Does signing up for your class automatically register me for the ACT or SAT?

Should I sign up for the writing test?

What is the Test Information Release, and should I pay extra for it when I register for the ACT?

Do students score higher if they test at a smaller school?

When should my student start ACT or SAT prep?

How do I compare ACT and SAT scores?

Should I take the ACT or SAT multiple times?

Should I only send colleges my highest set of scores?

What kind of score increases are reasonable to expect from your classes?

I’ve made the same score over & over – should I just give up and accept that this is as high as I’ll ever go?

My college superscores – should this influence the way I prep?


Does signing up for your class automatically register me for the ACT or SAT?

No. Students must register themselves (with parent help) online for either the ACT or the SAT. Please be aware of the registration deadlines for the test you’re interested in to avoid late fees. Allow at least 45 minutes for the registration process. You’ll create an online account and enter a great deal of information about your high school record, family status, and personal interests. Have your testing site preferences planned out and your payment information ready. Go to ACT registration or SAT registration to register for a test.

Should I sign up for the writing test?

The answer to this question depends on which colleges and universities you have on your list. Each institution has different policies about the writing test. Beginning in 2017, many are no longer requiring students to take the writing test at all (Auburn University, University of Alabama, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and Troy University are examples), but some still do ask for the writing test. Year by year, this is subject to change, so please make sure to check with the individual institutions on your list.

If you’re required to take the writing test once but it doesn’t have to be associated with your highest set of scores, then I highly recommend not taking the writing test while you’re working on maximizing your multiple-choice scores. We want all your energy to be focused on those multiple choice scores with nothing held in reserve for the essay.

If your institution of choice requires the writing test be present for any scores you send them, clearly you’ll need to take the writing test every time.

What is the Test Information Release, and should I pay extra for it when I register for the ACT?

Absolutely!  The ACT Test Information Release allows you to purchase a printout of your student’s ACT responses along with correct answers and the test booklet.  It gives students the opportunity to learn from their actual mistakes on a real ACT test, and they can also retake the test at home as an additional real ACT practice test.  The Test Information Release is only offered for the December, April, and June ACT tests.  When registering for one of those tests, I’d urge you to pay the extra money for this service — it’s a bargain!  If you slip up and forget to order when registering, you can mail in a printed form up to three months following the test date.

Do students score higher if they test at a smaller school?

If you’re asking whether a different test is given at smaller high schools, then the answer is no. Both the ACT and the SAT are nationally administered tests, and the same test is given no matter where you take the test.

However, students who’ve tested multiple times in the same location sometimes find that they can move their score up a bit by switching to a new location. Why would this be the case? If the previous location has been a large testing center or their own school, the psychological factor could be significant. Not being surrounded by huge numbers of students or distracted by friends or familiar peers could give your student a less stressful testing experience.

Also, some testing centers are simply better organized or may have proctors that help put students more at ease. It certainly doesn’t hurt to “shop around” and find a location that suits your particular student!

When should my student start ACT or SAT prep?

I prefer that students take both the ACT and the SAT once before prepping for either test. This gives them a realistic starting point to work from, and it also helps them discern which test they’re inclined toward. Some students naturally do better on one test or the other, so it only makes sense to prep for “their” test instead of both tests.

So your student should aim to have taken the ACT and the SAT for the first time by the end of sophomore year. This makes the junior year of high school the optimal time to focus on prepping for these tests. While most parents would love to see their students maximize scores during junior year, it’s often the case that students finally mature into the test during the fall of senior year. That’s when the realities of college costs and admissions standards sink in for many students…and they become serious about topping out their scores.

How do I compare ACT and SAT scores?

Some smart folks at prepscholar.com have created a score converter using the official Collegeboard concordance tables. You can plug in your ACT composite score, and it will convert to both an old and a new SAT composite score. Or you can plug in your old or new SAT composite score, and it will covert to an ACT composite score.

Should I take the ACT or SAT multiple times?

Absolutely! ACT or SAT prep is a journey that typically takes place over a period of months if not years. Colleges use these scores to guide admissions and scholarship decisions that can impact the future direction of a high school student’s life. These colleges recognize that a student must invest time in learning the test in order to maximize scores and improve chances of being admitted to a desired college or being awarded tens of thousands of scholarship dollars. They expect students to work at these tests and that necessarily includes taking the test multiple times. Unless you’re already in college or have achieved a perfect score, there’s room for improvement. So plan out your prep schedule, and sign up to test again!

Should I only send colleges my highest set of scores?

Because colleges understand that students work at improving ACT or SAT scores, they expect to receive multiple scores from students. Letting colleges see your score progress doesn’t hurt you – it shows you’re willing to work at improving! But if you’d rather keep your progress a private matter, that’s fine too. Just know that you’ll pay a fee for sending your score report after you test, while it’s free if you choose to send it at the time you register to test. Also, if you’re starting your ACT journey quite early and know that you’ll end up testing an unusually large number of times, it might be worth waiting until you know you’re approaching your target score before beginning to send automatic score reports.

What kind of score increases are reasonable to expect from your classes?

This answer is largely determined by the motivation level of your student. While a solid prep experience and parent motivation level are important factors for helping students raise scores, ultimately the student must care enough to invest significant time and effort in conquering these tests. They must want it badly and be willing to work hard at it! I’ve seen extremely gifted students who didn’t care enough to persevere be outperformed by less gifted but very diligent students who were willing to give it all they had.

Students who diligently implement the strategy we learn in class and faithfully complete every practice assignment they’re given typically experience composite score increases of at least one or two points. Some jump as many as four to six points. However, it’s more common for composite increases of four to eight points to take place over a period of several months where the student continues to practice independently what was learned in class or occasionally returns to class for a refresher on strategy and practice techniques.

Also, students with initial scores in the teens or lower twenties are more likely to experience larger score increases than students who begin prep with scores in the upper twenties or thirties.  Students with lower starting scores have plenty of room to increase their test knowledge — as they learn the test material, they can sometimes see dramatic score increases.  Students with higher starting scores typically have a solid knowledge of the test material but are working on becoming more efficient — thus, gains are often smaller and more gradual.

I’ve made the same score over & over – should I just give up and accept that this is as high as I’ll ever go?

It’s very common for students to make the same score repeatedly. If you’re simply taking the test over & over without any prep, it’s very likely your score won’t increase at all. In fact, it might actually go down some. The first time you took the test, you may have done a little prep to familiarize yourself with the test format. But in between tests, you may have done little or no prep until maybe a week or so out from the test date. This tiny bit of prep is probably enough to help get you back to roughly your same readiness level as the last time around…so you end up scoring about the same as before.

Or maybe between tests you’ve worked hard on one particular subject area…like math. But in the meantime you haven’t practiced the other subjects much or at all. When your scores come back, you’ve probably improved in math…but gone down in your other subjects. I’ve seen this happen over & over to students. Focusing on one subject isn’t likely to impact your composite much and generally isn’t a good plan. Unless your college superscores (see the next question), you’ll want to work on every subject every time in order to move that composite up.

My approach to test prep blends strategy and practice in every subject area for five to six weeks before a test. This long period of steady practice and intense learning gives you time to accelerate in your understanding of the test and move past your previous score level. So don’t give up – you can rule these tests if you invest in prepping for more than just short spurts before each test! Aim high…persevere in your prep…and you’ll reap the rewards!

My college superscores – should this influence the way I prep?

Perhaps. Superscoring is the process of using the highest individual subject scores from all your test scores to create a composite instead of using the highest composite from a single test. If the college you’re aiming at superscores, then taking the test multiple times while focusing all your energy on a particular subject each time can be a worthwhile strategy. But when test day comes, please don’t nap through the other subjects or intentionally blow them off – give each subject your best, and you might surprise yourself by moving more than one subject up.  (And your parents won’t be ready to strangle you!)  Also, do realize that if you plan to focus on only one subject each time you test, you may end up taking more tests over a longer period of time than you might by focusing intensely on all subjects at once.