If you are preparing to scale the mountain that is Junior year, we have some advice for you: take your SAT tests or ACT tests in your first semester.
The first semester provides the best window for taking two tests in a row. We recommend that in September Juniors should decide which test (ACT or SAT) they want to take based on diagnostic testing, use September and October to prep for that test, and then take two of the tests in a row to maximize their testing preparation and experience. If you plan now you will have plenty of time for test prep before the mid-Fall tests, which are on October 26 for the ACT and November 2 for the SAT, followed by the December 14 ACT and December 7 SAT.
This advice applies especially to students on the SAT track because of the large gap of time between the December 2019 and March 2020 test dates (the next ACT is a little earlier in early February 2020). If you prepare for the December test, you will have exams, holidays, the new year, and several months of second semester to distract you before you retest. We find large gaps like this cause students to forget the skills and strategies they have learned for the initial test date, greatly reducing their potential to increase their score on the second test and minimizing the value of their preparation.
Watch Out for March
If you are focused on an SAT track, there is another large downside to the March test that you should know: the pool you will be scored against is traditionally more competitive than any other test date each school year. This is because the March test date is the only one that does not offer SAT subject testing. Many competitive students also complete several SAT subject tests during their Junior year and focus on taking the subject tests on the other test dates. This leaves them the March test as one of their definite SAT test dates. Since your math and verbal scores are based on how you do on a particular test compared to everyone else taking it that day, you may score lower on the March test than you would normally if you are not already prepared to do extremely well.
The same effect is not present in the ACT because the difficulty of the individual sections differs from test to test (sometimes math is harder, other times it might be science or English), and these variations tend to wash out any effects of having more competitive students in your exam pool since the final score is a composite of all four section scores. The test gap decline is still real though, so if you are on an ACT track, be sure to knock your tests out this Fall as well. You will appreciate having time to focus on finishing your academic year strong and being able to take a third test if for some reason your earlier scores did not meet your goals.
When to Start
When should you start prepping for the fall tests? We recommend taking diagnostic tests at least 9-10 weeks before your first potential test dates. This allows time to compare your SAT and ACT results, decide which test track you should pursue, and plan an individualized course of prep for the student. We find 6-9 weeks allow enough time to prep for your first exam, after which we can reevaluate your performance and, if necessary, provide additional focus on any areas where you can improve on the second test.
Our Fall schedule fills up quickly once school starts, so call us today to discuss your needs for meeting your goals this year.
Today we’ll cover the ACT and SAT writing exams. Our clients often ask if the optional 40-50 minute exams, which students take in addition to the required sections on test day, are really necessary.
Our answer is: potentially yes.
While many schools do not require them, that often isn’t the case with most Ivy League and other competitive private schools. Even competitive state schools like Cal Berkeley require the writing tests. Schools can also change their requirements from year to year, so you are better prepared for potential changes if you have taken one.
Adding the exam costs $15 for the SAT and $16 for the ACT, and they are offered at every regular test day for both tests.
If you’re thinking about applying to a school that requires the exam, we can add specialized exercises and preparation to your individualized plan as part of our verbal test prep instruction.
Check Your Schools
If you know your target and reach schools already, you can check their requirements with these handy search tools: