Choosing a Test

a girl reading in class
Student Video

We’re often asked whether we recommend the ACT or SAT. But the truth is that—when taken for diagnostic purposes at this age—both tests are equally useful. However, the following factors may mean you prefer one over the other.

Test date

Each test offers different test dates and different test center locations. Choosing the convenient option is perfectly reasonable. You can see all of the available dates in the Getting Started section.

Testing early to maximize benefits

ACT and SAT testing is available through June of each school year, but testing early allows participants to take better advantage of TIP’s benefits. You can find the enrollment deadlines for each test date in the Getting Started section and choose based on which fits your schedule. (Find information about testing exceptions for non-Saturday testing.)

Test center locations

To find a test center that is convenient, use our look-up tool. You should also consider a second  test center in case the first test center is full.

Look Up Your Test Center

Test content

You may also want to consider what material is included on the test and take whichever appeals to your student most. Students will take the full test.

ACT (no writing*)
SAT (no essay*)

3–3.5 hours long

3–3.75 hours long

4 sections—English, Mathematics, Reading, Science            

2 sections—Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math

36 possible points on each section

800 possible points on each section


*You do not have to take the writing section of the ACT or the essay section of the SAT for TIP’s purposes. However, after your talent search enrollment is processed, you will receive information on how to add these options. This is arranged directly with ACT or SAT and requires an additional fee paid directly to the testing agency.

Student preference

Some students choose their test on other factors of convenience. For instance, you may want to take the test you expect to take for college admissions purposes when the time comes. Or you may just want to take the test your friends are taking so you have someone to go with on test day. 

Students qualify for the 7th Grade Talent Search by scoring at or above the 95th percentile on a grade-level standardized test. Enrollment provides benefits that last through the end of high school, including the opportunity to take the ACT or SAT, specialized publications, college prep advice, and access to educational programs.