General SAT and ACT Advice
By Florence Quintanilla
We all experience some degree of anxiety regarding college applications, frighteningly close deadlines, and worst of all: standardized tests that determine our future for the next four years. With adequate preparation, the SAT and ACT tests do not need be the death of you. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have an incredible amount of resources available for students made for your success in standardized testing, so learn to take advantage of them now.
First, do research and take a practice ACT and SAT to determine which test is more apt to your abilities. Depending on which you scored better on and which format you are most comfortable with, choose if you would want to officially take both tests or just one. If you don't have a preference, it's best to take both.
The SAT is very similar to the PSAT most students take in tenth grade and does not include a science section. The ACT includes a science section and has 60 questions in 30 minutes per section. The way they are scaled is different as well. You should also know that some colleges accept only the ACT, while others accept only the SAT; most colleges accept both.
Afterwards, think about your schedule for the school year. If you are an athlete with a spring season and you are taking several AP classes junior year, you might want to schedule your test as earlier, given you have also completed SAT prep earlier. Taking that many AP tests in 3 weeks can be overwhelming, which is why scheduling the SAT for October or August would be ideal. However, if you are taking honors classes instead of APs, you have more time and flexibility. This is very personal to the student’s schedule, and it’s imperative to start as early as possible.
Lastly, schedule a date on the College Board website and study up! Also, know that you can always retake it if you aren’t satisfied with your first score. Keep in mind that colleges can see when you hide your score, so it's best to limit yourself to about three or four retakes. To improve your score, the best method is to hire a tutor (Wyzant.com is a great way to find one in your area) or go to your school’s college readiness department to strategize with a counselor on how to use your school’s resources to your advantage. Good luck!