One of the best and worst aspects of the SAT and ACT is the flexibility.  Both tests are offered 9 times per year and can be taken as many times as necessary to achieve your desired score.  This means you have a lot of choices as to when you’ll take these important college entrance exams, but also that it’s up to you to figure out your own testing schedule.  Because of all the options, there tends to be a lot of confusion about which tests a student should take, how many times, and exactly when to register.  Hopefully this blog will help make things a little more clear.

Step One: Decide between the SAT and ACT – My check out my post “SAT vs ACT – how do you decide?” for a full discussion on this topic.  I also strongly recommend that you download and take our SAT/ACT Combo Test to help you decide which one is better for you.

Step Two: Determine if there are any special circumstances – The college board recommends that you take the SAT for the first time in March of your junior year.  However, there are several reasons you may need to start the process earlier:

  • You plan to apply to a college early action or early decision.
  • You are an athlete working with a coach as a part of the admission process.
  • You have a special need and intend to apply for extended time on the test.
  • You are a strong student who has already completed Algebra I, II , and geometry, and want to take the SAT or ACT at a time when it won’t compete with your challenging AP classes.
  • You intend to take an SAT subject test. These tests are offered on the same days as the SAT, so you won’t be able to take the SAT on the day you use for a subject test.

Step Three: Take a practice test – Do not, I repeat DO NOT,  take an official test just to see how you’ll do.  Do you really want college admissions officers to see the results of your first try?  Don’t take an official test until you put some serious study time in and have taken a full length practice test.  There are several versions of the SAT and ACT available online for free.  If you take one, you can send your answers to Test Prep for Success for an 11 page score report that gives you a full analysis of your strengths and weaknesses.

Step Four: Register for the test – Students are often surprised to find out that their high school doesn’t do this for them. It’s up to you to decide when to take the test, register for it 4 weeks in advance, and pay the registration fees.  Register for the SAT at https://www.collegeboard.org/ and for the ACT at http://www.act.org/

 

When it comes to planning your testing schedule, keep in mind that you will take the test multiple times.  Most schools will look at your highest scores, so there’s no risk to taking it multiple times and plenty of possibility for improvement.  In the case of the SAT, most schools will “super-score” meaning that they will take your highest math score and highest reading score, even if they were on two different days.  So, take your first test early enough that there is time for two more rounds before your college applications are due.

Here is what I typically recommend for my students at Test Prep for Success:

 

SAT Track – Accelerated Student

Summer before junior year – Take an SAT prep class or sign up for tutoring

October of junior year – Take the PSAT.  If you score in the top 3% in your state, you may qualify for a scholarship

November or December of junior year – First Official SAT

March and/or May of junior year – Second Official SAT

Summer before senior year – take a second class or more tutoring, if necessary

October and/or November of senior year – Last Official SAT, if necessary

 

SAT Track – Typical Student

Any time before March of junior year – Take an SAT prep class or sign up for tutoring

March of your junior year – First Official SAT

May of your junior year – Second Official SAT

October of your senior year – Last Official SAT, if necessary

 

ACT Track – Accelerated Student

Summer before junior year – Take an ACT prep class or sign up for tutoring

September, October, and/or December of junior year – First Official ACT

February and/or April of junior year – Second Official ACT

Summer before senior year – take a second class or more tutoring, if necessary

July, September, and/or October of senior year – Last Official ACT, if necessary

 

ACT Track – Typical Student

Any time before April of junior year – Take and ACT prep class or sign up for tutoring

April of your junior year – First Official ACT

June of your junior year – Second Official ACT

September and/or October of your senior year – Last Official ACT, if necessary

 

Blended Track

Summer before junior year – Take an SAT/ACT combo class or sign up for tutoring

October of junior year – Take the PSAT.  If you score in the top 3% in your state, you may qualify for a scholarship

November or December of junior year – First Official SAT

February of junior year – First Official ACT

March and/or May of junior year – Second Official SAT

April and/or June of junior year – Second Official ACT

Summer before senior year – take a second class or more tutoring, select one test to focus on

October and/or November of senior year – Last Official SAT, if necessary

September and/or October of your senior year – Last Official ACT, if necessary

 

Heather Krey, M.Ed. is the owner and director of Test Prep for Success. Ms. Krey has bachelors degrees from Lehigh University in engineering and psychology. She also has an M.Ed. in Mathematics from DeSales University and an M.Ed. in Teaching from Kutztown University. Ms. Krey holds PA teaching certificates in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and English and has taught in Parkland, Emmaus, and Southern Lehigh High Schools. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Cedar Crest College and as a tutor at Kutztown’s University Writing Center. Ms. Krey currently teaches most of our SAT and ACT classes and is also available for one-on-on tutoring sessions, both in person and online.