We’ve had plenty of high school students message us and ask “should you take the SAT and ACT?” Because this is a common question with a not-so-simple answer, we wanted to take a minute now to address it once and for all to help you decide for yourself.
Here are both pros and cons of taking the SAT and ACT simultaneously, questions you should answer first before making that decision, and a few pieces of advice to help you succeed with whichever test, or tests, you take.
Should You Take The SAT And ACT? – Pros
Here are a few pros of taking the SAT and ACT to consider beforehand.
Provide Additional Info to Admissions Committees – While it’s not a necessity, more often than not, admissions officials are happy to see students provide scores from multiple tests. Why? Because it gives them that much more information about you; your dedication, focus, and academic ability to handle the pressures of different test formats. Remember though that it’s not a requirement at most schools to send scores from both the SAT and ACT.
More Efficient Test Prep – A common misperception is that by studying for both tests simultaneously you’ll end up doing double the amount of work and stretch yourself thin. In actuality, there’s a significant amount of overlap regarding the kinds of content both tests cover – both cover Math, English, Writing, and Science-related concepts in their own ways.
The differences lie in the actual formatting of each test and its presentation. However, you won’t have to learn fresh skills for each one from scratch. What you will need to do though is learn both the SAT and ACT formats and know how to handle each one accordingly. Practice tests will help significantly in this area.
Merit Aid Scholarship Chances – If financial aid is going to be an issue for you, then taking both the SAT and the ACT could potentially help bring in much-needed scholarship money. Many college and university merit-based scholarships may require either high ACT or SAT scores in order to qualify.
If you want to increase your chances of qualifying for that money, then doubling the number of test scores you have for submission plays into your favor. Don’t limit yourself to merit-based scholarships either; there are plenty of other outside scholarship opportunities out there that a high test score in either format will undoubtedly help you capture.
Double Your Test Date Options – Choosing to do both tests gives you, in theory, greater flexibility when considering test dates to sign up for normally. If you do end up taking both the SAT and ACT, you’ve doubled your options because both tests operate independently when it comes to testing dates. However, while they never administer tests on the exact same days, both the SAT and ACT tend to cluster their dates close to each other.
What that means for you is let’s say you take one SAT test date that you don’t feel so confident with afterward; you could theoretically bounce back on an ACT date within a week or two, depending on the exact schedule. Moreover, you won’t have to wait as long to do a retake on the other test and potentially miss an admissions deadline.
Should You Take The SAT And ACT? – Cons
As with any choice, there are pluses and minuses to consider. Here is what trying to take the SAT and ACT simultaneously will cost you.
You’ll Never Master An Exam – Despite the content overlaps, the SAT and ACT are still fundamentally different tests. For example, the essay sections have different goals and require different skill sets; the science content is definitely different. The SAT doesn’t even have its own devoted Science section currently, while the ACT definitely has one to worry about. The Math sections definitely differ too, with the SAT having a subsection where you aren’t allowed to even use your calculator.
In that case, not only do you need calculator shortcuts ready but also be ready to work out solutions by hand in time. What this means, in short, is if you try to master one test with some of your time and then try to shift gears towards the other, you could easily end up being somewhat competent on both, instead of having one perfectly dialed in. When test day arrives, for either exam, you’ll have an idea of what to do but you may not be “ready” for it.
You’ll Spend A LOT Of Cash – If you choose to eventually focus on one test alone, you will save a significant amount of money. How? First, every test date requires a fee before you’re allowed in. The base SAT fee (without Essay) is over $60 right now, on the ACT, the base fee is just over $50. Those prices do not reflect taking those tests with the Essay, late registration fees, change fees, phone registration fees, etc.
As you can see, the costs for one of these tests alone for one date add up fast. Multiply those numbers across a handful of dates…and then double it. The sheer cost of taking multiple tests across both formats easily moves into hundreds of dollars, without even counting prep fees or tutors. From a purely economic standpoint, it makes perfect sense to eventually settle on only one test.
You Won’t Have Time For The Rest of Your Life – If you eventually choose to prepare for only one test, you can better balance out your other academic, family, and personal life obligations with test prep. While showing college admissions officials that you can handle two different tests can be helpful, it is still not a silver bullet for admission.
Remember too that a college application is not 100 percent dependent on test scores. Other elements like recommendation letters, filling out the actual applications, getting your extracurricular activities in order, prospective campus visits, financial aid applications, etc. all require your time and attention. Doubling your test prep time will only take away from the rest of your admissions package. Not only that, but you’ll lose out on enjoying your last high school years.
Questions To Ask Yourself
Now that you understand the stakes involved, ask yourself the following questions before committing to a decision of which route to go.
How much time and money do you have to invest? – If you do not have the time and funds to fully commit to two tests simultaneously, then don’t put that burden on yourself. We’ll go into deeper detail below, but that is the first, and arguably the most important question to ask yourself first.
How good are you already at taking standardized tests? – It’s a fair question; some people simply are not great test-takers. That fact alone doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do well on either the SAT or ACT if you’re one of those people. It simply means that you have to decide early on which format you want to spend more time working on. Think of test prep like playing a sport; the format and its directions are the rules you have to abide by, the better you are at handling them and the material presented, the stronger your chances of a high score are.
If you were trying out for a sports team, chances are you wouldn’t go in without working on your strengths and weaknesses beforehand. Don’t have a great jump shot? Take the time to practice. Not a strong essay writer? Take the time to practice. Have trouble with multiple choice questions? Take the time to practice. The more time you devote to focused practice, the better you will do, no doubt about it.
How willing are you, or your family, to pay hundreds of dollars in test date registration fees? – If you are paying for yourself, then that question is easily answered. But if your parents are paying, then you need to find out if they’ll pay literally hundreds of dollars on the possibility that you score high on both tests.
Understand though that the possibility is definitely not a guarantee. Also, before you stretch yourself that thin mentally, you’ll need to factor in your family’s economic circumstances. Can they easily cough up that much money without it negatively affectively other aspects of your lives together?
Bottom Line Tips To Remember
Before doing anything else, follow these two basic pieces of advice; they will make a tremendous difference.
Determine Your Priority Level – Understand that whether you decide to take both tests, or only one, your choice must become a priority while finishing out your junior and senior years. Preparing for either test alone requires significant focus and mental fortitude to tackle the various sections and complete them all efficiently.
Also, understand that you are also competing against thousands of other students, each with their own academic abilities and strong points. Not only are they competing to get into schools but also for scholarships too. How big of a priority are you ready to make that you can commit to and sustain?
Take Practice Exams First – Before you do anything else in this journey, take practice tests first. The fact is, no matter how much you think you’ll want to take both tests, you’ll have no idea how tough they’ll be until you take practice exams. They will give you a good idea of what you’ll be facing on test day.
More importantly, you can easily gauge which test is a better fit for you. In most cases, students find that one test is a stronger fit for their talents and knowledge. It’s always advised to double down on what you are stronger on when impressing college admissions boards. They want to know what you’re already strong at, not what you could be strong at, essentially.
Let Prep Expert Help You
Understand that if you want to prepare to take the SAT and ACT, we can provide you with the help you need.
Prep Expert has built its reputation on getting students ready to succeed on the SAT and ACT; we help students in this fashion because we understand that a high standardized test score can open doors to the rest of your life. Our founder Shaan Patel has lived this reality himself by attaining a perfect SAT score and using it to get into an Ivy League school and secure substantial scholarship money to fund it.
His belief is that he is not that special and anyone can improve their scores just like he originally did. Our variety of course options, from in-person, to live online, to self-directed video, cater to every student’s scheduling. The strategies taught are exactly what Shaan used himself.
Moreover, they’re taught by our vetted, 99th percentile-scoring instructors. Coupled with our point guarantees, our strategies have helped hundreds of students gain significant point increases on both the SAT and ACT. Whether you want to take both tests or just one, we have you covered regardless.
For more information and tips, check out Prep Expert.