Taking the ACT or SAT?

Question Mark

Looking for info on obtaining your student's test scores? This section tells you what you need to do.

As part of the 7th Grade Talent Search, students will take an above-level test. We offer talent search enrollees the opportunity to take one of the two most common college entrance exams, the ACT (no writing) or the SAT (no essay), the exact same exams that high school students take when applying to college. In fact, at most test center locations, there will be high school students testing alongside you.

We’re often asked whether the ACT or the SAT is a better test, or whether we recommend that students take one over the other. But the truth is that we don’t: at this age, the tests are meant for diagnostic purposes, and both tests serve that goal equally well. However, you can decide between the two tests based on the following factors.

A girl works on a project in a Duke TIP classroom.

Test date

Each test offers different test dates and different test center locations, so you could decide based on which is most convenient for you.

Testing early to maximize benefits

Above-level testing is available through June, but testing early allows you to take better advantage of the benefits you qualify for. You must test by the end of February 2018 to apply to 2018 Summer Studies (if qualified), and you must test by the end of March 2018 to attend a recognition ceremony (if qualified).

Test Date
Paper Application Postmark Deadline
Online Enrollment Deadline
ACT 10/28/2017 9/13/2017
SAT 11/4/2017 9/5/2017 9/27/2017
SAT 12/2/2017 10/10/2017 10/25/2017
ACT 12/9/2017 10/10/2017 10/25/2017
ACT 2/10/2018* 12/13/2017 1/8/2018
SAT 3/10/2018** 1/30/2018
ACT 4/14/2018 2/27/2018
SAT 5/5/2018 3/27/2018
SAT 6/2/2018 4/30/2018
ACT 6/9/2018 4/30/2018

Deadlines are midnight eastern time.

*Summer Studies Program—Students must take the ACT or SAT by the end of February 2018 in order to apply to TIP’s Summer Studies Program for summer 2018, should they achieve a qualifying score. Because summer programs fill quickly, testing after February may preclude a student from participating the summer after seventh grade. However, students who test after February and achieve a qualifying score, will remain eligible to apply in future summers. Once eligible, always eligible!

**Recognition Ceremonies—Students must take the ACT or SAT by the end of March to receive an invitation to attend a recognition ceremony, should they achieve a qualifying score. Duke TIP does not receive scores from tests taken after March in time to invite eligible students to ceremonies. However, students who test after March and achieve a qualifying score will be mailed a medal in the summer.

You should select only one test and one test date. If you realize you need to change your test date or location after enrolling in the 7th Grade Talent Search, call us at (919) 668-9100 as soon as possible. Once your information is transmitted to ACT or SAT, you must make all additional changes directly through them, and they charge an additional fee.

If you require special accommodations or need a non-Saturday test date for religious reasons, please see our Testing Exceptions section.

Test center locations

To find a test center that is convenient to you, use our look-up tool. Though it’s not required, we strongly recommend that you select a second test center—if your first choice is full, you will be assigned to that one. If both are full, the testing agency will assign a test center close in proximity to your other test center choices.

Test content

You may also want to consider what material is included on the test and take whichever appeals to your student most. The basic breakdown is included in the table below.

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 there is an additional fee paid directly to the testing agency.

Student preference

Because both tests serve their diagnostic purpose equally well, choosing between them based on the simple matter of convenience is perfectly reasonable. For instance, some students choose one of the tests because they expect that they’ll have to take it again in a few years for college admissions purposes. Other students choose based on which one their friends are taking so they have someone to go with on test day. 

Students taking notes and listening to a lecture during class

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.