To Test or Not to Test …

Should students take the SAT or ACT this year?

Quick take: Take the tests if you can. Take them soon after finishing Algebra 2. (With certain exceptions.)

If you are only applying to the University of California and the California State University systems don’t bother. They have both permanently dropped the tests for admissions

Harvard extended their test-optional status for the next 4 application cycles. Where Harvard goes others follow so it is very likely that more universities will soon follow.

Last year about half of the students applied without test scores and the colleges figured it out. They claim to have accepted their most diverse and academically strong classes in years. It makes one wonder about the overall value of the tests.

More applicants plus only high test scores reported make schools happy because they can reject a larger number of students and thereby appear more highly selective, This helps them with their rankings in the highly questionable US News and World Reports Best Colleges rankings. The biggest losers in this situation are the College Board responsible for the SAT, the ACT, and the test-preparation tutors.

The best time to take the tests is soon after completing Algebra 2. The math on the tests covers geometry, algebra, and intermediate algebra (Algebra 2). The ACT traditionally has had about 4 out of 50 questions that are more likely covered in trigonometry, but that is not significant enough to delay taking the test. For the English, you should have learned enough English by 10th grade.

The question remains: can you safely take it?

If you cannot, don’t. It is that simple. Do not drive hundreds of miles or to another state. If the test is offered nearby, and it is not canceled, my advice, go ahead and take the test. Try practice tests for both SAT and ACT, see which one you like better.

If you cannot register or if they cancel the test and can’t reschedule, accept it.

If you are applying to very highly selective aka highly rejective schools, check their testing requirements so you don’t miss out

If you are like me and never performed up to my academic abilities on standardized tests you’ll find that the tests don’t show the intelligent, capable person that you are., in 2022 don’t bother taking the tests. Give yourself a break and pour your energy into your academics.

Which test should you take?

If you are strong in math and can review Algebra through Algebra 2 and Geometry: take the SAT. It has two math sections.
If you are stronger in reading comprehension, grammar, and English, take the ACT. It has only one math section. The science section is basically reading comprehension and the ability to understand graphs.

Should I prepare for the tests or use a tutor?

Test preparation can help you master the content, brush up on forgotten equations, or solidify your reading comprehension. That’s 80% of the test. The other 20% of prepping will help you with test strategies and recognizing patterns aka “tricks.”

What type of learner are you? Are you self-motivated? Will you set aside the time to go through a structured test preparation schedule to improve your scores? Or do you need help and guidance? Only you can answer this question.

Check out the inexpensive and free resources from companies like Method Test Prep or the Kahn Academy. Both the SAT (College Board) and the ACT also offer free resources.

Summary, take the test if you can. If you can’t or standardized testing doesn’t work for you, then don’t. The overall takeaway is, do what you can, then stop worrying about it.

Remember to breathe.
You can read a more detailed version of this blog post at:

Get Smart about preparing for college.

Jamie Wallace

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