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When should high school students take the SAT and ACT?

Experts weigh in on when high school students

Experts weigh in on when high school students should take the SAT or ACT tests. Credit: Photo by Istock

Q. What strategy do guidance counselors recommend regarding when and how many times to take SAT and/or ACT college admissions tests?

A. "With our juniors, we like to see two SATs and at least one ACT in the spring," says Jim McCabe, guidance counselor at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn.

Scholastic Aptitude Test results are presented as three sections -- math, English and writing -- each with its own score. Many colleges "superscore." "They will take the best score from each section, even though it's two different tests," McCabe says. If a student in March scores 500 in math and 600 in English, and in May and scores 600 in math 500 in English, many colleges will look at the 600 English and the 600 Math and ignore the two 500s.

After the second SAT, the student can evaluate whether to try to improve on one section and focus on it over the summer before testing again in the fall of senior year, McCabe says. Most kids take the SAT twice; some take it three times. "Most kids don't go beyond three," McCabe says.

As for the American College Test, or ACT, students get one overall score, McCabe says. If a student does much better on the ACT than the SAT, taking it again may improve the result, he says. Chris Ruffini, assistant principal of Syosset High School, says the best time to take the more content-oriented ACT is June, when students are already reviewing material for Regents and final exams.

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