Should My Homeschooler Take the SAT or ACT?

Students sitting at desks and writing
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Homeschooling high school raises many questions. Parents may wonder how to keep a transcript and figure credit hours. You may be unsure how to write course descriptions.

You may question how to be sure your homeschooler is prepared for college. If your student isn't sure about attending college, what are the benefits of a gap year?

You may also be wondering if your student should take the SAT or ACT.

 

Should Homeschoolers Take the SAT or ACT?

Will your teen be attending college? If so, ACT or SAT test results are likely required for admission. Some colleges and universities are becoming “test optional” or “test flexible.” However, even though SAT or ACT scores may not be weighed as heavily, they may still play a role in the admissions process.

Some schools may prefer one test over the other. Some may require (or prefer) that optional portions (such as writing) of the test are submitted. Check the admissions guidelines for the schools to which your student will be applying.

Community or technical colleges often accept scores from either the ACT or SAT, but they may also offer their own entrance exams. Some students find these exams less stressful and easier to schedule. Since the school is offering its own testing, tests are usually offered regularly throughout the year. Many schools have a testing center that is open all day or half days during the school’s regular business hours.

The ACT or SAT may be important for teens entering the military, as well. Schools such as West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy require scores from either test. A 4-year ROTC scholarship from the Army also requires a minimum score on one or the other.

Benefits of Taking the SAT or ACT

Even if your teen will not be attending college, there are benefits to taking the ACT or SAT.

First, test scores can help homeschool graduate combat the “mommy grade” stigma. Future employers may question the validity of a homeschool diploma, but they can’t question a standardized test score. If a student can achieve a score comparable to his traditionally-schooled counterparts, it stands to reason that his education was comparable, as well.

Second, the ACT and SAT satisfy state testing requirements. Many states require that homeschooled students take nationally standardized tests annually or at regularly-occurring intervals. The SAT and ACT satisfy those requirements.

Third, a nationally standardized test can help a college-bound homeschool student objectively assess college readiness. If the test reveals weak areas, students can work on those weaknesses and retest before applying for college admission to avoid taking non-credit remedial classes.

Finally, academically strong students may wish to take the Preliminary SAT/Nation Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) in 10th or 11th grade. Doing so will allow them to compete for scholarships. Homeschoolers can take the PSAT/NMSQT by registering with a local school offering the test. 

SAT or ACT - Does It Matter Which?

If potential colleges and universities don't indicate a preference, choosing the SAT or ACT is a personal choice.

Lee Binz, author of several college prop books for homeschoolers and owner of the blog The HomeScholar, says that studies have shown that girls do better on the ACT and boys do better on the SAT – but statistics aren’t 100% accurate.

Your student can take practice tests for both exams to determine on which he performs better. He may even wish to complete both exams and submit scores from the one on which he scores best.

Your student may even choose which test to take based on the convenience of testing locations and dates. If he isn’t planning to attend college or is attending one for which admissions aren’t highly competitive, either will work.

Both tests measure students’ aptitude in math, reading, and writing. The ACT measures general knowledge and college readiness and includes a science section.

The SAT measures basic knowledge and critical thinking skills. With the redesign of the SAT, neither test penalizes for wrong answers. 

The ACT is offered four to six times throughout the year. Homeschool students can register on the ACT testing site and follow the directions for downloading the necessary documents for testing day. The homeschool high school code for the ACT is 969999.

Homeschooled students can also register online for the SAT. The SAT is offered seven times per year a year in the United States. Testing dates are available in October, November, December, January, March/April, May, and June. The universal SAT homeschool high school code is 970000.

How to Prepare for the SAT or ACT

Once your student decides which test to take, he needs to begin preparing.

Prep courses

There are many options for prep courses for both tests. There are books and study guides available from most major bookstores. There are online prep classes and study groups available for both the ACT and SAT. Your student may also be able to find in-person test prep classes. Check with your local or state-wide homeschool support group for these.

Study

Students should set up a regular study schedule in the weeks leading up to the test. They should use this time to work through study guides and practice tests. They should work on familiarizing themselves with helpful test-taking strategies. It’s been a few decades since I took these tests, but I still remember – and use with my own teens – many of the math formulas that I memorized.

Practice tests

Take practice tests. These are available from both testing sites. Both sites also offer free sample questions and study guides. The more familiar your student is with the process, the more confident he will be on testing day.

There are many benefits for taking the ACT or the SAT, even for students who may not be planning to attend college. Both tests are comparable, so choosing which to take may depend simply on the college your student hopes to attend or which he or she feels more confident taking.