When applying for college, wouldn’t it be easier to submit a video about yourself or a share collection of your creative and intellectual works? You can if you apply to Goucher College or Bennington College, respectively.

While nearly a thousand colleges are test optional, the others require prospective students to take the SAT or ACT. These are the two standardized tests required for college admission. However, your score not only impacts your admission to college, they also count toward your scholarships. Here are a few useful strategies for your SAT and ACT testing plan.

Why should you take both?

We recommend students take both the SAT and ACT because they are similar yet different. There are a few big differences between the two. For example, the ACT includes a Science section which is more about charts and graphs than Chemistry and Biology. This is in addition to the Math, English, and Reading sections. The SAT only has two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Math. The scoring is also different. The ACT is an average between the four sections with a maximum score of 36. The SAT score is calculated by adding the total of both sections (on a 200-800 range) together with a maximum score of 1600. The ACT is also more content based whereas the SAT is more logic and reasoning based.

When should you take both?

It’s a good idea to take these tests in the spring of your junior year in high school. This way, you’ll have been taught most of the material they are testing you on. Also, you will have time to look at your scores to come up with a testing plan for your senior year. It is a good idea to stagger your tests so you’re not trying to study for both the SAT and ACT at the same time. You can visit our CAA website to see the upcoming test dates and help you plan your schedule.

How many times should you take them?

Again, we recommend taking both tests. This way, you are able to retest on the one that you scored higher on the first time. We recommend retesting even if you scored really well the first time. It’s always a good idea to retest and try to raise your score even higher. One point higher on the ACT could be worth $1,000 or more, for example. The higher your test scores, coupled with good grades throughout high school, can help you get accepted and earn more merit aid from colleges.

What about the averages?

It is good to have a scoring goal in mind as you begin taking these tests. Learning the average scores of your prospective colleges can give you a good target score as a goal for each test. In a picture-perfect world, you should have the scores you need to gain admission to your colleges at the end of your junior year. That way, you can study over the summer and retake your best test to try and reach the scores required for merit aid. Your CAA coaches can help you identify the averages and how to research your prospective colleges.

How long should you study?

It’s also a good idea to register and begin studying a few months in advance of your test date. That may seem like an eternity, but if you are able to study for 30-40 minutes, 3-4 times a week, for 3-4 months your brain will retain much more of the information and your scores will see the most improvement.

We’ll share a few more strategies with you when you contact the CAA coaches to discuss your standardized testing plan.