For many of you, the answer to this question is simple: the March SAT or April ACT! Both of these tests are coming up within the next month, so a test is imminent for many students. If you’re taking one, good luck!
But, many students have already taken a test or two. These students (and parents) are wondering whether to continue with test preparation, whether to take the test again at all, and if so, when to take the test again.
While most students and families enter the test prep process wanting to “end it early,” – wrapping the process up as early as December, February, or March of junior year – students usually end up continuing to push for extra points into spring and even senior fall. To a great extent, they are right to keep pushing, because students naturally score slightly higher on these tests a) the more times they take the test, and b) the more advanced they are in school.
So if they do keep pushing, when and how should they do so?
Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all plan, I will offer some brief opinions on what I feel are good upcoming test dates for juniors (to be rising seniors). Consider the specifics of your own situation, and how these dates could mesh well (or badly) with your schedule.
Some test dates are omitted. This is not because they can’t work for anyone, but because the best results have usually come from the dates below.
May SAT: A popular date. A released test, so you can see the questions. May is a good follow-up to March, which is also a released test, so you can review your March results to help prepare for May. For AP students, the May SAT falls right before AP exams begin.
A few students may need this May date for Subject Tests.
June ACT: A good ACT date, though it may be the week right before or after finals. It is a released test, and so it is a good follow-up to April, which is alas a released test. The ACT tests on material learned through the end of junior year – especially in Math – so this is a great date to maximize one’s Math score in particular. Much of the most difficult Math (and Science) content will be fresh in your mind from preparing for (or having just prepared for) finals.
August SAT: This date has yielded good score results over the years. Students have often wrapped up their summer plans and thus have a few good weeks of study time leading up to this date. We run a workshop the week before this test for students who’ve prepped before but may want a strategic refresher course.
Students almost always have exact college and score goals at this point, too, which sharpens focus and helps motivation. Students have more bandwidth for completing more test material for homework. Not a released test.
October SAT: The last test that works for all ED applications. Students have also reached their maximum point of maturity during this process. Goals are focused and motivation is strong. Students have been back in school for month, and so they are back in the academic groove. A released test.
Families often write this date off as being too late in the process, but they shouldn’t necessarily. Students who decide to retake in October may not need much, or even any, tutoring. They may just want to make one last push to move their score into range for a reach school or two. I would encourage this motivation.
October ACT: This date works very well academically, as seniors are almost two months into school and so have reached their maximum possible maturity during ACT testing. It is the last date that works for all ED applications, although you may have to submit your scores blind.
While this date feels and is late in the process, students often turn up very good scores on this test, sometimes their best by two or three points composite.
All in all, the push to end the process early is understandable, but unless you’ve already achieved a perfect or near-perfect score, you’re putting yourself at a slight disadvantage by wrapping up the process early. The more you learn, and the more you read, the better you can do. And with the widespread adoption of super scoring on both tests, it’s likely that retesting will yield slightly better scores in some areas, generating a higher a super score.
Please contact us with any questions, and enjoy this beautiful early spring weather!