We’re asked all the time by both parents and students, “When’s the best time to take the SAT?” Our response echoes the College Board’s own recommendation to high school students: if you’re a high school junior, now is the time to get cracking!
At the latest, a junior should take the SAT in March or May (March 8 is this year’s first spring national testing date, and May is the next testing date). There are good reasons to take it in March or May. First, a reasonable amount of time will have passed since you received your October PSAT score report. Using that detailed report as a guide, you can, with the help of an experienced instructor, identify your strengths and weaknesses in order to prepare best for the upcoming SAT. The PSAT score report contains your answers, the correct answers, and a simple rating of difficulty for every question on the test. Because you also get back your actual PSAT, you’ll be able to review your work and learn why you made the mistakes you did and how you can avoid them in the future. You can, with effective preparation, expect to improve your scores on the SAT – the majority of students do.
There are a few considerations in determining which month is best for you, March or May:
- If you take the SAT test in May, you can get back a copy of the test, your answers, and the correct answers by requesting (and paying a bit extra for) the Question & Answer Service when you register for the SAT. Think of it: you’ll get a copy of the very SAT exam you took along with a breakdown, question by question, of each answer to its 170 questions. Talk about a great diagnostic tool! The Q&A service is available in October, January, and May. If you take the SAT in March, therefore, the Q&A service is not available.
- If you don’t want to take the SAT immediately before your AP exams, then March may be the better testing month – but if you need more time to prepare, then May is likely a better testing month.
But don’t stop there. The June SAT test date is the last of seven national administrations each school year. This year’s is on June 7. If you’re aiming for a higher SAT score, and don’t need to take SAT Subject Tests in June, you can take the SAT one more time as a junior.
Want to try one last time to improve your score? A senior can take the first SAT of the academic year in October and have the results back in less than three weeks! For most students, a good score on this test will make it to a college admissions office by an early decision or early action application deadline. In fact, most early action/early decision colleges will accept a November SAT score even though they’ll get it shortly after the deadline. But always check the college’s website or call admissions to be certain! With the exception of the University of Florida, most selective colleges will accept a December SAT. While we hope you don’t have to take the SAT too many times, it’s always comforting to know that you will have another opportunity. And for Bright Futures, you can test as late as June!
A word of caution. Some colleges allow you to use Score Choice to select which sets of scores to officially report to them when you apply. Others, however, ask you to send all your scores. While virtually every college “superscores” the SAT (selecting the best Reading, Math, Writing, and Essay scores), they will still see all the scores you send. It is possible that some highly selective colleges will have a negative reaction if you take the test too many times or have some lower scores among those you report to them.
So, juniors, put together your testing plan now! Call us to talk about our private SAT prep as well as our small group workshops. Our expert tutors will help you achieve a great score! And, of course, you’ll also want to take the ACT, but we’ll leave that for our next blog.