3 Reasons Why Taking the SAT and ACT Might be a Waste of Time and Money

taking both sat and act is biggest mistake

This article was originally published on February 20, 2017, and was updated in 2019.

When parents tell me their children are taking both the SAT and the ACT, my response often shocks them…

“Really? What a waste of time and money!”

On their own, the SAT and ACT aren’t a waste of time or money. But taking BOTH the SAT AND the ACT isn’t the right choice.

In fact, this ends up costing you way more money and taking up more time than it’s worth.

Preparing for college can be hard enough without the extra pressure of preparing for multiple entrance exams.

I wrote this article to not only help your teen avoid some of this stress – but to save valuable time and money, too.

Here are three reasons why taking both the SAT and ACT might be a big waste of time and money:

1. Colleges accept either test

Colleges don’t prefer one over the other! Yep – it’s true.

Decades ago, some colleges required the SAT while other colleges required the ACT. This meant college-bound teens in the 80’s would take either the SAT or the ACT based on where they were applying.

Now, college-bound teens can focus on taking the test that’s best for them because all colleges will accept both the SAT and the ACT – great news for high school students who have enough on their plate already!

2. Teens usually perform better on one test

Rather than taking both tests, I suggest students stick with the test that’s best for them. (More on choosing the right test later…)


It’s likely the score on one test will be higher than on the other.

Now you might be asking, “but won’t I want to be able to choose the better of the two results?”

But here’s the thing: some colleges request ALL test scores.

In those cases, a student may not want to reveal all of their results!

The best way to avoid sending unfavorable test scores is to take the test that will yield the highest score for the individual student.

3. Taking both tests takes too much time

Let’s say your teen is planning on taking both the SAT and the ACT. They also want to retake one or both tests.

There isn’t enough time!

The testing calendars don’t easily accommodate taking each test more than once.

A high school junior who’s planning to take both tests twice during 11th grade could have a testing schedule that looks something like this:  

6 weeks of SAT prep

November – Take first SAT

January – Retake SAT

6 weeks of ACT prep

April – Take first ACT

June – Retake ACT

You know what I think when I look at this testing schedule?

Junior year is far too important to the spend majority of time prepping for standardized tests!

Don’t you agree?

And don’t forget about the SAT II

Your teen might also have a couple of colleges on their list that request 2 SAT Subject Tests.

The 20 available SAT Subject Tests are also referred to as SAT II — and they’ve only been around since 2005.

College Boards write the SAT Subject Tests AND the Advanced Placement exams. So, when students take an AP course, they’re preparing not only for the AP exam, but also for a similar SAT Subject Test.

If a student has AP exams in May, they’d be better off forgoing the May SAT and taking 2 SAT Subject Tests in June instead.

How to decide between the SAT and ACT

Ultimately, decisions about when to take the SAT or ACT and/or SAT Subject Tests must make sense for the teen’s test-taking abilities and college list options. That’s why doing your research ahead of time and getting to know both tests is essential.

And plenty of help is available for this process.

To discover whether the SAT or ACT would be the right choice (and how to ace either one!), don’t miss these articles:

What sophomores must know about the SAT and ACT
Best tips for Acing the ACT or SAT
When to Retake the ACT

Need a little more guidance?

For one-on-one support and other resources to help you or your child get into (or pay) for college click here.