My son (junior in IB program) has not taken the SAT or ACT yet. He took the PSAT after taking 10 or so practice tests last summer, and his scores were: M 69, CR 59, W 59. He is NOT a good standardized test taker, as he doesn't perform well under pressure. So, we delayed his SAT/ACT until early summer (June) to give him more time to prep. Some more information:
Unweighted GPA is 4.0
Weighted is 4.8+
Class ranking is not available yet, but he'll definitely be top 5% if not higher
Other than concert band, has taken nothing but honors/AP/IB courses all three years
Math is his strong suit, though his test score doesn't show that (he's in precalc now)
He's not an expressive writer, and his vocabulary isn't particularly strong, but his grammar/mechanics are excellent
He is not a fast reader
He is risk-averse; his lower-than-hoped-for scores are due largely to his leaving answers blank because he wasn't sure
This might indicate that he's better suited for the ACT, which doesn't penalize wrong answers any more than blank answers (i.e., never leave anything blank).
1. Is the SAT or ACT w/writing best for him?
2. What kind of people do better on one versus the other?
3. Should he go ahead and take both? (I don't want him to be burned out on tests, as this spring/summer he'll also be taking two IB SL exams, an AP exam, and two SAT subject tests in math and science).
4. How much does an expensive test prep class (e.g., Princeton Review) help versus self-prep using books/practice tests?
I would love to hear advice from other parents and students who have gone through this dilemma recently, particularly those "overachievers" who work hard for perfect grades but don't test well.