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Planning and preparing for the SAT and ACT is tough proposition. Let our experts make it easier for you and your student by reviewing some of the many options available to improve scores, grow scholarship offers, and get into the best college!

The Best Time to Take the SAT

When is the best time to take the SAT? This is the most common question I get asked, especially from parents of firstborn and only children. There is a maze of dates to work through and around, wondering what school year is the best, how many times should you take the test and hoping the advice from the school counselor was right.

Let me put you at ease by telling you the answer is on your calendar and the admission page of the colleges you are applying.

Let’s talk about your calendar and how a closer look into the life of a high school student can help you decide when the best time is to take the SAT.

It is recommended that the SAT is taken no later than June of the Junior year. By this time students have taken Geometry and Algebra II so they are content ready along with a strong foundation in reading and writing. That will allow students to get the scores back and decide if they want to take it again in the Fall. This will give them one last chance to bring their score up before submitting college applications.

Now that sounds like great textbook advice, but let’s look at reality! Anyone who has lived with a high school Junior knows this is one of their busiest years, not only academically but in athletics and school involvement. This seems to be the year students hit full stride and have figured out high school. They are more involved, probably in leadership positions, since that looks good on college applications and performing at their peak athletically because they are being scouted, taking the hardest AP classes and maintaining a healthy social life. Our students are working harder than ever to stay competitive. This is where the calendar takes control in deciding when the best time is to take the SAT, they say numbers don’t lie and those dates will be a clear indication of when a block of time presents itself to take on test prep.

The calendar will clearly show you when you will have time to most importantly prepare and take the SAT. Sit down together and map out the year before school starts, you will quickly see where there is no white space and where you can breathe. Sophomore year is not too early to do this, you may find that the summer before the Junior year is the best time to take test prep and then register for the fall SAT giving you a chance to take it again in the spring after additional test prep and review over the winter break. There are typically 6 tests throughout the school year beginning in September and the last one is in June. Once you see where you have time between sports, student council, band practice, finals, AP testing, college visits, and Prom this is when you need to plan to work diligently on test prep. Test prep is very different than studying for a high school subject exam, you must take several practice tests and study the specific test questions found only on the SAT.

You may decide to take the test in your sophomore year and if this is when you have the most time to dedicate to preparation then this is the best time, likewise you may find waiting until your senior year, when life has settled down and you’re coasting through school. The key is to look at the calendar, select the best test date for you, then count back 6 weeks, that’s when the test prep begins. You do not need to learn a semester of Algebra, you need to learn how to take a standardized test. Prep Expert has 100 strategies we teach students to maneuver through the test without all the intimidation and stress. Dedicating time to test prep and selecting the best time for you to take the SAT is key to your high school success. The test score that you earn on the SAT will be a true reflection of your hard work and planning.

College Admission due dates will also help you decide the best time to take the SAT. It is so important to teach high school kids responsibility, expecting them to meet deadlines, keep their rooms clean and be in by curfew. We want them to think like adults, make rational decisions and listen to tasteful music, according to teenage brain research this isn’t humanly possible. Teenage brains, although learning at peak efficiency are not very efficient when it comes to attention, task completion and self-discipline. This is not a news flash to a parent of a teenager and this when you must step in helping your child manage the imposed schedule of college applications. What does that have to do with when to take the SAT, just about everything since going to college is the reason for taking the SAT.

Colleges will have a regular decision application due date which is typically in January and February, while many of the competitive schools will offer an early decision application date in November and December. This is an added layer to the answer of when you should take the test because now you must consider the application due date, back that up from when you will get your SAT scores, allowing time to retake the test if needed and then submit them with the application. All this requires that you look back to look forward. (rear-view mirror)

Parents need to get involved helping the student manage all this information, and it will take a steady hand at the helm to guide them through the uncharted waters of meeting deadlines outside of their English project. A typical plan many students have followed in order to allow adequate time to improve the score is to take the test in the spring of their sophomore year, evaluate the score, get enrolled in a test prep course with practice tests and focused instruction, leaving time for one or two more tests junior year. Building in preparation time for both the SAT and your college applications is key to obtaining the goal of attending your dream school.

Keep in mind you will not improve without taking time to learn more, test scores do not typically continue to go up just by taking the test over and over. Actual test prep becomes necessary to shatter that stubborn score you can’t seem to get past. You never want to back yourself into a corner without room to make the necessary adjustments ensuring you have done everything possible to show a college you deserve to attend their school.

Outside of buying a calendar today and mapping out the high school years, have a discussion with your child. Find out what they are aiming for, what schools do they want to attend, how can you best help them prepare for the SAT. If they are over busy and can’t seem to find time to work on test prep, then help them figure out what they can cut out of their schedule. We all make time for those things that important to us and this is the pinnacle for a high school student, they just may not realize the importance yet. Nothing that can replace hard work, but if they are just busy they may not be running the around the actual target of a high SAT score, colleges are not looking at how many hours a student spent at school but how those hours translate to a score that is a benchmark of academic achievement.
Challenge your student today to look at what they are focusing their time on and when they see there is time on either side of busy, hopefully they will choose to invest it in themselves. The SAT is something they must to do on their own but not without the help of those with experience and wisdom gently guiding them.

So, go buy a calendar, check out the 2017-18 SAT test dates, plan your test prep and enjoy a lively conversation as you plan your journey to the best SAT test date for you.

Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies that we teach in our Prep Expert SAT and ACT courses.