Have you ever wondered, “When should I take the ACT or SAT?” Is there an ideal time to take these tests? How about prep courses? It is difficult for students to decide which of 7 annual SAT or ACT tests they should prepare to take.  The answer is not simple; there are many factors that contribute to the decision that’s right for you.

Should I take the test in September of Junior year (and prepare in summer)?

Yes, if you:

  • Can take advantage of your summer to prepare.
  • Will be very busy with sports/extracurricular activities/ academics Junior year.
  • Wish to avoid losing academic skills and want to keep practicing those skills during summer.
  • Have finished Algebra II (will be in PreCalculus, Calculus, or Statistics) because math at school is directly related to the math portion of the SAT OR ACT and Algebra II classes wrap-up most of the concepts on the test.
  • Wish to get a head start on Algebra II.

Should I take the test in October/December of Junior year (and prepare in fall)?

Yes, if you:

  • Are in Winter or Spring sports and did not prepare previously –Girls’ Soccer, Track, Basketball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Wrestling, Swimming/Diving, Boys’ Volleyball, Tennis, Water Polo, Gymnastics, Girls’ Golf, Badminton, Softball. Otherwise you will have too much to do in Winter/Spring with sports and school to add preparing for the SAT OR ACT.
  • Have finished Algebra II (are in PreCalculus, Calculus, or Statistics).
  • Earned low scores and want to have more opportunity to improve your score and take the test multiple times.
  • Want to do Early Decision/Early action (you know which college/university want to attend). Deadlines are usually November 1st or 15th of Senior year so you only have 3 National test dates left – December, April, and June (September may be too late).

Should I take the test in April/June of Junior year (and prepare beginning in January)?

Yes, if you:

  • Are in a Fall sport and did not prepare previously–Cross Country, Football, Boys’ Golf, Boys’ Soccer, Cheer, Color Guard, Drill Team, Tennis, Girls’ Volleyball
  • Cannot understand the importance of this test, don’t believe it is important, and will not figure out that the SAT OR ACT is important until your peers start talking about the importance of the SAT OR ACT.
  • Cannot find the motivation to do well until college deadlines are imminent.

Should I take the test in September/October Senior year (and prepare in summer)?

Yes, if you:

  • Have waited too long.
  • Have not previously achieved sufficient scores.
  • Want one last chance.

Ideally, every student should be finished taking the SAT OR ACT by June of Junior year or September of Senior year so that scores can be submitted to colleges. It takes up to 8 weeks post-test to receive official scores, so if you take the test in April, the official score will not be available until late-June. Plus, if you plan to earn your best score late in the game and something catastrophic occurs on test day, it may be too late to try for a better score because colleges/universities deadlines are January or February of Senior year.

Catastrophic occurrences that have happened to our students

  • The proctor ended the test 10 minutes early.
  • Another test taker vomited all over the desk. Nobody cleaned the vomit and our student could not concentrate because she had to sit next to vomit.
  • A calculator’s batteries quit working mid-math.
  • One student got mono a few days before the test.
  • Another student got a concussion the night before during a football game.
  • A third student ran out of gas on the way to the test.
  • A fourth student thought mom registered for test, mom thought student registered.
  • Still another student thought they could just show up for the test without registering.

In all these cases and many more, students had to wait months for the next National test to retake the SAT OR ACT.

When should I take the ACT or SAT prep course of my choosing?

Most courses last several weeks. With that in mind, plan to take your prep course at least two months before your desired test date. At Learning Ascent, our course lasts 10 weeks. However, our courses fill up 4-8 weeks in advance. Therefore, you should start planning when you’ll take a prep course at least 6 months in advance, just to be safe.

We recommend you take the test several times. More and more colleges and universities are Superscoring—combining the best subscores from multiple tests to reach a higher composite score. You can only accomplish this by taking the test several times. The next classes will be starting soon!

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