As people begin their junior years and their test preparation processes, they confront the reality of mock testing. We’ve long recommended that students complete full mock tests of SAT and ACT before beginning test preparation. In the old days, mock testing was exclusively an in-person process that occurred at fixed times and places. Now, families have the option to complete the mock tests at home, which offers significantly more flexibility. However, taking mock tests of both tests is still a time-consuming process, and one that few students will enjoy. Is it necessary? And if so, is there any way to streamline the process? Some mock testing is probably necessary, but streamlining options do exist.
One good option is to take the mock ACT first. On the ACT, time pressure is largest obstacle to student performance. So, if student tries the ACT and the time pressure is too much, then that is pretty strong vote already for SAT. In this case, if a student also demonstrates high accuracy on the problems they reached, then the vote for SAT becomes even stronger. So, just taking a mock ACT may provide enough information to choose the SAT. Then, taking a mock SAT becomes redundant. Save yourself the 3+ hours.
A second option involves using the PreACT and PSAT scores as substitutes for mock tests. Since many students have to take these tests anyway, why not have them double as the mock tests, too? This route will work better for PSAT than PreACT. The PSAT, while it is scored on slightly different scale (out of 1520 instead of 1600), does yield decent predictions for SAT scores, though it tends to overpredict a bit. The PreACT, however, has not proven to yield very good predictions for future ACT scores. I would not use a PreACT score as a substitute for a full mock ACT.
A third point applies to students with extended time, for whom mock testing is even more time-consuming: the two tests together would take ten hours to complete. These students must have their accommodations determined before they begin the mock testing process. If a student is only approved for extended time on the SAT, then taking a mock ACT is not necessary. That student should take the SAT. If a student is approved for extended time on both tests, however, then the ACT has historically been the clear choice. Here, as before, the student should try the mock ACT first.
Combo diagnostic tests do exist, and the providers of these tests claim to yield accurate predictions in a much shorter testing time. This is not our position, but there is room for debate on the issue. Nonetheless, studies from SAT and ACT show that students perform better on the test the more practice they have taking it. Full mock tests provide that practice, so practice with full mock tests can directly help improve scores, not just provide diagnostics. We can help you organize your mock testing process based on what works for you. Please reach out!