prepare-ACT-274x300Almost every college in the nation uses the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Testing (ACT) in determining admissions and scholarships.

A good score here can help your child get into the school they want and can also help them, and you, pay for that school.

The stakes are high, but you can help your kid prepare for their SAT and ACT test(s), and good preparation can decrease test anxiety and potentially boost their chances for a better score.

Which one should they take?

It used to be that most Midwestern children took the ACT and those on the coasts, or hoping to attend a school on either coast, would take the SAT. Things have changed, however, and as today most colleges will accept either; they leave the choice of test up to the student.

The SAT and ACT are very different from one another, and chances are your child will do better on one because of the differing formats, test lengths, or subjects covered. This page at The Princeton Review can provide a closer look at the differences between tests. The idea is for your child to take both and see on which they perform better.


Although there are many SAT/ACT preparation courses, they can be costly. If you’re lucky though, your child’s school district offers free preparation programs including study groups and tutoring. Your child’s guidance counselor should be able to explain what options are available. (If they are not offering free preparation at your child’s school, they may be able to attend another school in the district.)

Both tests have formal pretests, known as the PSAT and the PLAN. These follow the same format of the official tests and provide students with a score to help them gauge their potential SAT/ACT score. The scores on these two pretests may help your kid decide which of the two exams is better suited to their style.

There are also websites that offer free online test preparation. gives students plenty of tools to study and prepare, and allows you to sign up as a “coach” to further encourage them. Local nonprofits may also have test preparation programs. Let’s Get Ready is one organization that assists lower income students in preparing for college and their SAT/ACT tests as well.


Students can chose a test site, test date and register in advance on the ACT and SAT websites. There’s a fee involved with taking each one of these two tests but both of them also offer financial waivers for students whose families can’t afford the test fees. Your child’s guidance counselor will have waiver applications available.


The good thing is that both the ACT and SAT can be taken multiple times and colleges will only consider the best scores. Retaking is very common, as many kids use their first test as a chance to test the waters and figure out in which test they do best. Once they figure that out, the best suggestion is to retake that particular test.

Remember, the SAT and ACT are only one part of the college admissions and scholarships process. A high score will help ensure they go to their first pick and may even garner them some cash to make it easier. However, without good grades, extracurricular activities, and engaging application essays their chances won’t be so great. Colleges look for the total package. As a supportive parent, you can help make certain your child’s application packet, including test scores, is as impeccable as possible.  

This article was originally published on Mamiverse.


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