more stress and anxiety during a time that is for most students already crammed full of activities, challenging classes, and testing.  It can also be a waste of valuable time and money. Students sometimes think that by taking both tests, their application will look more impressive. This is usually not the case, and in fact if you don’t have adequate time and energy, preparing for both tests can actually leave you less prepared in general because you are spreading your resources too thin. In a New York Times article on this topic, William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions and financial aid says, “We see a lot of test results between the ACT, the SAT, the subject tests, Advanced Placement and the International Baccalaureate,” he added, “so it doesn’t concern us at all whether students send the SAT, the ACT or both.” Most students should choose one test, either the SAT or the ACT and prepare for that test exclusively. No school will require you to submit both tests scores, so there is no reason to take both official tests.

Do not take the official SAT and ACT to find out which test works best for you!

Often a parent will tell me that they are going to have their student take the official SAT and ACT just to see which one they are doing better on. If you want to practice, take an official released practice test. Administer it like it is a real test by timing each section and using a script. Never take the official test as practice. This is a waste of money and also can lead to having to report scores to colleges that are less than your best. Some colleges require you to submit all of your test scores from each time you sit for an official exam. For the SAT, the College Board has a comprehensive list of the schools that require all SAT scores in their Score-Use Practices Document. Schools such as Georgetown University, the University of Maryland- College Park, and George Washington University require all SAT scores. Although the ACT does not have a comprehensive list of schools that require all ACT scores, there are schools that require all ACT scores. This information can be found on the school’s admissions page. Here is an example from Carnegie Mellon University.

Use the Results of Your Practice Tests to Determine Which Exam to Prepare For

Take an official released practice SAT and ACT. When you take the practice tests, you should time yourself and take the tests each in a single sitting. Then you can use the concordance tables provided by the College Board or ACT to compare your two tests scores and determine which test score is higher. You may also find that you feel more comfortable taking one test than the other as there are many subtle differences in the timing, sections, and content of the two tests. For more information on what is similar and different on the SAT and ACT, click here. Most students should prepare for the test on which they are already doing better.

So, Who Should Consider Taking Both the Official SAT and ACT?

Students who have plenty of time to study may consider taking both the SAT and ACT for several reasons. Sometimes a student is performing equally well on both tests. By taking both tests, they can have more variety of test dates to choose from. If time is not a factor, having more testing opportunities may mean that even if you have a bad test day on one exam, you can have a good test day on another.  In addition, if you have a lot of time to devote to studying, preparing for one test can sometimes help you to prepare for the other test. For students whose scores have plateaued and won’t increase on one test, often trying the other test with adequate time to prepare can help to achieve a higher score. It may also be worth switching if your high school gives one exam and offers test prep for that exam, but you believe that you have the potential to do better on the other exam based on a practice test.

Once you decide which test to take, it is important to build a study plan based on the weak areas from your practice test and how much time you have to prepare. Your plan should include goals specific to you and with the college you wish to apply to in mind. Check out the admissions pages of the schools that interest you, and compare your practice scores to the scores in their most recent Freshman Class Profile. Use this information to set goals for score improvement and to make your study time more focused.

-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC

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                                       ~Nina

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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Pam Cantrell Burton
Pam Cantrell Burton
2020-10-14T16:15:51+0000
Parrish Learning Zone helped my daughter with on-line SAT and college essay preparation. She not only scored in the top 90 percentile on the SAT after working with Lauren Cannavo, she especially benefited from the tutoring she received for her admission essays. My daughter was accepted at Notre Dame, UVA, William and Mary, and received scholarships to George Washington University and the University of Alabama. She was initially deferred at the University of Chicago and waitlisted at University of Michigan and Emory University. She eventually chose not to remain on the waitlists and committed to UVA.Lauren also advised our daughter regarding her submission of a 20 page essay on community service for DECA, a high school business club. Our daughter, along with her partner, won second place in her category at the DECA state competitions in 2019 and 2020, and received second place at the DECA international competition in 2019.Lauren was not only a top-notch professional, she really cared about our daughter and was so pleased about her accomplishments. We are so very grateful to her and Parrish Learning Zone.
Marijayne Kruus
Marijayne Kruus
2020-05-11T21:51:37+0000
My daughter has a math learning disability and hated math. We started working with Nina Parrish and stuck with it for several months. Her grades have improved, but more importantly, so has her self confidence. She now loves going to work on math and will even work on it at home by herself. We are grateful for Parrish Learning Zone!
Laura Ellis
Laura Ellis
2018-12-14T14:36:43+0000
Mr. Chaves is an extremely gifted chemistry teacher. It's such a difficult subject--my son was drowning by the time we found PLZ. This was truly a last ditch effort on our part. Mr. Chaves was able to turn that ship around after only 4 lessons and my son passed the SOL! He was able to distill difficult concepts in a way that made them comprehensible and he was patient and kind and gave my son the confidence to succeed. His actual eacher expressed surprise and made a point of telling him he didn't know how he did it but he was impressed. It takes a gifted teacher to get results like that.I only wish we'd found PLZ and Mr. Chaves in the beginning of the school year.
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Wendy Zelazny
2018-06-08T02:05:15+0000
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Anne Kater Reeves
Anne Kater Reeves
2018-06-07T22:46:05+0000
I highly recommend Parrish Learning Zone. My daughter was able to achieve the SAT score she was aiming for with the help of her Math (Mr. James Slane) and English (Mrs. Lauren Cannavo) tutors. Not only did they help her with practice tests but they also boosted her confidence in taking the SAT. The owners (Nina and Jay) were always prompt in answering my emails. They are very accommodating and worked around my daughter’s schedule (thank you Shiela for all your help in finding available dates for my daughter to meet with her tutors). Thank you Parrish Learning Zone for helping my daughter achieve her goal!
Beth Yankovich
Beth Yankovich
2018-03-23T20:29:18+0000
I can't say enough good things about Parrish Learning Zone. My son has historically suffered from low reading comprehension. I felt he needed a little extra help so I contacted Parrish Learning Zone. The owners at Parrish matched my son with the perfect tutor for him, they developed a rapport almost immediately. He is now in 8th grade and doing well in all his classes. My son is very active in school sports and the staff at Parrish are always very accommodating. They always reschedule with no problems. My son even likes to go early to chat with Sheila.
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Beth Kent
2017-11-08T18:59:11+0000
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Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
Michele Hiltbrunner Freemyers
2017-03-14T15:53:50+0000
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Tammy Elms Mosco
Tammy Elms Mosco
2016-06-02T12:20:59+0000
SAT Prep Course with Parish Learning is definitely a worthwhile invest !!...My son's scores improved over 200 plus points!!
Janice Boles
Janice Boles
2014-12-02T22:34:32+0000
I am extremely thankful to Parrish Learning Zone. I have a son that is a freshman in college majoring in mechanical engineering. I am so glad that we found out about the Parrish Learning Zone because they were very caring and really worked hard around my sons high school football schedule to ensure that he received all of the needed instruction in order to do well on the SAT testing. It was a great investment for his future. I believe this experience prepared my son for the transition to college life. He was able to attend a top engineering college and to play football there. My daughter is a senior in high school now and was admitted into two of the top ranked public schools in Virginia. She will be a freshman at one of these schools next year. She also was enrolled in the Parrish Learning Zone for preparation for the SAT. I am again thankful to the Parrish Learning Zone and feel that this was a great long term investment into their futures. I would strongly recommend the Parrish Learning Zone to anyone looking for an environment that offers a caring and knowledgeable approach to educating students. They are the best.
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Angela Jackson
2014-05-15T00:39:39+0000
Andrew Powers
Andrew Powers
2014-02-09T12:32:29+0000

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