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  • Writer's pictureMichele Coleman

Standardized Tests – 5 Questions & Answers

1. What are they & why should I take them?

2. Which one should I take?

3. When should I take them?

4. What are SAT Subject Tests?

5. When are Subject Tests offered?

What are they & why should I take them?

The ACT and SAT are standardized tests that most colleges require potential students to take and submit with their college applications. Because curriculum and grades vary from high school to high school, colleges view these tests as a way to gauge freshman success. There are a few colleges that are “test optional”, meaning they don’t require either the ACT or SAT but will require something to be submitted to take their place. For instance, AP test scores, SAT Subject Tests, graded papers, etc. A student should take these tests in order to qualify for entry requirements and potential scholarships.

To register for the SAT visit the College Board at

To register for the ACT visit ACT registration

Should I take the ACT or SAT?

Actually, it does not matter which you take. College accept both equally.

When should I take either the SAT or ACT?

There are many opportunities for test taking while you are in high school. The best thing to do is take both tests with no preparation to see which test might work better for you. Each test has a slightly different focus and require a different pace. The SAT is approximately half Math related while the ACT is only a quarter Math related, but has interpretative science questions. The ACT is very fast paced and is great for readers. While the SAT has a slower pace but more math questions. It depends on the student. You can take practice tests by going online to either the College Board or the ACT site, buy preparation booklets or take advantage of free testing at various tutoring companies. To get a real feel for what it is actually like, you can sign-up for an actual test and see how you do!

Sophomore Year: Take a real or practice test sometime in late Spring to gauge how it feels and obtain a reliable baseline result, particularly after you have taken Algebra II.

Junior Year: You should take the PSAT in October, typically offered at your High School. If you have taken a SAT Sophomore Year and you have scored 1350 or above, you may want to prep for the PSAT in order to try to qualify as a National Merit Scholar. Take the ACT or SAT sometime between November and January. Then take one test early in spring, perhaps February. This will allow you to prepare in Fall and leave yourself time for one or two more test taking options prior to the end of Junior Year. Leave yourself 8-12 weeks prep time between tests. Ideally you want to be completed taking your standardized tests by the end of Junior Year. Only take these test 2-3 times max.

Senior Year: Allow yourself a cushion to take the test for the final time if necessary, fall of your senior year.

What are SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are standardized tests based on specific subjects that show your strengths in a given subject. They are required by only a few colleges but recommended by many. They are used to help you supplement your application. They are particularly recommended If you are applying to elite colleges or STEM based majors.

When are SAT Subject Tests offered?

SAT Subject Tests are offered at varying times throughout the year by the College Board. You can take up to 3 Subject Tests on a given day but you cannot take a regular SAT and Subject Tests on the same day.

Email me at mcoleman@colemancollegecounseling with questions or to sign-up for a complimentary phone call to learn more!


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