Frequently Asked Questions on the PSAT, SAT and ACT Tests
What is the SAT or ACT?
The SAT is a national college admission examination that consists of subject area tests in Mathematics, Reading, Writing and Language (which includes an optional essay). SAT results are accepted by all U.S. colleges and universities. Actual testing time is 3 hours and 50 minutes (including the essay).
The ACT is a national college admission examination that consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional essay. The ACT is an alternative to the SAT, and results are accepted by all U.S. colleges and universities. Actual testing time is 3 hours and 35 minutes (including the essay).
What is a good score on the SAT or ACT?
There is no such thing as a good score or a bad score on the SAT or ACT. Every score needs to be judged on how it compares to your GPA and to the median scores of students accepted by the colleges that you want to attend.
What score do I need to get into my first college choice?
To get an idea of how your score stacks up, take a look at the median scores of some popular colleges and universities. Remember, these aren’t cut-offs or guarantees. If your score is higher than a school’s median, it doesn’t guarantee you will get in. Likewise, if your score is lower than a school’s median, it doesn’t mean you won’t be accepted.
What is the difference between the SAT and ACT?
With recent changes to the SAT in March 2016, the tests have become more similar in content, format, and strategy. The ACT tests a broader range of material than the SAT (in some ways it is similar to the SAT Subject Tests) and some students perform better on it than they do on the SAT. Almost all colleges will accept either SAT or ACT scores, so taking the ACT in addition to the SAT can give you another shot at improving your odds. If you do poorly on the ACT you can simply choose not to report your score. (Make sure that you don’t sign up to send your score to any college automatically).
Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
Colleges and universities will accept scores from either the SAT or ACT, so you’ll need to determine which test will result in the best score for you. Seeley Test Pros can review your individual situation and help you to prepare for the test that is best for you.
When is the best time to take the SAT or ACT?
Generally, students should take the ACT in December of junior year to establish a baseline and order a copy of their test and answers (Test Information Release), and then retest it in April or June of the junior year.
Students will take the PSAT in school in October of their junior year and receive their PSAT results in school or online in early December. Students can review those results and evaluate their chances on the SAT versus the ACT. Students can then take the SAT in March or May of junior year and order a copy of their test and answers (Question And Answer Service), and then retest in June or August.
Some high schools may offer the SAT and/or ACT in school during the day, so you may want to consult your Guidance office for additional test dates.
When is the best time to prepare for the SAT or ACT?
This depends on where you are in your high school career, whether you will need to take any SAT Subject Tests, and your own personal test preparation schedule. The following are the three most popular times for students to prepare:
- Summer before junior year: There are many advantages to preparing at this point if you have completed the necessary coursework to attempt the tests early. First, you will have the benefit of specialized preparation for each SAT/ACT that you take. In addition, many students who start early will build on their testing knowledge and increase their comfort with the test as they progress. Also, for some students, the most important reason for preparing before junior year is simply to use some of the free time over the summer. But remember, this option is not best for everyone. Fall tests are generally taken by seniors. If you will be a junior, and you believe you may test well on the PSAT for National Merit, we recommend that you prepare in the summer before junior year.
- Leading up to spring of junior year: This is when most students will take the SAT or ACT for the first time. The April ACT/May SAT test is the most popular tests of the year. The June is the third most popular. Spring of junior year is when many students are academically prepared and still have the opportunity to retake the test in the coming summer or fall.
- Summer before senior year: Although college application deadlines are right around the corner, preparing for the SAT/ACT in the summer or fall of the senior year is very popular. The July or September ACT/ August or October SAT tests provide students with near-final results when applying to colleges. However, students may still take the tests in December for college admissions and scholarship consideration. Refer to actstudent.org or collegeboard.com for the most up-to-date information on test dates in your state.
Is the SAT or ACT easier on certain test dates?
No, this is a myth. Tests on all dates are of the same level of difficulty; there is no reason to take these tests on one date over another in the hopes that one will be easier. Your only consideration should be taking all necessary tests at the times that allow you to do your best – test preparation or no test preparation.
How many times can I take the SAT or ACT?
Many students and parents are under the impression that repeating the SAT/ACT is not a good idea. They often feel that multiple scores will ‘look bad’ or that good scores will merely be averaged with weaker scores. Both points are incorrect. First of all, you have the ability to submit your highest scores. If you have taken the ACT multiple times, ACT will only send colleges the score from the date you specify.
In addition, all colleges use students’ highest scores in evaluating their applications. They choose the highest scores in one of two ways. Some schools combine the highest English, Math, Reading or Science scores from one test date with the highest English, Math, Reading or Science scores from another test date. If that’s the case, then you can send multiple test results (if you have taken the ACT multiple times) to that school. Other schools take the highest composite score from a single test date. Ask your college counselor or call a college directly to find out the school’s policy. In no case, however, is repeating the test detrimental. Most students now take the SAT and ACT two or three times, which is adequate for a well-prepared test-taker.
How many times is the SAT or ACT offered each year?
The ACT is offered nationally seven times a year in February, April, June, July, September, October, and December. The SAT is offered nationally six times a year in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. High schools may also offer an in-school SAT or ACT test date in February, March or April of the junior year.
How do I sign up for extended time on the SAT or ACT?
If you have a documented physical or learning disability and normally receive extra time on your tests in school, then you are eligible to get extra time on the SAT and ACT as well. If you have a physical or learning disability and feel that you need extra time, but you do NOT normally receive extra time in school, then you must request an exception. In either case, there are a number of steps that you and/or your parents must take, so it is a good idea to get started early by finding out who your school’s Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities is and consulting with him.
How do I register for the SAT or ACT?
You can register online at actstudent.org or collegeboard.com or complete the registration application by mail. Your school guidance or college counseling department should have current copies of the Registering for the SAT and ACT Assessment booklets. The booklets have detailed information on registration fees and procedures as well as the current testing dates and deadlines.
When will I get my scores?
Scores are mailed three to four weeks after the test is taken. However, scores are available online approximately 10 days after the ACT test administration and 19 days after the SAT test administration.
Do I get a copy of my test with my scores?
Only if you request and pay for it, and you can get it only for the December, April and June ACT test dates and the March, May and October test dates. If you sign up for any of these test dates, Seeley Test Pros recommends getting a copy of your test. You will receive a copy of your exam about 4-6 weeks after your test date, and it can be useful in helping you assess what you did right and wrong. For any other test date, there is no way to obtain a copy of your exam.