You can get an idea of how well you will do on these exams by taking the PSAT and ACT Aspire in 10th grade. The UC campuses will only consider your top combined score from one test date (no “superscore”) and they don’t really care how many times you take the exams (although most private colleges frown on excessive test taking, so plan accordingly). If you took both the SAT and ACT, the UCs compare the scores and take the highest one.
The UCs do not require the SAT Subject Tests. However, each UC campus has its own SAT Subject Test Recommendations that you should follow. You may also use SAT Subject Tests to clear a-g subjects; see the a-g subject requirements for details.
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For both SAT and ACT, you only need to send ONE official score report to ANY of the UC campuses to which you have applied. The scores are shared between the campuses and you do not need to send a separate score report to each UC campus. The score report must reach the UC campus before the end of December.
If you are taking the December test, you should list a UC campus as a score recipient when you register for the test (your registration fee includes four reports) so the score will be sent with the December batch of scores. Do not wait until your December score becomes available, since Rush Reporting (SAT) and Priority Reporting (ACT) cannot be shared between UC campuses or entered into the application system (such score reports are delivered in paper format instead of electronic format).
For the ACT, you can update the score recipient by logging into your ACT Web Account. You have until noon, Central Time, on the Thursday immediately following your regularly scheduled Saturday test date to make the change. Source: ACT Test Help – Registration Questions.
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You need to prepare before you attempt the SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing. It’s rare for students to do well without some form of preparation. To get started, I would recommend browsing through test prep books and choose a couple of books that you feel are a good fit with your learning style. If you didn’t get a chance to take the PSAT and ACT Aspire, definitely try the practice tests for SAT and ACT to get an idea of how well you can expect to perform on the two tests. I don’t recommend paying money for a test prep course until you have tried both the SAT with Essay and ACT with Writing (practice test or the real thing). Students tend to do well on one test or the other, but rarely both. So before you empty your wallet to prepare for the SAT with Essay, make sure you try the ACT with Writing. Maybe you won’t need to break the bank after all.
Test Prep Resources:
One exceptional resource on how to decide which test is “better” is Global Elite Prep’s Plan Ahead to Alleviate Test Prep Exhaustion, which provides a detailed analysis of the different factors you must consider before choosing which test you should take.
Just need a quick overview of the differences between the two tests? Applerouth summarized a comprehensive comparison of the redesigned SAT and the updated ACT into a nifty chart that can help you determine which test will be the best fit for your test-taking style. Note that the chart excludes the optional essay section of both tests; the SAT essay adds another 50 minutes to the test time and the ACT essay adds another 40 minutes to the test time.
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