photo-1458419948946-19fb2cc296afBefore I address when students should take the SAT/ACT, let me first answer another common question from parents of juniors: “My junior took the PSAT last year, so why take it again?”

The 10th grade PSAT is considered a PRE-PSAT. It is offered so students can get a ‘taste’ of the SAT and see where they stand as a sophomore – nothing more.

I often use those 10th grade scores as one of the factors in assessing how many tutorial hours a student may need based on the strengths and weakness exhibited on that test.

Typically the only preparation I recommend for sophomores is our half-day PSAT Prep Workshop. Intensive prep is unnecessary as I believe it’s more important to focus on school at this time.

The more important PSAT is the one students take as juniors. For potentially higher scoring students, it will allow them an opportunity to be offered a National Merit Scholarship and ultimately receive more notice when applying to college. It also gives parents a realistic sense of what score their teen would get on the SAT/ACT to be taken within one to six months of the PSAT.

The students I have been tutoring begin putting together the skills and strategies learned in the final third of the program. This is called practice testing. This typically confirms what I know about the student, as their skill levels and comfort level in applying strategies usually begin to become evident half way through the program.

If a student is getting at least 80% on practice, I recommend that student take the SAT in November or December. The dates this year are November 5 and December 3. For those students whose better exam is the ACT, I would recommend the December test. That dates this year is December 10.

Students who have a heavy school load and feel a bit bogged down, but are scoring at least 65-70% on practice, will be advised to take the SAT in January or March. Those dates are January 21 and March 11. The ACT date recommendations are February and April – February 11 and April 8 this year.

For students who came in weaker and are scoring below 60% on practice, I recommend they take their first SAT in May – May 6; ACT in April. This will allow such students to get more reading ‘behind their belt’ as junior year typically demands more reading. It will also allow them the time for their cognitive thinking skills to mature.

Juniors who have not done any preparation as of yet should use their GPA, 10th grade PSAT scores, and caliber of junior course load to determine when to take, hence, when to begin preparation. Another useful tool to help assess is our SAT and ACT Skill Set Assessments as they will provide an SAT or ACT score correlation. (Depending on level, most students need a minimum of 6 -12 weeks to prepare adequately.) If you need help using the above to make a determination, feel free to contact me.

I recommend that most students take the SAT or ACT twice junior year. (I may advise some students may to take both exams if they merit certain criteria.)

If the schools they are interested in require better scores, students can take a third time as a senior on August 25. This summer administration is debuting in August 2017; the January 2017 test date is the last January exam. The October and November test dates are also options for seniors.

As promised, here are the 2016-2017 SAT and ACT test dates, deadline registrations, and release dates. Here’s one with the test dates for both on one page.

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