SAT and ACT Preparation: Free and Low-cost resources

SAT and ACT Preparation: Free and Low-cost resources

Rising juniors! Start your test prep over the summer or in the fall. Here are some free and low-cost opportunities (websites, portals, prep books) to prepare for the ACT and SAT.



  • ACT Academy & Related Test Prep from the ACT
    • ACT Test Prep (FREE)
    • The Real or Official ACT Prep Guide (Available online for about $30 – red book)


  • ePrep
    • ePrep Online Prep for SAT, ACT, PreACT, PSAT (self-study videos, practice, quizzes) (low cost and recommended by many educational consultants)


  • Magoosh
    • Magoosh Online Prep for SAT, ACT (self-study, videos, practice, quizzes, flashcards) (low cost and recommended by many educational consultants)


  • Erica Meltzer Prep Books ACT and SAT 
    • Erica Meltzer Prep Books for SAT and ACT Grammar, Math, Reading available online at ThriftBooks and elsewhere. (About $30 each and recommended by many educational consultants)



  • Applerouth 
    • Applerouth FREE and for purchase study guides
    • SAT/ACT Diagnostics 
    • Group and Individual Test Prep 





  • Test-Guide 
    • Free SAT & ACT practice quizzes & tests


  • 4 Tests

 4Tests –  practice SAT & ACT questions




  • (account required)
    • FREE video lessons & practice SAT & ACT tests





  • SAT Math YouTube Channel 

(geared primarily towards international students but math relevant to US students)


  • College Panda Books & Practice Tests 

(suggested by several educational consultants)


  • Manhattan Prep ACT “5 lb.” Prep Book for ACT Math and Science


  • Reddit has a very active SAT board


  • READING & MOVIE WATCHING – (suggested by several educational consultants)
    • A good free and easy way to practice for reading is also to work on skimming and retention when doing homework: If a chapter of history or a novel is assigned, skim the first page or two, quiz yourself to see what you retained (if there are questions for homework, go look and see if you can answer them), and then go back and actually do the assignment properly. It takes an extra couple of minutes of homework time and does WONDERS to prepare for entrance exams. 
    • Another idea is to watch Austen and Dickens movies to get “old-fashioned” voices in their head so that they can “hear” the authors better when they read older passages.

Questions on when is best to take the tests, which test is best for you, and how colleges evaluate tests? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil

Testing Accommodations – Quick Facts

Testing Accommodations – Quick Facts


Where are requests submitted and managed?Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Online Dashboard


Test Accessibility and Accommodations (TAA) Online System


Who can access the online system?Schools only (work with your school’s “SSD Coordinator” to submit)


Schools only (work with your school’s ACT “Test Coordinator” to submit)


Do I have to register for a test before I request accommodations?


I have a learning disability. How recent does my psychoeducational evaluation need to be?


Within the last 5 years


Within the last 3 academic years


How long do I need to have had and used formal school accommodations before submitting a request?


Four months (Note: in our experience, the College Board is more likely to grant requests for students who have used accommodations for at least one school year.)


One year (Note: Overall, the ACT is more skeptical of a recent diagnosis and plan.)


Once I submit my request, how long will it take to receive a response?


Up to seven weeks


Up to two weeks (often much faster if the first request includes all the right documentation)


How long do my accommodations last? Do I need to submit a new request for each test I take?


Generally speaking, accommodations remain in place until one year after high school graduation and apply to any PSAT, SAT Subject Test, AP Exam you take during that time. You do not need to submit a new request through SSD online.


ACT accommodations apply to the specific test you registered for when you made your initial request. To apply the accommodations to future tests, you’ll need to request them again, and your TAA Coordinator must approve them.


How do I contact the testing company?


Contact SSD Email: Phone: 212-713-8333 Fax: 866-360-0114 College Board SSD Program P.O. Box 7504 London, KY 40742-7504


Call ACT, Inc. at 319-337-1332


Are You Better at the ACT or SAT?

Are You Better at the ACT or SAT?

 by Dr. Fred Zhang 

Because colleges accept both the ACT and SAT, it can be had to figure out which test to take. The changes to the SAT in 2016 made the two tests more similar than ever, although there are still some significant differences in content and format between the two tests.

So how can you tell if you’ll do better on the SAT or ACT? Drawing on my experience as a 99 percentile scorer on both the SAT and ACT, I’ll give you a surefire way to figure out which test will result in the best outcome for you.

The Gold Standard of Deciding Between the ACT and SAT

There are enough differences between the ACT and the SAT that, empirically, it is difficult to predict beforehand if you’ll be better at one than the other. The method I’m going to describe is the best way to be sure of seeing how you’ll do on the SAT or ACT.

You can use this information in many ways: to figure out what test to study, to see which scholarships you should apply to, and so forth. Once you’ve used this method, you don’t have to guess.

What’s the method?  It’s to take both a real practice SAT and a real practice ACT.


Who Should Use This Method?

Taking practice tests is called the gold standard for a reason — it gives super precise information about which test you’ll perform better on. However, taking two full-length practice tests is also time-consuming. You should definitely use this method if one of the following applies to you:


#1: You’re Studying for 40+ Hours

If you’re going to focus on studying seriously, especially for more than 40 hours, it makes sense to make sure you’re spending it studying for the right test. Conversely, if you have fewer than 40 hours left (for example, only 20 hours), you should probably not spend 8 hours figuring out what test to take.

#2: You’re Willing to Invest Time and Energy in Studying

If you care about your scores and are generally willing to invest the effort to get the best score, then taking a realistic practice SAT and a realistic practice ACT is a must. This method is not only good for telling if you’re better at the ACT or SAT, but is also good practice in and of itself. If you’re serious about the SAT or ACT, it would be a mistake not to do this.


How Do I Find Out Whether I’m Better at the ACT or SAT?


Step 1: Take a Full Practice SAT and a Full Practice ACT

Get a real ACT practice test and a real SAT practice test (you can click on the links to get three of each for free). Make sure to choose one that you have not already used. Also, ideally, you should create a realistic testing environment with a timer, calculator, watch, and a quiet room.

Now schedule four hours on two separate days to take the practice tests. You want to take them on separate days so that you’re not more rested for one than the other.

Most important of all, make sure your testing environment is similar on both days. The comparisons will not be valid if you take one at 10 AM in a quiet library with plenty of sleep, and another at 8 PM in a noisy house after eating a heavy meal.


Step 2: Convert Your ACT Score to an SAT Score

Now that you have both scores, use our ACT to SAT score conversion tools and tables to convert your ACT score to its SAT equivalent.

Example: Mary got a 29 on her practice ACT. She uses the table linked above to convert this to 1340. Mary got 1200 out of 1600 on her SAT.


Step 3: Compare Your Scores and Make the Call

If your score difference is more than 100 points in either direction, then you have a clear winner. You have done substantially better on one test than the other. You know which one you are better at! Moreover, a 100-point difference is substantial, and colleges will reward you for the better score.

Continuing from the example above, Mary’s ACT score is equivalent to a 1340 SAT score, while her SAT score is 1200. This means her ACT score is 140 points better than her SAT. She is definitely better at the ACT.

If your score difference is less than 100 points, then you don’t have a natural disadvantage on either test. The point difference is likely due to chance, and you could study for and score equally well on either test.

ACT: paper vs. Computer-Based Test

ACT: paper vs. Computer-Based Test

by Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer from ArborBridge

While many still think of the ACT as a traditionally paper-based test, the computer-based version of the exam will eventually become the reality for students around the world. ACT introduced its computer-based test (CBT) to international students in 2018 and, despite postponing its U.S. rollout due to COVID-related disruptions this year, still plans to begin offering computer-based testing to U.S. students in the future.

As ACT continues to move deeper into the world of digital testing, a growing percentage of test-takers will sit for the CBT each year. With that in mind, here’s a closer look at what’s the same and what’s different between the paper-based and computer-based versions of the exam.

Paper vs Computer ACT-1 

Paper vs. CBT: what’s the same?

The content and structure of the exam remain exactly the same whether you’re testing on paper or on a computer.

Similarities include

  • the order of the sections (English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing)
  • the content of each section
  • the number of questions on each section
  • the amount of time you have on each section
  • the scoring system (section scores and a composite score on a 36-point scale)

Paper vs. CBT: what’s different?

Beyond the amount of time it takes for students to receive multiple-choice scores—typically at least 10 days for the paper test and only 2 business days for the CBT—the major difference between the two versions has to do with the test-taking experience itself.

Students taking the exam on paper can annotate and write out their work directly in the test booklet, bubbling in their answers by hand on a separate page. Working out of a physical test booklet also makes it easier for students to answer questions out of order, flipping back and forth between pages as needed.

Students taking the computer-based test will see one question per page, scroll up and down to read a passage, and click a “Next” button when they are ready to move on to the next question. This makes it more challenging for students to answer questions out of order or make quick guesses if they run out of time at the end of a section. Annotating on the screen is not possible, and students take notes and write out their work on a separate whiteboard provided to them at the test center.

Additionally, students taking the CBT have access to several on-screen tools:

  • Highlighter (to highlight words and phrases while you read)
  • Answer Eliminator (to cross out answer choices as you narrow down your options)
  • Answer Masker (to hide the answer choices so you can predict the right answer before getting distracted by traps)
  • Line Reader (to focus on a single line of text by blocking out surrounding lines)
  • Magnifier (to enlarge part of a graph or image)

This means that in order to perform your best on test day, it’s important to understand how to adjust your test-taking strategies and make the most of the CBT tools.



When should you take the SAT or the ACT?


If you say…

I am eager!! I want to start early.
SAT- Nov./ ACT- Dec.

Let’s start the new year right!
SAT-Dec/ACT- Feb.

What SAT? I am doing only the ACT
ACT- Feb, April

What ACT? I am doing only the SAT
SAT- March, May, June

Take a test? Last minute is best for me! SAT- May, June, August
ACT-April, June, July

No test for me! I am going test-optional

Using the test dates for your personality type, plan your testing schedule for the next year.


You will have the opportunity to take the PSAT 10 and PSAT/NMSQT later (11th grade)- so you will get lots of exposure to taking a standardized test. But, taking the real test is always a benefit! Which of these approaches works for you?

Personality Test Dates

I want to tackle the tests this year.
ACT or SAT in Spring

I want to take both and see which is best for me.
ACT and SAT Fall Junior year

What SAT? I am doing only the ACT.
Fall/Spring of Junior year

What ACT? I am doing only the SAT.
Fall/Spring of Junior year

No test for me! I am going test-optional.

We offer free assessments to evaluate which test is best for you! To schedule your test, reach out to us at

Latest questions from parents

Latest questions from parents

What is the CSS Profile, and why do colleges need it in addition to FAFSA?

The CSS Profile is an online application that collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal aid. (For federal aid, you must complete the FAFSA, available Oct. 1 at Some colleges may require the CSS Profile from both biological/adoptive parents in cases of divorce or separation. 

Why do some colleges require two forms? FAFSA will provide information based on the latest tax returns filed by the family. The CSS offers valuable information to the financial aid office to accurately evaluate the family’s financial information. Expenses like trips, home renovations, cars, second homes, and the projected expenses for the upcoming year will all be recorded in the CSS profile. Look up the college’s deadline to present financial aid information (on the website’s financial aid page). The CSS profile “lives” in the College Board website.

How many colleges would you recommend on a college list?

My students usually apply to 9 or 10 colleges. I say “usually” because some students apply to uber-competitive programs (Conservatories, for example), and their list will be longer. It is very important that the college list is:

  1. Balanced! We want reaches (20-25% chance), targets (50%), and likelies (70-75%) for that student. Note that this is not based on the admission rate but rather on the student we are working with.
  2. A good fit for the student. Every college on that list should be a place where the student will be happy and thrive academically and socially. It should be a financial fit too…
  3. Based on the criteria of the student and the family. Some of the variables to consider are location, size, type of curriculum, access to professors, special programs, research opportunities, alumni network, and about 50 other variables!

How do I decide on a college if I have never been able to visit?

Colleges had an online presence pre-COVID. However, since March of 2020, colleges have had to find ways to explain (and differentiate!) themselves to prospective students. Hence, we now have various videos, interactive sessions, and recordings from students to “visit” almost any college campus online. When I work with students on their college list, I teach them to “read between the lines” on these websites to understand the colleges’ values and mission. For example: how are the academic programs structured, are majors interdisciplinary? Do students seem to study across different schools? Are volunteering and social action a big part of student life? What are the demographics like on campus? Besides, we look at blogs and testimonials from current students or recent graduates and often make connections with those who have first-hand experience with the college. They are the best source of information!

More questions? Let’s chat!

Bettina Weil