The arrival of PSAT scores for high school juniors signals the beginning of the college planning process for many families. One of the first steps in that process is establishing a schedule when students will take the SAT and ACT.
As a private college counselor and test prep coach, I recommend that all high school juniors take both the SAT and ACT sometime during the spring of their junior year. It is difficult to know which test students might do better on and this is the only way to find out. If students score higher on one test than the other or feel that one is more suited to their learning style, they can then concentrate on that particular college admissions exam. Colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT for college admission.
Most students will benefit from a test prep class before taking the SAT and ACT. You do not need to spend a $1000 for a good course. There are many good courses in every city that are run by test prep tutors, not national companies. Check these out before you look into anything else. Test prep classes should be limited to less than ten students and spend enough time on the material to be useful. The goal is to help students get practice, learn some good test-taking strategies, and gain confidence.
One mistake that too many students make is not getting feedback from the tests they take. While the SAT and ACT do not provide this service for every test, it is worth taking advantage of when they do. Being able to review the test you took with your answer sheet will help you to improve your scores. If this service is available, sign up for it when you register to take either the SAT or ACT this spring. It costs a few extra dollars, but is well worth it.