In junior year, college-bound students must start thinking seriously about the SAT or ACT. But which to take? Often, the decision is pretty arbitrary. Students may receive a push from many different directions. Their parents tend to recommend taking whichever test they took themselves; their peers may take casual advice from seniors who have completed the process; perhaps the state the student lives in has sought to encourage one test or the other by partnering with either the College Board or ACT to require all juniors to take either the SAT or ACT at no direct cost to families. Whatever the case, none of these possibilities represent a particularly rigorous decision-making process.

Therein lies the big mistake.


Deciding to take the SAT or ACT "just because <insert flimsy reason here>" is never good. While it's difficult to find solid statistics on the matter, we at Method Test Prep have observed that around 60 to 70 percent of students will perform equally as well on the SAT and ACT. But this means that between 30 and 40 percent of students will perform markedly better on one test than on the other. This is a very significant number.


We've seen so many students who, against our advisement and for the wrong reasons, have insisted on starting to prep with us for the SAT or the ACT, only to find out later that they would have fared much better on the other. To avoid a similar fate, students who have not yet begun the standardized testing process can do something extremely simple: take "diagnostic" tests before starting to prep. Whether through a school-based practice test service, a web-based program, or the tests available on the College Board's and ACT's sites themselves, practice exams are available for the taking. Ideally, students should take a full-length version of both to see which test, if either, suits their test-taking style.


Really! This is the simple message to all students: when you're ready to tackle your standardized college admissions exams, take initial diagnostic/practice exams to see if you're one of the many students who will score higher on one test than on the other. Then, pursue the best test for you and put the other one on the back burner. (Of course, you should always discuss your decision with someone in-the-know, as score interpretation can be a bit convoluted.) Doing so can end up saving you lots of time, money, and stress. You can always revisit the other exam, but why not focus your attention on the test on which you're most likely to perform best?