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2021 SAT/ACT Test Prep Strategies

Main Street Scholars and Liz Murphy College Advising

The coronavirus pandemic has changed nearly all aspects of daily life. State and county regulations have mandated closures of schools and SAT/ACT testing centers, leading to uncertainty about when and how students will test. For this reason, Main Street Scholars and Liz Murphy College Advising have developed strategies to prepare students for standardized tests.

Please keep in mind that most colleges and universities in the US have made submission of test scores optional for the freshman class of 2021 and beyond. The California State Universities (CSUs) are test-blind, meaning they will not consider test scores for the freshman class of 2022. As expected, all University of California campuses are now test blind for Fall 2022 admissions, meaning they will not consider SAT or ACT scores for admissions or for regents or chancellor’s scholarships. Scores may be used as an alternative method of fulfilling minimum requirements for eligibility or for course placement after enrollment. Check each campus admission website for current campus testing requirements. More on test optional admissions below:

If you are still interested in proceeding with testing, these are our recommendations.

Which test to prep for?

  • Colleges and universities do not have a preference between the SAT and the ACT.
  • The majority of questions on the SAT and the ACT are very similar.
  • The biggest difference is that the SAT has a no-calculator section; and the ACT has a science-reasoning section.
  • We will prepare you for the test you originally planned for and/or are currently signed up for.
  • If you need to pivot and take the other test (SAT to ACT or vice versa) for any reason, we will spend some time coaching you on the different test format (no-calculator math or science-reasoning) so that you will be comfortable taking the other test.
  • Our test prep coaching system is customized for each student. We know your strengths and challenges, your test, testing date, and the way you learn best. We will provide you with the tools and knowledge that you need to help you achieve your testing goals.


  • We recommend preparing for standardized tests by attending coaching sessions twice per week (English/Math) for 6 weeks.
  • Normally, we begin formal test prep 8 weeks before the test date, to allow for missed sessions and focused self-study a week before your test.
  • If you want to begin test prep sooner (i.e. this summer for a fall test date), plan to attend coaching sessions twice per week for 6 weeks, and then plan on another round of coaching 3–6 weeks before the test date to refresh your knowledge.
  • Our goal is to make sure you get prepared, and stay prepared, for your test.

Value of SAT/ACT prep

  • The SAT and ACT are skills tests, assessing knowledge on factors such as grammar, sentence structure, understanding what you’ve read, algebra, geometry, graphing, probability, and writing an analytical essay.
  • Learning these test-taking skills, reviewing academic content, and seeking out and working with an academic coach will benefit you in your future studies.
  • Consistent, focused test prep, either on your own or with an academic coach, is never a waste of time.

Full-length practice tests

  • Main Street Scholars offers in-person, full-length, proctored practice tests approximately 8 weeks prior to the official test dates.
  • This test will be on-site at our academic coaching center, keeping students distant in separate coaching rooms, and may require masks, hand sanitizer and other precautions.
  • Students can take either the SAT or the ACT.

Test-optional and test-blind admissions

  • Most colleges in the United States have gone to test-optional admissions.
  • The University of California (UC) has not announced an official system-wide test policy for the freshman class of 2022. Check each campus admission website for current campus testing requirements.
  • California State Universities (CSUs) are test-blind, meaning that they won’t even consider test scores this year.
  • For test-optional admissions, a high score may add value to your application.
  • If you are unable to submit test scores for any reason (i.e. health risk taking test, unable to take the test, don’t want to take the test, low scores), you should feel confident about submitting your application without scores for test-optional campuses
  • Colleges will place more focus on holistic factors, such as grades, rigor of your high school courses, leadership and impact in your extracurricular activities, awards and honors, and special projects outside of the classroom.