When to Take the SAT and ACT ?

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| Included in: ACT Test Dates,SAT Test Dates,SAT Vocabulary

sat-imageOne of the most frequently asked questions in the college admissions process is: “When should a student take the SAT and ACT?”

Many high schools encourage students to take both the SAT and the ACT. There are differences between the two tests that may make one or the other a better choice for any individual student. The only way to know which is better is to prepare for and take both tests. Most students we work with will take the SAT and the ACT two to three times to achieve their targeted scores.

Our goal is that by the end of junior year students will have taken the SAT and ACT at least two times.  With two sets of scores from each test and junior year grades, students will go into the summer with a clear picture of where they stand as they begin the college application process senior year. They can take the ACT for a third time in September and the SAT in October of senior year and still apply Early Decision/Early Action.


The November or December SAT

If a student has worked hard to prepare for the PSAT and has the time to take the SAT and ACT in the fall, the October ACT and the November SAT are good options for taking the tests for the first time. A student can also review for the December SAT or ACT over the Thanksgiving break and take one of them before preparing for school exams.  We generally do not advise taking both tests in December. Many students who take the November or December SAT also take the January SAT and often do very well the second time. If they have taken the October or December ACT, the February ACT is a good time to take the second test. This is a good plan for students who have very busy spring schedules.

The January SAT

For many students, taking the SAT for the first time in January is a good choice. They can prepare over the holiday break, when exams are over, and continue to practice for three weeks before the January SAT.

The February ACT

For many students, taking the ACT for the first time in February is a good choice. Those who feel the ACT is a better test for them or who plan to take both tests then have the option to take it again in April or June.

The March, May, and June SATs

Many of our junior students take the SAT a second (or third) time in June after schools are out for the summer. For many, the March SAT falls during Spring Break. The May SAT is given very close to AP exam dates, and there can be many extracurricular conflicts. Many students choose to take the SAT II subject tests in May when they are just finishing the particular subject courses. A maximum of three of the one-hour SAT II subject tests can be taken at one sitting.

For students with Spring Break in April and exams in June: the March and May tests may be better options.

The April and June ACTs

Depending on their school and extracurricular schedules, many students take the ACT in April and June. Again, with two sets of scores from the ACT and junior year grades, students will go into the summer with a clear picture of where they stand as they begin the college application process senior year.


The September and October SAT and ACT

Many seniors take the ACT and/or the SAT in the fall of senior year before applying to college. All schools take these scores into consideration for Early Action or Early Decision applications. Scores on the late October ACT and November SAT are accepted by some schools for Early Action or Early Decision applications, but a student should check with the specific college during the summer to avoid an application snafu.

Later testing

Seniors applying regular decision can take the ACT and SAT in late October, November, December, and sometimes even January. Again, they should check with the individual colleges and universities.

Students register for the SAT at the College Board website  and for the ACT at the ACT.org website.

The keys to successful testing are planning and practice! Good luck!

Let us know what schedule worked best for you!

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