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When Should I Take the SAT for the First Time?

Although every teenager knows that they will eventually need to take either the ACT or the SAT before graduating high school, there are many highschoolers who are not sure when they should take the exam for the first time.

There can be a lot of fear and anxiety surrounding taking the SAT, so many students end up taking the test at the last minute, preventing themselves from being able to retake the test having learned from their results the first time around.

While you do not want to make this mistake, you also do not want to waste your time and money by taking the test too early. If you take the SAT during your freshman year of high school, chances are you will not have completed the courses necessary to cover all of the concepts that will be on the test.

So when should you take the test in order to avoid taking it too early for you to have learned the test material and to still have enough time to retake the test a couple of times before college applications are due?

Technically, there is no right answer. While I can propose an ideal schedule that works for most students- 

Test #1- fall of junior year

Test #2- spring of junior year

Test #3- summer or fall of senior year

-there are myriad factors that go into making the right decision for you and your own individual needs.

If you are wondering when you should take the SAT for the first time, here are some factors that I suggest keeping these factors in mind:

Retaking the SAT

While it might seem like I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here by talking about retaking the SAT before you have even signed up to take the test for the first time, it is going to be an important step to consider when scheduling your test.

In order to qualify for the colleges and scholarships on your list, you are going to need to reach a target SAT score. While it is certainly possible, it is unlikely that you will reach your target score on your first attempt. Chances are after you take the test the first time, you will need to review your mistakes and study before taking the test again to try and earn your desired score. You might even need three or four attempts to reach your goal.

This means that you need to be thinking about taking the SAT more than once when you sign up for your first test. If you take the SAT for the first time during your senior year of high school, you will not have adequate time to review your results and take the test again before your applications are due.

This is why in my recommended testing schedule, I suggest taking the test for the first time during the fall of your junior year. This will give you several opportunities to take the SAT and to learn from your previous test results so that you can eventually reach your target score.

Your schedule

Although taking the SAT for the first time in the fall of your junior year seems ideal, it might not work for your specific schedule.

Preparing to take the SAT will require hours of hard work dedicated to mastering all of the concepts and strategies that you will need to know on test day. In order to achieve a high score on the SAT, you will want to spend a couple of hours each day for weeks studying for the test.

If you know football practice and games or spearheading an initiative for your school’s National Honor Society will take up most of your time in the fall, you might want to wait until spring of your junior year to take the first test so that you have plenty of time to study. Likewise, if you know that the spring semester of your junior year will be busy with AP and IB exams or the spring musical, you should consider taking the test in the fall of your junior year when you are less busy.

Take a look at your schedule and decide when you will have the most time to study and prepare for your SAT before you sign up for your first test.


On a similar note, you will want to keep your level of preparation in mind when you are deciding when you should take the SAT. If you haven’t taken a single SAT prep course or practice test, you will probably be better off waiting to take the SAT until you have had the chance to study and prepare. While I always recommend retaking the test in order to reach your target score, those costs can add up if you are taking the test without being ready for it.

Although you should aim to take the test at least twice before your senior year of high school, you will want to make sure that you make the most of each testing opportunity by studying well beforehand.

If you’re not sure how to start studying for the test, or you want to take your preparation to the next level so you can score within the 99th percentile, Prep Expert can help. Prep Expert offers the tools you need to succeed on the SAT whether it is your first or your fifth time taking the test.

When you enroll in one of our SAT prep courses or sign up for private, online SAT tutoring, you will learn all of the tips, tricks, and strategies you will need to do well on test day.

Learn more about how Prep Expert can help you prepare to take the SAT when you visit our website.

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Written by Prep Expert

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