Students: Don’t Take an “Official” SAT or ACT as a “Practice”

Many eager juniors are kicking off the college process by taking an official SAT or ACT. Before you do, however, we offer some important and practical advice to consider.

Testing as a requirement

Many colleges do require an SAT or ACT score as part of the application process. There are a lot of excellent colleges that are test-optional, and a full list can be found at But if the school you are applying to requires test scores, or even a specific program within a school that is mostly test-optional requires them, you must take them. Colleges have no preference of one test over the other; all colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT.


Typical timeline

I like to advise students to take a practice SAT (called the PSAT, typically offered by local high schools) and a practice ACT (typically not offered at high schools in New England, but an unofficial Pre-ACT can be available at test prep organizations and online) in the fall of junior year. Your Campus Bound counselor will have concordance charts and can go over the scores of both practice tests to help you choose which test to focus on (more on that here). Once you pick your best test, study for that test during the winter months and plan to take it for the first time later in the spring.


Many students want to take the test more than once. Since many colleges superscore (more on that here) it makes sense. I usually advise students to take the test once in the spring of junior year (typically May or June) and again once in the fall of senior year. This can lead students and parents to ask, “Isn’t fall of senior year too late? What If I apply Early somewhere?” Fall of senior year is not too late, and certainly the August test date, as well as usually October and November, can be completed before applications are due. You can talk with your Campus Bound counselor about a timeline that make the most sense for you.


A jump start might not be the best idea

Because of score choice and superscoring, some students think that they will always be able to pick and choose which scores are sent to colleges. They then may decide to take an official test early, say in January or March, as a practice. I’m here to tell you that is not a good idea! Never take an official test as a practice. More and more colleges are using language on their applications such as “please send all your test scores.” In that case, the early “practice” test scores (but actually official test scores) will have to be sent as well. It’s true that many colleges just want to see and/or consider your best scores, but wouldn’t it be nice to not have to send scores you’re not proud of? Why take an official test as a practice? It just doesn’t make sense.


One of the great things about Campus Bound is that when students sign up to work with us early on in the process, we can nip some of these misjudgments in the bud. When we meet with students, we talk about specific plans and create a timeline that makes sense for each individual. And I’m always surprised at the misconceptions out there and how many potential fires I can put out. For example, “Freshman year of high school grades don’t count.” I hear that one a lot and it’s not true! By working with Campus Bound, you are ensuring that you get the best advice and guidance for YOU.

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