Are the SAT and ACT assessment tests still optional?
One of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has been that, in many cases, college assessment testing was suspended, and even when it has been available, most schools have made the tests optional. As pandemic fears have eased, some colleges and universities have reinstated the requirement as part of their admissions process. Many other schools are still treating the tests as optional, at least for the 2022/23 school year.
This mixed message can be confusing, and as a result, many educators are recommending that students take the SAT and/or ACT anyway.
Why take the SAT or ACT?
Some colleges and universities are again requiring it, with MIT being among the first to announce
Many states also require homeschoolers to take nationally standardized tests in order to satisfy state testing requirements
What is the point of the SAT or ACT?
Basically, these tests help determine what you have learned, and whether you are ready for college. While some students don’t do well on standardized tests, and may find these intimidating, having a good score on one or both gives schools more information about a prospective student to help them make admissions decisions. So any competitive advantage an applicant can demonstrate is a bonus. Don’t let the “optional” status of these tests lull you into thinking you don’t need to take them.
What is the difference between the SAT and ACT?
Both exams are nationally recognized, but the SAT is seen as more of an evaluation of a student’s aptitude, and the ACT is considered more of a placement test or an indicator of academic achievement. Both tests have Math, Reading, and Writing sections and the ACT also has a Science section. The SAT has both a calculator and a no-calculator math section.
The SAT is made up of 154 questions and is scored between 400 and 1600. It requires more writing and problem solving, and gives the student more time to complete.
The ACT has 215 questions and is scored from 1 to 36. The questions are more straightforward and require less time to answer.
Students can take the ACT up to 12 times in order to get the highest score possible, and there is no limit on how many times a student may take the SAT. Each test is offered on 7 different dates throughout the year.
Preparing for the SAT and ACT
Practice tests are available online, and there are a multitude of services, some offered by local schools, to coach students and help them prepare for taking these tests. Most of these are paid services, and can cost upwards of $1,500, however it is possible to find some test prep offered for free, and many priced somewhere inbetween. Some courses are group classes, either in person or online, while others are one-on-one. The cost to take the tests themselves depends on whether you add the writing part of the test. The full ACT with writing costs $88 while the basic SAT costs $47 with additional subject tests costing $10 to $21 more.
One-on-one Online SAT and ACT Test Prep This Summer
Summer is the perfect opportunity for students to get ready for these exams, and TutorUp has experienced tutors who are certified teachers, skilled in preparing students for the SAT and ACT. If personalized, one-on-one test prep for the SAT or ACT is what you’re looking for, we have teacher/tutors who can help. Simply fill out the contact form on the right, or give us a call at 877-888-6787.
Among all of the disruptions in normal activity due to the Covid 19 pandemic, there has been continued uncertainty over college entrance exams like the ACT and SAT. Normal schedules and procedures for the tests have been completely upended, and there has been a lot of misinformation about whether or not high school students should still take the tests and whether colleges and universities were still requiring them.
More than half of all 4-year colleges have decided to go “test optional” for Fall 2021 admissions, and some schools – including all California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) schools – will not consider your test scores even if you submit them. However, that means that there are still many schools that do require the tests. Bottom line, check the schools you’re interested in for their latest announcements.
Should you still take the SAT or ACT?
Getting accepted into the college of your choice is still a highly competitive process, and anything that can give you an advantage over your peers is worth pursuing. Since the College Board and the ACT don’t report test scores to any schools unless you choose to submit them, there is no down side to taking the tests. And if you’re able to score well, submitting your scores – even to a “test optional” school – can help.
More reasons to take the test
25 states actually require SAT or ACT scores as part of high school graduation requirements, so even if you’re not planning to attend a college that requires them, you may need to take the test to get your high school diploma.
Up to 60% of scholarships still require an SAT or ACT score to be submitted in order to qualify.
In addition, many colleges will use SAT or ACT test scores to decide on awarding merit scholarships to incoming students, even if the school is a “test optional” school.
Which test to take?
Most colleges and universities will accept test scores from either test and don’t have a preference for one or the other. Students are increasingly interested in taking both tests in order to provide more information with their applications that could give them an edge over other applicants.
Preparing to take the ACT
The ACT standardized college entrance exam covers English, Math, Reading, and Science. It also offers an optional Writing test, although some colleges require you to take the Writing test even though it’s “optional”. Most students take the ACT in the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year in high school. It’s possible to re-take the test (up to 12 times) in order to improve your score, and submit your highest score to the school(s) you’re interested in attending.
The highest score possible is 36, and the average score is 21.
The test takes 2 hours and 55 minutes, or 3 hours and 35 minutes with the Writing test.
The SAT standardized college entrance exam measures student skills in Reading, Math, and Writing. There is also an optional essay. Like the ACT test, most students take the SAT in the spring of 11th grade or the fall of 12th grade. There’s no limit to how many times you can take the SAT.
The highest possible score for the SAT is 1600 and schools each have their own expectations for applicants. Highly selective schools look for scores in the 1400-1500+ range. To find out which score to try for, it’s a good idea to check the school(s) you’re interested in and see what the average test scores were for the last group of students who were admitted.
The test takes 3 hours, or 3 hours and 50 minutes with the optional Essay, however the College Board has announced they will be discontinuing the optional SAT essay portion of the test, so by the time you get ready to take your SAT, the essay option may no longer be available.
One-on-one tutors to help you prep for the ACT or SAT
TutorUp offers ACT and SAT test prep tutoring to help you take practice tests and build your confidence in order to prepare you for taking either (or both) of these college entrance exams. Work with an actual certified, experienced, background-checked classroom teacher in order to increase your chances of scoring highly on these tests.
Summer is the perfect time to take a little time to focus on ACT test prep and SAT test prep. No distractions, teacher support, one-on-one.
Up-to-date information about the ACT test and Test Centers can be found here: