Spring is the most popular time for juniors to begin taking the SAT and ACT, but many families are unsure of which test to sign up for, how many tests to take, and when to begin preparation.
When to begin
Sooner is better, especially for juniors. While it seems like there is a huge amount of time before applications are due, you want to leave ample time to prepare, test, and retest, plus some extra time as a buffer in case something goes wrong (such as illness, test cancellations, etc). I recommend taking your first SAT in March and your first ACT in February (April at the very latest). It’s a good idea to plan on a second test during the spring semester, leaving room for a third test in the fall if needed.
For sophomores, you should plan on having about half of Algebra 2 completed before taking your first official test. However, many students benefit from beginning test preparation in the summer of their junior year (since this is a lower stress period with more...
The PSAT is a practice SAT that is available for students to take between 8th and 11th grades. These tests are great practice for the SAT, as the format and content are very similar to those of the SAT (although the various PSATs are a bit easier and less complex than the SAT). PSAT prep is the same as SAT prep, as the tests are extremely similar.
If you are planning to take the SAT, then it’s a good idea to take the PSAT. Since colleges do not see PSAT scores, the PSAT is risk free practice. If you score very high on the 11th grade PSAT/NMSQT, then you have a chance to compete for the National Merit Scholarship.
Each PSAT has a score range that is somewhat lower than the 400-1600 range of the SAT.
PSAT 8/9 – this is taken in 8th and/or 9th grade. The score range is 240-1440. The concepts tested are grade appropriate, and this test is less complex than the other PSATs and the SAT.
PSAT 10 – this...
Many parents want to know whether their seniors still have a shot at the SAT or ACT – and the answer is yes! How many shots depends on your students’ application plans.
Early Decision/Early Action
If you are applying for regular decision or early action, the October SAT is likely your last opportunity! (Bear in mind that school policies vary, and some schools may accept a November SAT score for early decision/early action). Some schools may also accept an October ACT for early decision/early action (check with your schools to see if they will accept an October ACT score).
For regular decision students, you have a few more chances. The October, November, and December SAT dates are opportunities to retake the test ahead of January deadlines, along with the October and December ACT dates.
Deadlines & Score Release Dates
October 1 SAT Regular registration deadline is 9/2, late registration deadline...
Levels of math
The vast majority of math on both the SAT and ACT consists of pre-algebra, algebra 1 and 2, geometry, and trigonometry. Any student who has learned these topics is ready to take the SAT or ACT. You do not need to take pre-calculus to do well on the math section of either test.
Differences between the tests
The new SAT will be computer adaptive (you get different questions on the second part of the test depending on your performance on the first half), shorter (2 hours and 14 minutes vs 3 hours), and a calculator will be allowed on all math questions. Scores will also be available a lot sooner – within days instead of weeks.
Who will be impacted? The class of 2025 and beyond (this information is for US students – internationally, the changes roll out earlier). If you are in the class of 2024, you will have completed testing before the changes are rolled out. In the Fall of 2023, the PSAT will be computer based, and in the Spring of 2024, the SAT will be computer based.
Not much is changing! The essay remains (although most schools do not require it, it is still being used in state testing, so they are keeping the essay), the science section will not be eliminated (as many have hypothesized), and the test will remain paper based for the time being...
I get a lot of questions from parents about using the summer to prepare for the SAT or ACT, because they want to take advantage of a calmer period of time, when students aren’t inundated with the demands of schoolwork and extracurriculars.
Since both tests include Algebra 2 questions, students who have already completed Algebra 2 will really benefit from summer preparation (and taking the exam in early fall/late summer). For students who will be starting Algebra 2 in their junior year, using the summer to get a head start on test prep might be a good idea; however, it’s important that these students to take the test after they’ve completed a chunk of Algebra 2, so they should plan to do some prep during the school year and take the SAT or ACT in December or the early spring.
For seniors, it’s really important to use the summer to review/prepare for the exam. I’ve seen many seniors...
We normally start our students off with a diagnostic test, so we can assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses and recommend one test over the other. About half of the students show a propensity for one test over the other, while the other half does equally well on both the SAT and ACT. For the majority of students, it’s best to choose a single test, focus all of their energy into that test, and stick with that test.
There are several benefits to focusing on a single test. It is better to focus on a single test and become an absolute expert in it. Mastering one test alone is far easier than splitting your attention between two different exams, with different pacing, different question types, and even different topics! It is also a lot less stressful to study for a single test.
While it can be very rewarding, studying for the SAT or ACT is intensive, exhausting, and time consuming. Adding a second test into...
Many parents want to know the best way to improve their child’s reading score or reading comprehension. These are two separate issues! Improving reading comprehension is a nearly lifelong process, including reading a lot of challenging material and strengthening vocabulary. By the time you reach your junior year, you don’t have much time to work on your reading comprehension. However, you can improve your SAT or ACT reading score: