ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Preparing for College / 3 Common SAT/ACT Myths Debunked

3 Common SAT/ACT Myths Debunked

Suchi Rudra
Written by Suchi Rudra | Nov. 1, 2019
3 Common SAT/ACT Myths Debunked


You've probably been haunted by tales of the almighty SAT and ACT since middle school. But how much of what you've heard about these tests is actually true? We spoke to Dr. Bari Norman, CEP, who is the head counselor at Expert Admissions, to get to the bottom of several common myths that have been floating around for years.

Myth 1: Colleges in Certain Regions Prefer the SAT Over the ACT

This myth comes from over 25 years ago when the ACT was considered more of a regional exam that was popular in the Midwest, Norman says. However, this didn't mean colleges preferred one test over the other, but that students in certain regions seemed to gravitate toward one of the tests. But those days are long gone. Colleges truly don't have any preference.

"It's not one-size-fits-all with these tests," Norman notes. "The best test to take is the one you'll do better on or the one you find more manageable to prep for. There are concordance tables for the ACT and SAT, but I don't recommend students rely solely on those. Admissions offices have their own way of looking at standardized test scores, and I don't always find that they necessarily match up with those tables."

It's best to speak with a knowledgeable counselor, and ask for feedback on the comparison between your SAT and ACT scores -- assuming you've taken diagnostics of both tests, Norman advises. "As dreadful as it might sound, you really should take full-length tests as your practice exams, not abbreviated hybrid exams. From there, pick the test that's best for you and focus your prep accordingly."

Myth 2: You Should Focus Only on One Test and Not Try the Other

Even if you have an inclination toward one test, you should try both the ACT and the SAT, Norman says. "If you don't take diagnostics of each, how else will you know which one is truly better for you?" Also, Norman adds, when you take a diagnostic test, you need a knowledgeable tutor to analyze your score. "Don't just take it at face value. It's not just about comparing the scores on a diagnostic SAT and a diagnostic ACT, seeing which is higher and going with that test." You may have a slightly higher score on one test, but when the tutor looks at which kinds of questions you got wrong, they can help you decide several important things:

  • Which test do can you "grow into" better?
  • Are the things you missed on the SAT more coachable than the things you missed on the ACT?
  • Was your lower score on the ACT purely an issue of timing, or was it something more substantive?

After you have that feedback in-hand, you can thoughtfully choose which test is best for you. That said, if you decide to study for both, expect to put in about 15 percent additional prep time per week.

However, you should know your options: Don't forget that there are scores of colleges that are test-optional, and that number continues to grow every year. "There are also schools that are test-flexible – which allow you to submit scores from other standardized tests, such as Subject Tests and APs, in lieu of the SAT or ACT," Norman adds.

Myth 3: Anyone With A 504 Plan Will Get Accommodations

"I've seen many students denied accommodations, even with a 504 or IEP in place," Norman notes. To obtain accommodations, you need to show a "functional limitation" in academic achievement, behavior, mood, and/or adaptive functioning. Accommodations must also be regularly used in the classroom, and you'll also want to submit a recent psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluation, if possible. These evaluations are often helpful to document difficulties and the need for accommodations.

Be sure to work with a psychologist who is highly experienced in the process of applying for accommodations on the SAT or ACT. There's a formal and somewhat lengthy process for requesting accommodations, and you must request from The College Board (for SAT, Subject Tests and APs) and ACT separately.

"Make sure to leave plenty of time to not only apply for accommodations, but also to potentially appeal the decision if you receive a denial," Norman adds. "There is a formal appeals process, and I've had students successfully get their initial decisions overturned."

It can be a good idea to begin the process of requesting accommodations in ninth or tenth grade. That way, you're never feeling crunched for time. "Also, if you're set with your accommodations early on, you can tailor your test prep accordingly," Norman says. "You don't want to prep on the assumption that you will be granted extra time, only to be denied that accommodation in the end."

Written by

Suchi Rudra

Suchi Rudra

Several years as a private test prep tutor led Suchi Rudra to begin writing for education-focused publications. She enjoys sharing her test-taking tips with students in search of firsthand information that can help them improve their test scores. Her articles have appeared in the SparkNotes Test Prep Tutor blog, the Educational Testing Service.s Open Notes blog and NextStepU.

Suchi.s background helping students prepare for both the SAT and ACT gives her deep insight into what students need to know at every stage of the testing cycle. This allows her to craft articles that will resonate with both students and their families. As a freelance writer, Suchi's work has also been featured in The New York Times, BBC Travel, Slate, Fodor's and The Guardian, among other publications. She holds a journalism degree from Indiana University, loves to slow travel and hails from the Midwest.

More on Preparing for College

See all

Moving Away from Home for College: The Tales of an International Student in Boston

Born and raised in Niagara Falls, Ontario, I was used to small-town living. I attended an international boarding school as a day …


2023 AP Exam Score Distributions

This year’s AP Scores have been released and Trevor Packer, head of the Advanced Placement Program has shared the details of this…

SummerApply_Article Headers

10 Summer Programs Still Open For Applications

Summer is here, marking one of the best times for motivated high schoolers to enroll in summer programs where they can diversify …


Summer STEM Prep: Start Strong and Avoid These Common Pitfalls

College-level STEM programs are notoriously rigorous, and getting off to a strong start can make a huge difference for students w…


A Solid Résumé is Worth the Effort for More Reasons Than You Can Imagine

Building a strong personal résumé in your first years of high school is recommended by counselors, college & university admis…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship