How Many Times Should I Take the ACT or SAT? 2023 Tips

Comparing the ACT and SAT examinations can be like comparing apples to oranges for someone who is unfamiliar with the college admissions process. 

Although, at first look, the two tests appear to be similar, closer examination reveals a few key distinctions.

Most institutions in the United States take both exams for scholarship consideration and college entrance. This implies that a college won’t favor one test over another.

It’s crucial to know the format, subject matter, and time of both college admissions test versions when preparing for forthcoming exams and how many times you can take the ACT or SAT. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how many times you can take the ACT and SAT exams and explain how to choose the best option.

Can You Take Both the SAT and ACT?

Although you can do so if you like, it’s usually better to avoid taking the SAT and ACT simultaneously. Some students might be interested in doing so.

For starters, you’ll have to prepare for two different tests, each with a unique format, subject, and set of questions. This could unduly complicate your preparation, leading you to study the incorrect subjects or set inappropriate time constraints for your practice sessions.

In addition, you’ll need to spend more time studying, take more practice exams, and go over more material than you would if you were only getting ready for the SAT or ACT.

Ultimately, sticking with one exam is the wisest course of action. You always have the option to retake the test if you don’t perform well on your first try. Because you have studied more and are more familiar with the exam, you have a better chance of scoring higher when you retake the ACT or SAT.

Consider taking a full-length SAT practice exam and an ACT practice test if you’re still undecided about taking the SAT or ACT to see which one you perform better on and feel more comfortable taking.

Read this: What to Do After You’ve Made Your Final College Decision

Reasons to take the SAT or ACT more than once

You might ask why taking a test more than once is advantageous, given how time-consuming it is. The most typical justifications for retaking the SAT or ACT, according to experts:

Improve your score.

Improving their score is one of the main reasons students retake exams. According to research, 55% of high school juniors who retook the exam as seniors saw an increase in their scores. According to the Manhattan Review, scores climbed by an average of 55 points, while 4% of students had increases of 100 points or more. 

Work on problem areas.

You might know what to expect and which sections of the SAT were more challenging after taking it once. As a result, you can focus on those trouble spots and raise specific section ratings. You can spend more time studying the arithmetic concepts covered on the exam, for instance, if your math score is low. Most students who want to improve their grades use this type of strategic studying. 

You have an idea of what to expect.

The nerves of taking a college entrance exam are unique, but you know what to anticipate after passing one test. Now that they have set the bar, you can control your anxiety and concentrate on the questions.

You will have more knowledge.

As indicated, many students take the SAT for the first time after their junior year. However, if you retake the exam later, you’ll have more time in the classroom to expand your knowledge. During your senior year, you may learn new math and English fundamentals to help you perform better on tests.

Also, read this: What AP Classes Should I Take? Guide To Pick The Right AP Classes.

Qualify for financial aid.

Higher SAT scores could lead to additional chances for financial help if you retake the test. 

A minimum SAT score may be necessary for some loans, grants, or programs that reduce the cost of tuition. 

Investigating financial aid options before the exam can help you set a goal score. 

For instance, the University of Mississippi offers minimum scholarship payouts to applicants having SAT scores between 1130 and 1150. 

Students who satisfy this requirement will get $1,000 in aid annually. The scholarship amount rises to $3,000 each year if the student additionally has a GPA of 3.5 or above. 

In general, there are more scholarships available, the higher the SAT score. The University of Mississippi offers a maximum annual award of $12,718 to students with SAT scores of 1450 or better and a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

What are the Factors to Consider Before Taking the SAT or ACT?

There are factors to consider before taking college entrance exams multiple times.

Score Choice 

Score Choice is the process by which you can select which test results to transmit to universities when you apply. Some universities will enable you to omit the scores from the August SAT sitting from your score report, for instance, if you attempted it but didn’t do well. 

However, many universities don’t respect score preference and will ask students to submit their whole application, including their test results from every sitting.

Because colleges will likely see all of your scores, including those that may not be that fantastic because you entered the exam unprepared, it is crucial only to take the SAT or ACT when you’re truly ready.

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Test Prep Timeline 

You should consider your testing schedule while deciding whether to retake the SAT or ACT. 

Create a test preparation strategy, whether on your own or with a tutor, to focus on the areas where you’re weakest to see any increase in your scores the following time. 

The key to performing better on the exam is identifying the sections or question types to focus on, and you need plenty of time to study, assess your progress, and change your strategy before the next sitting.

Test-Optional Colleges

It may be time to change your college admissions strategy and check into test-optional or test-flexible universities if, despite intensive study, you’ve already taken the SAT or ACT twice and have yet to notice any improvement in your results. 

For admission, these universities either give minimal or no weight to test scores, favoring your GPA and other “soft factors” instead. If a student has taken the SAT or ACT more than once but has yet to be able to raise their results, this is an excellent alternative for them.

ACT vs. SAT Test: Differences to Consider

1. Different Organizations Administer the Tests.

The College Board, a non-profit association of prestigious northeastern colleges, owns and manages the SAT exam. They established the company in 1899, and in addition to many other college admissions resources, it also owns and operates the PSAT, AP®, and CLEP® exams.

In contrast, ACT, Inc., an entity with its headquarters in Iowa and established in 1959, owns the ACT exam. Like the College Board, the ACT organization oversees many other initiatives and activities, such as PreACT, The Official ACT Prep Guide, etc.

2. The SAT Test Has Been Around Longer

In 1926, the first SAT was developed. When applying for admission and scholarships during that time, many colleges employed their versions of the aptitude and IQ exams.

The SAT exam has seen numerous alterations and significant changes over the years. The most recent modification was when the exam revealed they would no longer offer the optional essay and SAT Subject Tests in 2021.

In 1959, the ACT finally made its way onto the market. The SAT and the ACT started very differently, but over the past 60+ years, the tests have developed to be remarkably comparable.

Today, colleges use ACT or SAT scores to assist them in deciding who to admit.  

3. Popularity Varies By State

Your school district may prioritize one test over the other, depending on where you live. 

For instance, the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest and states with a high population density, like California, Texas, Illinois, and Florida, tend to have higher SAT taker rates. 

You will find more ACT takers in Southwest and Midwestern areas like Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.

The ACT exam outperformed the SAT among high school students in 2012 for the first time. The SAT regained the majority in 2018, although the ACT is still almost as common.

It’s crucial to remember that all 50 states offer the ACT and SAT exams. 

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4. Score Reporting: Different Score Ranges

There are distinct scoring scales for the two tests. ACT composite scores range from 1 to 36 points, whereas SAT scores range from 400 to 1600 points.

Scores on the SAT section range from 200 to 800 points. The test is divided into two major portions, and the aggregate results from these two sections determine the final result. Find out more about what constitutes a high SAT score.

Scores on an ACT section vary from 1 to 36. The four test segment results are averaged to produce the “composite” score, graded on the same scale of 1-36.

5. Test Format: Different Sections

The SAT Evidence-Based Reading component measures a student’s reading comprehension abilities and is comparable to the ACT Reading section. Students pore over reading passages in this section to find the answers to questions related to the information in the passages.

The SAT Writing & Language and ACT English sections are quite similar. These parts evaluate a student’s command of English grammar, use, and word choice.

There are several significant changes between the questions on the SAT Math exam and those on the ACT Math section. It’s crucial to remember that the SAT Math component makes up 50% of the overall exam score, whereas the ACT Math section only accounts for 25%.

6. ACT Reading Passages Are Longer

The average length of a reading passage on the ACT is around 750 words, although reading sections on the SAT can range from 500 to 750 words. This gives the impression that reading a paragraph and responding to all the associated questions on the ACT takes more time than it does, although this is only sometimes the case.

“In contrast to the SAT Reading portion, which encourages students to identify minute variations between possible answers, the ACT is straightforward. Students who can keep up with the ACT’s reading pace will find that answering the questions is not quite as difficult because the ACT’s reading passages are longer, but the answer options are more distinct,” David explains.

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7. ACT English Puts More Emphasis on Passage Main Ideas

They will also expect students to consider the passage as they progress through the ACT English part. These open-minded questions won’t appear in the SAT Writing section.

Unlike the SAT Writing section, the ACT English section asks questions regarding the passage. This is another significant distinction. David adds that students must prepare for questions about the author’s purpose and focus on specific passage sections with related questions. 

This will force students to maintain track of the passages’ primary concepts as they read through them.

8. Different Types of Math Questions

Both assessments look at how well a student understands fundamental math ideas but differ in a few small but crucial ways.

Scott Simons is Vice President for Math and Science Curriculum and Instruction at KD College Prep. They requested him to clarify some distinctions between the various arithmetic portions.

Knowing that the ACT Math component requires pupils to comprehend significantly more complex math topics and concepts when preparing for upcoming exams is crucial.

The ACT Math test includes advanced algebra II and trigonometry elements that are absent from the SAT Math test, according to Scott.

Should You Take the SAT or ACT?

Which test is better for you—the ACT or the SAT? The SAT may be preferable to the ACT for the reasons listed below and vice versa.

3 Reasons to Take the SAT

  • You have faith in your mathematical abilities: The SAT would work better for you if you feel confident using a calculator-free approach to math problems and having to enter your solutions. If you do well in the SAT Math section, your overall score could increase because it accounts for 50% of the SAT score. 
  • You Want More Time Per Question: The SAT gives you more time per question than the ACT does in every section. The SAT might be better if you prefer to go through things more carefully and want extra time to spare you from problems.
  • You’re not a Fan of Science: The absence of a science part on the SAT eliminates the possibility of your performance negatively impacting a separate science score.

Related Post: Where Can I Take The SAT Or ACT In 2023?

3 Reasons to Take the ACT

  • You need to be more sure of Your Math Skills: You can use a calculator for every question on the ACT Math section, which only counts for a quarter of your overall score. Your Math score shouldn’t affect your ultimate ACT score as much as it might on the SAT if you don’t perform well on the Math portion.
  • One of your strong suits is science. Science whizzes have greater room to exercise their analytical talents on the ACT. Your composite ACT score will probably increase if you receive a strong score on the Science test.
  • You Want to Write an Essay: Take the ACT with Writing if you’re proficient and think an essay would help your college application.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can You Take the SAT Four Times?

Even though you can retake the SAT as much as you like, it’s critical to consider whether doing so four times will be beneficial. If you’ve taken it three or four times and your score has not increased, you may want to quit taking the test or try an alternative strategy. 

Does Taking the SAT More Than Once Hurt You?

It is beneficial to retake the SAT. Colleges cannot see how many SAT exams you have taken. However, taking the SAT is demanding and time-consuming, so it’s critical to determine how many attempts are appropriate for you. 

How often should someone take the ACT or SAT?

Although the SAT is technically infinite, the ACT limits the number of times you can take the exam to twelve for security reasons. But we doubt that “taking standardized tests” will be accepted by colleges as an extracurricular activity!
We advise you to schedule 1-3 ACT and SAT sessions. There is no reason to retake the exam after you receive the desired score.

How can you Enroll in the ACT Exam?

By setting up an account on the ACT website, you can register for the exam. You can submit your information there, look for a testing location nearby, and choose the universities to which you want to send your test results. It is necessary to register five to six weeks in advance.

How can you Enroll in the SAT Exam?

By creating an account on the College Board website, students can sign up for the SAT exam. Sometimes, students must mail in their registration forms. Four weeks before the event, registration is required.
Remember to inquire about school-day testing at your institution! Your high school counselor can let you know if and when it is available.


Overall, the ACT and SAT exams have more parallels than differences. Both assessments determine a student’s level of college readiness and focus on the same general knowledge domains, including reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, math, logic, data analysis, and problem-solving.

Colleges won’t offer you extra credit for selecting one test over another, as we’ve already said. Therefore, which test will best suit your needs and how your scores turn out will ultimately determine which test you take.



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