When Is It Time to Make Your Test Prep Plan?
Parents and students often wonder: When should I start thinking about the SAT and ACT? To best position yourself or your student for the college application process at the beginning of senior year, students should start creating their college admissions testing plan at the end of their sophomore year or toward the beginning of junior year, ideally. If you're later than that, you're still ok! Here are the steps to get you started:
1. Get a baseline score for both the SAT and ACT.
While many students took the PSAT as sophomores at school this year, many students did not due to the pandemic. Also, in general, far fewer high schools give practice ACT tests so those opportunities are more limited. Students can take an official practice SAT or ACT or both in several different ways: at home at the kitchen table for free, via our new proctor videos, or participating in one of our live proctored exams (Test Flight Club). There’s no need to take a national test date in order to find out which test suits your student better.
2. Once you have a baseline for both SAT and ACT scores, decide which test is the better fit. We can work together to decide which test is a better fit for your student.
3. Decide what testing calendar best suits your student. Here are some general suggestions:
- Students who are taking Algebra II as juniors: Plan to take either the March SAT or April ACT. Test prep can begin after the Christmas holiday. Student can then retake in either late spring or early fall or both.
- Students who will have completed Algebra II by the end of sophomore year: Think about extracurricular schedule and academic load in the junior year. Most students will benefit from starting test prep in the summer and taking their first test in the fall to get the majority of the skill building finished over the summer. However, if students have extremely heavy extracurricular schedules in the fall (Football, Marching Band, Cheerleading, Color Guard, etc.), they make choose to push their first test to the spring and follow the above schedule. Students who choose to test in the fall have the opportunity to retest anytime in the spring and still have time to retest again early in their senior year if desired.
- Students who scored particularly well on the PSAT in 10th grade: Plan to prep for the PSAT over the summer. The PSAT in junior year serves as the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. Even if the ACT looks like the better fit from a college admissions testing perspective, students who scored particularly well on the PSAT in 10th grade should consider making a real effort to maximize their score on their junior year PSAT. They can then take either the October or November SAT to lock in their qualifying score should they become National Merit Semifinalists.
4. Plan on allocating at least two months to test prep.
Test prep is really much more about practice than it is about content. You do need to decide what tactics work best for you, how to best allocate your time, and how to recognize the many patterns on the test, but really making a difference in your score comes down to putting in the practice. We offer Test Flight Club twice a month where students have the opportunity to take a full length proctored practice test, receive immediate results, and have a two hour Q&A-style group tutoring session with one of our most expert tutors. We have seen amazing results with students who have put in the practice!
Remember also that almost every student will take either the SAT or ACT twice, and most students will take it three times. So keep in mind that the process is more of a marathon than a sprint and be patient with yourself.
We know that there are a lot of moving pieces when deciding how and when to work on test prep. Let us know how we can help! We love helping people with their questions!
By: Susan Powers