Category: ACT

The College Board recently announced its 2013-2014 test dates and if you are planning to take the October SAT, you may want to register HERE as soon as possible since October is the most popular test date.

If you are going to be a senior this fall, you really want that October date. Yes, November will still get you scores in time for most early admission deadlines. But you need to consider two things – how much more relaxed you will be if you get it out of the way earlier in your senior year and how bad it will be if you bank everything on November and then some life event prevents you from taking that November test. Use your summer to prepare, take it in October and be done with it!

If you are going to be a junior this fall and are wisely looking to take your first SATs as a junior so you can either get them out of the way, or can focus more effectively on an impressive retake, I recommend registering for the January or March test dates. Why not May you say? Even if an emergency interfered, I would still have June to fall back on. Well, I have known a lot of juniors to end up having urgent reasons why they couldn’t make their May test and then couldn’t make the June either. You’ll have finals coming up, all kinds of sport and team seasons ending, emotional partings with graduating seniors, etc etc. Just knock out your first run at the test in January or March and get it out of the way.

2013-2014 SAT test dates:
October 5, 2013 (September 6 registration deadline)
November 2, 2013 (October 3 registration deadline)
December 7, 2013 (November 8 registration deadline)
January 25, 2014 (December 27 registration deadline)
March 9, 2014 (February 8 registration deadline)
May 3, 2014 (April 5 registration deadline)
June 1, 2014 (May 2 registration deadline)

2013-2014 ACT test dates:

September 21, 2013 (August 23 registration deadline)
October 26, 2013 (September 27 registration deadline)
December 14, 2013 (November 8 registration deadline)
February 9, 2014 (January 11 registration deadline) *
April 12, 2014 (March 7 registration deadline)
June 7, 2014 (May 9 registration deadline)

* The February ACT is not available in New York state.

My original sources for the test date schedules are from the official SAT and ACT websites, and there is a very nice calendar format HERE available from the always helpful The rest of the information and advice is purely my own.

The SAT’s policy:
“Once you have left high school and have not tested for a year, we remove your test scores and your responses to the SAT Questionnaire from our active file. However, your test scores are placed in an archive and can be retrieved for reporting to you and to colleges, universities and scholarship programs that you designate.”

You cannot currently request an archived score online, only by mail or phone. The cost is $30 for the archive retrieval fee + $11 for every score report. If they cannot find your scores, they will refund the score report payments but will keep the retrieval fee. Details are HERE

The ACT’s policy:

“If you tested before September 1, 2010, those scores have been archived. Archived reports cost $21 more per report and take an additional working day to process. This additional fee covers the cost of searching for archived scores and is nonrefundable, even if no scores are located.”

You cannot change or cancel a request once it has been submitted. Priority delivery is only an option within the U.S. Details are HERE

My personal advice if you are planning to use old scores for college applications:

Find out if the college accepts old scores first. Also find out their score use policy and if you are close to any deadlines, whether or not they accept rush/priority scores.

Take a full length practice test for each online. Noone else will know how you did, but you may want to find out how much you have retained (or lost) before applying to a college. If you do better on a practice one than you did on your old one, commit to some self-preparation and retake it! You can retake at any age, and a newer, higher score can only help you. If you do worse, you know what to brush up on before college classes start.

If money is tight, be realistic about this process. Don’t spend money on score reports or applications to send to colleges you KNOW are out of reach, either because you are very unlikely to be admitted, or because the school itself is so expensive that even if you got accepted, you would have to decline for financial reasons. Even with scholarships, grants and loans, some places can still be very costly and to be frank, you need to assume those loans really are loans. Just because there has been some loan forgiveness in recent years doesn’t mean you can count on that happening in the future.


Despite all the SAT vs ACT pages, it remains one of the most FAQ. The short answer is if you like Superman better, go ACT. If you like Batman better, go SAT. Ok, I am (mostly) kidding. There is no short answer; you’ll need to do a little research. The table provides a quick overview. The text below it is for students who know the basic differences, but still feel unsure which will be better for them.

English, Reading, Math and Science Writing, Reading and Math
Essay is optional * Essay is mandatory
No penalty for wrong answers 1/4 point penalty for wrong answers
Higher level math but straighforward More conceptual math
Passage types are in predictable order Passage types are not in a set order
Slightly higher time pressure Slightly lower time pressure
Fewer, longer sections Several shorter sections
Colleges may focus on composite score Colleges may focus on area scores

* – ACT essay is optional, however some specific schools do require it. You should go HERE find out if the colleges you are applying to require it BEFORE you take the ACT.

ACT – If you are especially good at math and science, and specifically weak in reading and writing, you may want to go for the ACT – you can excel at 2 out of 4 instead of 1 in 3. The ACT essay topics are often easier to write about, and more latitude is given to the student in how to respond to the prompt.

SAT – If you are especially good at reading and writing, and specifically weak in math you may want to go for the SAT – you can excel at 2 out of 3 instead of 2 in 4. The SAT essay topics are a little dry, and there are stricter guidelines for responding to the prompt.

The best possible way to be sure, though, is to go ahead and try taking a practice test for each one. Many schools offer practice tests. If your school doesn’t, you can find an online or downloadable test, or buy The Real ACT Prep Guide and The Official SAT Study Guide both of which contain actual previous tests. If your ACT score is higher, or the two are about the same but your lower ACT area scores are in things you feel sure you can improve in, go for the ACT. If your SAT score is higher, or the two are about the same but you aren’t sure how much you can improve in the weaker areas, go for the SAT.

Common statements you’ve probably seen that I disagree with:

  • “The SAT has much more vocabulary.” This seems true on the surface, because the SAT has sentence completion questions. But the ACT requires a strong vocabulary to perform well on the Reading, and even on some of the English and Science.

  • “The ACT Math is harder.” This also seems true on the surface, because it does go up to a higher level of math. However, the ACT math questions are more straightforward – SAT math questions are much more conceptual. On the ACT, you may well hit problems you don’t know what to do with – and you’ll probably know that. On the SAT, you are far more likely to think you have correct answers only to realise later you forgot to consider some element of the problem.

  • “Everyone who is good at science should take the ACT instead of the SAT”. Again, seems true on the surface. I know I keep saying that, but so many misconceptions become popular precisely because they are believable on their face. ACT science is not about remembering and using all the detailed equations, terms and processes you learned in your science classes. It is about applying logical, scientific thinking. You won’t need to remember the atomic weight of Ag, or what Ag stands for. If you did well in forensics, psychology or sociology and have a good sense of what goes into a solid experimental design and how to read data, you can do VERY well on the science section even if you didn’t do great in biology, chemistry or physics.

   So why are Superman and Batman in here? Superman is very strong, honest and direct. He also runs around saving the world. So I associate him with the ACT – it tests to a higher level, in a straightforward way, and covers more area. Batman, however, well… World’s Greatest Detective. He patrols a smaller area, but more than makes up for not being superhuman by using his intellect to think things through and make them work to his advantage. If you want something you can punch through, go ACT. If you want something you can out-think, go SAT.

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SAT and ACT Resources and Links


The Official SAT Website     The Official SAT Study Guide

Official SAT Raw Scores to Scaled      Official SAT Scores to Percentiles

SAT College Search   Official Sample SAT Questions

The Official ACT Website     The Real ACT Prep Guide

Official ACT Raw Scores to Scaled     Official ACT Scores to Percentiles

Which Colleges require the ACT Essay?  Official Sample ACT Questions


Gotham Tutoring’s Blog

Excellence For College’s Blog

SelectPrep’s Facebook Page

Sheldon the Word Nerd’s Website

Lennox Tutoring (MCAT)


Why don’t you offer more detailed advice? I provide general information (and try to correct dangerous misinformation) about SATs. ACTs, and college admissions. I am not here to provide free in-depth test prep advice.

I don’t know whether to take the SAT or the ACT or both! I do not recommend trying to prep for both at the exact same time. They are very different tests. To get a better idea which one might be right for you, please check out my Superman vs Batman blog entry.

Why don’t you have more big company books on here? Most aren’t a good match to the actual content, and even ones with decent content often have questionable advice and explanations. If you want to self-prep, I strongly advise that you stick with the real thing.

Ok, but aren’t there less known books that have great information? I am sure there are. I’ve been using a combination of official books and my own materials for many years now and have not had any real reason to seek additional resources. That said, if you think your book is just amazing, you are welcome to send me one and I will review it in detail and help promote it if it’s really, really good.

If I paypal you the money, can you tutor me online? Sorry, I am old-fashioned and strongly prefer to only tutor students I can meet with face to face.

SAT versus ACT (not ready for linking)

I couldn’t change the link to its correct title. you can find the new entry here here. It did say it wasn’t ready for linking 😉