Thinking carefully and proactively about how often to take the SAT or ACT makes a lot of sense; after all, very, very few of us actually enjoy taking these tests (my secret shame!) This common question has two answers, one easy and one a little more complicated.
How many practice SATs or ACTs should I take?
When wondering how many practice tests to take, simply commit to as many as needed to prove to yourself before test day that you can earn your target score. Many tests lie between where a student begins and where she wants to arrive. You’ll minimize that number by making sure you take the highest quality practice tests possible, meaning official exams under strictly timed test conditions. Follow each practice test with targeted review of every aspect of your exam to really supercharge its value.
How many official SATs or ACTs should I take?
Ideally, you will only take one. After all, if you’ve practiced properly, you’ll know going into the test what you’re capable of. Once you hit your target, you may want to, as they say, take the money and run. In this case, you’ll be running as far from the SAT and ACT as possible!
Of course, many of us have a tendency to raise our target scores once we’ve reached our prior goal. Even if you can put aside that frustrating aspect of human nature, you have to content with the complicating factor of college superscore policies. Many colleges are willing to look at multiple official tests and piece together a student’s best SAT score by combining his best Critical Reading, Math, and Writing scores. A growing number of colleges are also willing to superscore ACTs as well.
Superscoring is not a mandatory policy, so always contact target colleges directly to ask their SAT and ACT superscore policies. But if a school does superscore, you have much to gain and little to lose if you test more than once, especially if you underperformed on only one or two sections of an official exam. Still, once you’ve taken three official exams (3 SATs or 3 ACTs), you’re probably well into the territory of diminishing returns. There’s more to life than tests, you know!
So the short answer to this question is as follows:
1. Take as many practice tests as you need to earn your target score. There’s a reason The Real ACT Prep Guide has 5 full tests!
2. Take as few official tests as you need to earn your target score. Consider superscore policies in your planning and use Score Choice judiciously. If you can meet or exceed your goals on your first test, more power to you. Enjoy the rest of your high school career!