OTC’s Mission is to help schools and families create two and four-year college graduates with minimal debt.

In my travels around the country as the face of a premier college prep company, I am frequently asked questions like “Should I take the ACT or the SAT? How many times?”

I say try both, choose the one you prefer, and take it four times. Colleges only care about your highest score; they don’t care and won’t find out how many times you take the test. By doing something four times, preparing hard each time, you’ve probably done your best. Though OnToCollege does have many sophomores who take their first ACT in June, right after finals, and then take the ACT twice junior spring and twice senior fall.  Even six tries isn’t unusual.  Remember, all colleges will accept either test for admissions and scholarships. Jumping your ACT or SAT score is simply the best paying job a high school student could have. Try both and take one a total of four times.

Taking either test can add up, but both the ACT and SAT provide free and reduced lunch students two tries for free, and in many states a mandatory ACT or SAT junior year is also free. A free and reduced lunch student in Nebraska, for example, could take five tests for free: three ACTs and two SATs.

So how is one test different from the other?

The ACT has English (grammar primarily), Math, Reading, and Science, while the SAT has Reading, Writing & Language (grammar primarily), Math (no calculator), and Math (with a calculator). For high school juniors focusing on the ACT, here are reasons why you might also try the SAT senior year:

  1. Your ACT Science score is well below your Math score. The SAT has two Math sections but no Science section.
  2. You want additional chances to trigger that big scholarship. Colleges don’t learn and don’t care how many times you take either test.
  3. You typically run out of time on the ACT’s Math and Reading Sections. The SAT allows 13 minutes per Reading Passage, while the ACT allows 8 minutes and 45 seconds per Reading passage. However, I feel that the hardest SAT questions are considerably more difficult than the hardest ACT questions.

I’ve read blogs stating that students should take either test no more than three times because “scores don’t increase after the third try.” I disagree. We say take the ACT (or SAT) four times because OnToCollege students, who prepare hard, typically see jumps on that fourth or fifth try.

And for those of you headed to community colleges, an ACT or SAT score can test you out of remedial classes. Just prepare hard and do your best each time. To create more two and four-year college graduates with minimal debt, we need college students to graduate on time, which means much less remedial education at college.

The ACT and SAT are the best paying jobs high school students could have. Going to the right college at the right price means understanding the college admissions game.  Preparing for the ACT and possibly the SAT senior year will help you win it.