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Everything You Need to Know About Registering for the SAT and ACT

By July 30, 2019 July 31st, 2019 ACT, For Students, PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests

When should I register for a test?

As soon as possible. 

It’s always best to register as far in advance as possible for any test dates that you might even possibly want to use.  Not only do you ensure that you have a seat, you also are more likely to get the test center most convenient for you. 

The late summer test dates have fewer testing centers, and the early fall ones are extremely popular—seats can fill up quickly.

College Board tends to open registration before most people are thinking about the next school year’s testing. 

SAT Subject Tests are also more limited. No Subject Tests are offered in March, and some language tests are offered only once or twice a year. Review the specific tests offered at each test date to make sure you don’t plan to take an SAT at the only time a Subject Test you need is offered.

ACT generally opens up registration for the next school year after its July test date. This leaves a short registration window for the September ACT. You can sign up for email alerts on ACT’s website, but it’s always a good idea to check the website mid-July. ACT does not schedule tests in California and New York in July.

Note: If you’re a client doing tutoring with Compass, we do NOT register you for official test dates. You must register yourself or your student through the College Board (SAT) or ACT website.

How do I register for an SAT, SAT Subject Test, or ACT?

Go to collegeboard.org for SAT and SAT Subject Test registration or act.org for ACT registration. Each site will ask you to create an account the first time you click “register for a test.” 

Enter all required information, but feel free to skip the student questionnaire portions that ask about the classes you’ve taken and your future plans. You can also edit this information later. The optional information helps colleges market to students with relevant interests, grades, and test scores. If that is important to you, go ahead and fill out this portion.

Decide whether you’re going to take the optional essay (SAT) or writing test (ACT). Fewer and fewer colleges are requiring or recommending these essays, but one of the schools on your list may, so double-check before deciding to opt-out. There is an additional fee for the essay. 

Both College Board and ACT will ask if you have received accommodation approval at this stage; enter the information they’ve sent you in the approval notice. See our post on the steps for requesting accommodations for more information.

We generally find that the only add-ons of real value are the ACT’s “Test Information Release” option and College Board’s “Question-and-Answer Service” (QAS). These are only available on certain ACT and SAT test dates, and never for Subject Tests. They will give you access to the complete test, which can be helpful for reviewing your performance.

Students who receive fee waivers from College Board can sign up for two SAT tests with or without essay (including QAS) and six SAT Subject tests for free. They can also send those scores to an unlimited number of schools. Students who receive fee waivers from ACT can also take two exams and send scores to 4 schools as part of registration and to as many as 20 additional schools later. Fee waivers cover basic registration costs and include the writing test, but they do not cover late or change fees.

Follow the instructions to upload a photo, pay fees, and print your admission ticket. You can also wait to log in and print the week of the test, but make sure you don’t lose your password! You won’t be able to take a test without your admission ticket.

How do I register for the PSAT?

Registration for the PSAT/NMSQT, PSAT 10, PSAT 8/9, PreACT, or PreACT 8/9 is handled through your school. Schools decide which tests they want to offer to which grades, though the most common option is for the PSAT/NMSQT to be offered in October to 11th and 10th graders. If your school is not offering the PSAT/NMSQT or you are homeschooled, you can check with the counseling offices of other local schools or use College Board’s search tool [https://ordering.collegeboard.org/testordering/publicSearchCont] to find a nearby school offering the exam. The school may be willing to register and administer the test for you.  

Should I select colleges for the score report request at registration?

We generally advise clients to wait until they’ve completed testing before they start sending scores. Many schools allow Score Choice, which frees you to send only the scores from test days you select. Though it may cost a little more, skipping the score report request during the registration process will give you more control so you can be strategic and leave out lower scores.

The one exception is if you are taking your final test close to an application deadline, especially if you are applying Early Action or Early Decision. In such a case, you may want to select your colleges in advance of the test sitting to ensure scores reach the schools as quickly as possible.

I forgot to register. What should I do?

College Board will allow you to add your name to a waitlist between the late registration date and five days before the test. Waitlists are available in most areas. ACT registration includes a “stand by” period between the late registration and eight days before the test.

You must have your waitlist or standby admission ticket and photo ID when you go to the test center. Test centers will only admit waitlist/standby students after all registered students have been seated and only if there are extra booklets and seats. This is always on a first-come, first-served basis. Your best bet is to get to the test center early.

I registered for two SAT Subject Tests, but now I want to take a third…is that okay?

Yes. You can take any of the tests presented to you in the booket. If you paid for two tests and decide to take a third, College Board will bill you for the difference but will not charge you a change fee. 

For more questions about Subject Tests, read our FAQ here.

Can I change my registration?

Probably, but it depends on when you’re trying to make the change. When you register, you’re given a date for any final changes. Up until that point, you can log into your online account to change your test date, location, and/or test type. You will have to pay a change fee.

I registered for the SAT without the essay but now want to take the essay. What do I do?

You may be able to make this change on the day of the test. You can request the change when you check in. The testing center staff will make a decision based on space and materials available. If you do want to add the essay at the last minute, it’s a good idea to show up to the testing center as early as possible. In general, they will make the change for you before they admit students from the waitlist.

If you decide you don’t want to take the essay but you signed up for it, you should alert the test center when you first check in. According to College Board, your essay fee will be refunded. However, once you’re seated, you can no longer make changes. You can elect to simply not write the essay, but you will receive a score of 0. If you leave the room before the test is over, your scores will be canceled. 

I registered for the ACT without writing but now want to take the test with writing. What do I do?

If the late registration date has not yet passed, log into your ACT account to make the change. Otherwise, you should tell the test center when you check in that you’d like to take the writing test. If they have materials and space, they’ll try to accommodate your request. When making a special day-of request like this, it’s always best to get to the test center a little early.

Ash Kramer

About Ash Kramer

With a career in test prep and higher education that began in the late 90s, Ash has held a variety of educational roles from tutor to administrator. She is currently a PhD candidate at USC and the Director of Curriculum at Compass, where she is lucky to lead a brilliant team creating the very best learning materials for students and their tutors.

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