When should you take the SAT/ACTs?

When should you take the SAT/ACTs?

You’re in high school…. now what???

If you are a freshman or sophomore, you might be wondering why you even have to consider the SAT/ACTs right now. After all, isn’t it enough that you’re maintaining a high GPA, joining a variety of extra curriculars, and are beginning to discover your interests and passions?

For most students, junior year is the time to start worrying about college entrance exams. Au contraire, there are several reasons to start preparing for the SATs in your sophomore or even by the end of your freshman year.

Avoiding the stress of over-testing in junior year:

Junior year doesn’t have to be the most stressful year of your life. Most students have a lot of responsibilities including:

a) Making sure that you earn the highest GPA they can, since it is the last opportunity to raise the overall GPA before applying to college.
b) Preparing for at least two Advanced Placement (AP) exams in the summer of junior year.
c) Studying for finals and regents.
d) Considering whether to take SAT II Subject Exams. Tier 1 and some Tier 2 colleges require at least two SAT II subject exams.
e) Taking on leadership roles in extracurricular activities, including athletic programs, to distinguish yourselves from your peers.

Not included in this list is the plethora of other obligations you may have. For example, junior year is the time to start thinking about which teacher to approach for recommendation letters. It is also the year for college trips, which require extensive research and planning to even be worth the hassle.

It is already difficult to manage all of these components with that of being a teenager. To also have to prepare for the SATs during the busiest year is unnecessary when you can get that out of the way in your sophomore year.

So when should I take the ACT/SAT and the SAT II subject tests?

This does not mean that you have to take the exam in your sophomore year. In fact, it is best to prepare for the test in 10th grade and then take the exam at the beginning of 11th grade to avoid the rush of other obligations. This will also give you the additional summer months to prepare.

For freshmen, one additional opportunity is to take the Biology SAT II Subject Exam in the summer between Freshman and Sophomore years. You would have just completed Biology and will benefit from getting one of the Subject SATs, traditionally the easiest of the SAT IIs, out of the way without too much additional work!

National merit scholarships

For those aspiring to get the National merit scholarships, by preparing for the SAT in the sophomore year, you have a high chance of doing extremely well in the PSAT (which is essentially a practice SAT) in your junior year. For others, if you test early, it gives you enough buffer time so you can test multiple times to get the score you want before your college applications are due.

ACTs/SATs now test skills that are relevant to students’ success in high school and college courses

Prior to 2016, the SATs relied more on test-taking abilities than actual comprehension and application of knowledge. Now, the exam tests tangible ELA and Math skills, meaning the earlier you prepare, the better your skills will be for the rest of their high school experience. More importantly, preparing now means you will be developing skills necessary to their success in college. Finally, SAT questions now bear a strong resemblance to questions asked on AP exams and regents. Preparing early addresses any remaining deficits in foundational ELA and Math skills, eliminating the anxiety of testing in junior year.

To sum up, complete the ACT/SAT and at least one of the subject SAT IIs before the Junior year kicks into high gear. Starting early is key! You will also benefit from having more opportunities to retake the ACT/SAT to get a higher score before you apply to colleges. Finally, this approach will ensure that your foundational skills remain strong and prepare you for the rigors of Junior, Senior years and beyond.


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