5 Reasons to Take SAT and ACT Practice Tests

Fall is right around the corner, and parents of rising juniors surely know what that means: it’s time to start preparing for the SAT or ACT.

Junior fall is the ideal time to get on board and start standardized test preparation—and it all begins with taking a practice test.

Your student may wonder if they can use their PSAT from 10th grade as a diagnostic test. While this test can be a good stand-in for the SAT, it’s not as ideal as a full-length test.

Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that your student took the PSAT a year ago, which is essentially a lifetime in high school! Their abilities have likely improved since then, meaning the scoring may not be entirely accurate.

So, how can you get your student motivated to take a practice test this fall? Start by sharing these reasons with them.

5 Benefits of Taking Practice Tests for the SAT and ACT

1. Getting a benchmark score. To establish a benchmark score, students should ideally take a full-length practice exam for both the SAT and the ACT. Since the tests are scored differently, you can compare them using a concordance table (Table 7 and Table 15 here).

2. Deciding which test to focus on. Students and their families commonly ask us for help deciding whether they should take the SAT or the ACT. Our advice is always to start by taking practice tests for both. Your student will have the opportunity to see which test feels more comfortable for them. Then, they can compare test results to get a sense of which one they’ll do better on after practice and preparation.

3. Setting a goal score. It’s true that setting a goal score depends in part on where your student attends to apply to college. But at the same time, not having a goal score means never knowing when to be done with standardized testing! As a rule of thumb, students can expect to improve their diagnostic test scores by 100-200 points for the SAT and 1-3 points for the ACT. Anything more will require significant effort and coaching, although it is possible.

4. Creating a formal test prep plan. Having a benchmark score, setting a goal score, and knowing which test to focus on will help your student create a formal test prep plan that sets them up for success. Practice tests are also a great way to identify problem areas where students really need to focus their attention in the coming months.

Some students will do just fine with self-preparation. But if your student feels in over their head or needs a high score gain to meet their goal score, they could benefit from one-on-one dedicated tutoring services. Making these plans early on in the test prep process is always the best way to go.

5. Minimizing standardized testing anxiety. Taking the SAT or the ACT is incredibly stressful for many students. Test anxiety is a common phenomenon that can have costly results, undoing months of hard work and effort. Practice tests help students know what to expect from the SAT or ACT so they can alleviate their uncertainty and put their best foot forward.

Picture of Sheila A.

Sheila A.

Sheila Akbar is President & COO of Signet Education. She holds a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Harvard University and two doctoral degrees from Indiana University. She joined the team in the summer of 2010, bringing with her a wealth of experience teaching SAT, ACT, GRE, literature, and composition in both one-on-one and classroom settings.

More Resources