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: