One of the most common questions that we get asked at 2400 Expert is “Should I take the SAT, ACT, or both?” High school counselors typically advise students to take both exams and see which one a student does better on. However, I do not agree with this advice. When I was in high school, I only studied for the SAT and didn’t even look at the ACT.
Studying for the SAT or ACT requires a lot of time and preparation. Not only is it stressful to take these exams, but it’s the preparation process is also laborious. Most students who take both exams usually end up doing poorly on both because they haven’t prepared thoroughly for either test. A better strategy would be to simply master one test (colleges don’t care which test you take).
When I was in high school, I chose to study for the SAT. My decision was primarily motivated by the PSAT. The PSAT is an easier version of the SAT that students take during October of their junior year. Not only does this test give students an idea of how they will perform on the SAT, but it also has much bigger implications.
The PSAT is the only test by which a student can qualify to become a National Merit Finalist. National Merit is not only an impressive accomplishment to include on your college application, but also a path to millions of dollars in college scholarships. Many universities across the nation offer students half-tuition and full-tuition scholarships just because they are a National Merit Finalist. The PSAT score that you need to attain to become a National Merit Finalist depends on the state in which you live in. More academically competitive states require that students score higher on the PSAT in order to become a National Merit Finalist.
When I was in high school, my goal was to become a National Merit Finalist. Therefore, I studied for the SAT. By studying for the SAT, I was over prepared for the PSAT (since it is just an easier version of the SAT). I did become a National Merit Finalist. After my PSAT, I continued studying for the SAT because I was familiar with the test. There was no reason for me to all of a sudden switch to studying for the ACT.
If your goal is to become a National Merit Finalist, there is no reason to study for the ACT.