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Preparing for the SAT and the ACT

What is the best study strategy for me?

The key to success on standardized tests is knowing which tests to take, when to take them, and how to study. This can seem like a daunting project – we can help! Sign up for small group classes or make an appointment to meet with a High Bluff Academy college testing counselor. She will review your test scores and help you organize a study plan based around your particular needs. Below are a few FAQs to review before you come in.

When should I start preparing for the SAT and ACT?

Sophomores and freshmen should start reading more challenging material in their free time, both fiction and nonfiction and work on building a stronger vocabulary. Most students will wait until their junior year to take their first test.

If students are very busy with sports and activities, they should take a small group prep course during the summer before their junior year. They will then be prepared to take their first ACT or SAT in the fall of their junior year. They then have the rest of their junior year to retake tests and touch up their skills.  Unless completely satisfied with their score, students should plan to take the test two to three times from the fall of their junior year to the fall of their senior year.  High Bluff Academy offers small group classes to prepare for each scheduled SAT and ACT test.  We also offer private tutoring plans.

Is it too late to take the tests in my senior year?

No, it’s not too late to take the tests your senior year.  U.C. and CSU campuses will accept the SAT or ACT in October, November or December of your senior year. All other universities will take the October or November scores of your senior year.

Which is the best test for me?

The best way to find out is to sign up for a mock exam at HBA. Take an ACT one Saturday and an SAT on another Saturday. You can also access free mock exams on the test publisher’s websites: Practice ACT  Practice SAT


In general, ACT is preferred for those who are more proficient in math and science, and SAT is preferred for those who excel in reading and critical thinking. 

Whether you choose to take the SAT or ACT, the most important thing is to be prepared. No single company has a monopoly on secrets to success; it just takes a lot of practice and an experienced teacher who can find the best testing strategy that fits the individual needs of the student.

What is a “good” test score?

The following data is provided by ACT and  College Board for the SAT

Please use the links above to access the full table of scores and percentiles.


Percentile SAT ACT
90th 1320 29
80th 1230 25.5
70th 1170 23
60th 1110 21.5
50th 1060 20
40th 1000 18.5

College Readiness Benchmarks

Students who score at or above the benchmarks are deemed ready for college level courses in those subject areas.

Test Section Benchmark
SAT Reading/Writing   480
SAT Math 530
ACT English 18
ACT Reading 22
ACT Math 22
ACT Science 23