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The million dollar test prep question: Should I take the SAT or the ACT for my college applications?

Many parents come to us wondering whether their child should complete sittings for both the actual SAT & ACT exams. We share our thoughts on the matter below, thanks to the expertise of Private Prep Admissions and test prep superstars, respectively: Rachel E. and Tehya B.!

Question: “I’ve heard my son/daughter should take the SAT and ACT and see which score is better.  Do you agree?”

RE: >First and foremost, testing — and prepping for those tests — can be a stressful process. Taking twice as many tests often adds to that stress; we always encourage the route that will allow a student to take the test as few times as possible!

Second, they really are different tests with different timing and strategies, and preparing for both at once could end up making progress slower and taking away from overall gains.

Finally, there is no added benefit from the college perspective to taking both — they serve the same function in the admissions process. A student’s time could be better used preparing for SAT subject tests, which will add something new to the testing profile. And, while Score Choice is prevalent, there are still some colleges that require students’ full testing histories, meaning they want to see everything you’ve ever taken. In those cases, you really want to put your best foot forward and don’t want to be sending a long, mixed testing history to the college.

TB: As with any major activity in life, it is difficult to perform at your best when you are spread too thin and your full concentration isn’t dedicated to one area. While there is a lot of overlap in content between the SAT and the ACT, the tests have different structures, different pacing, and different strategic approaches.

It is very challenging for a student to confidently prepare for both exams simultaneously because they are never able to completely master one test, unless they are doing double the work they would be doing in preparation for just one. Couple that double time with their other academic commitments from Junior year (not to mention their extracurricular activities) and students ultimately end up compromising their performance on both exams, rather than maximizing their performance on either.

At Private Prep, we strongly encourage all students to take both exams as part of their Diagnostic process; this allows them to be exposed to both tests, consider their foundational scores on both exams, and ultimately make a decision upfront about which test is a better fit for them to pursue wholeheartedly.



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