How seriously should you take the SAT and ACT?

Have you ever wondered how seriously you’re supposed to take the SAT and ACT? I mean, you have so many other things to worry about in high school, from the mountain of homework you’re supposed to do, sports practice, band practice, club activities, to who you’re going to ask to prom!

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve wondered the following:

  • Is it as big of a deal as other people make it out to be?
  • Why are so many parents spending so much money, time, and energy stressing out about this three letter test you’ve never heard of?
  • How can it be that big of a deal when people cease talking about it as soon they’re out of that 17-18 years of age time period?

It depends

The SAT and ACT are said to be the second thing that colleges will look at when making their decision on whether to let you attend their college, after your GPA.

That being said, how seriously you should take the SAT/ACT depends on what kind of score you want to get on the test. And that depends on the kind of school you want to get into.

  • For some community colleges, you generally do not need any sort of standardized test score.
  • For less competitive schools, it’s recommended to get above a 1000 on the SAT and 21 on the ACT.
  • For more competitive schools that are ranked 50 or above, you want to get above a 1250 on the SAT and 29 on the ACT.
  • For Ivy league schools—the top of the line, you should get above a 1450 on the SAT or 33 on the ACT.

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines, since there are no hard cutline for scores. There is no SAT or ACT score that will guarantee that you will get accepted to school XYZ, since colleges look at more than just your SAT or ACT score, but your whole application. Colleges nowadays look for well rounded students who do more than get good grades.

But you can find trends in statistics! If you look at the data from people who were accepted or denied, you can have a good idea of the likelihood of you getting accepted. Try websites like, which include scatterplots of real SAT scores vs. GPAs and whether they were accepted or denied. This will give you a good idea of what kinds of GPAs and SAT/ACT scores you will need to bet on a safe acceptance.


Ultimately, I think an important question for yourself is, what level of school do you aspire to? Consider your priorities. Future salary? Future comfort of life? Prestige? Quality education? Challenge? Fulfillment?

If you’re someone who aspires to challenge themselves, and aims to get into a state school, higher tier school, or Ivy League school, then the answer is, absolutely, YES! The SAT and ACT matter very much.


Next: Do I really need tutoring for the SAT or ACT?