A marathon, not a sprint: smart SAT/ACT planning

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The SAT and ACT preparation process in some ways is like training to run a marathon. You have to put in the time to study, train, and plan for the long haul! To get your best score – just like a runner preparing for their best time – you also need to be strategic about when is the best time to sit for the tests.

It’s always a good idea to begin the prep process early, and to decide on a specific test date, you need to factor in circumstances like personal schedule, speciifc college’s admissions deadlines, and the classes you’re currently taking. These variables make a big difference in when it’s best for you to take the SAT or ACT.

In general, it’s better to begin SAT or ACT prep as early as you can junior year to give yourself as many shots as you can at getting for goal score. The average number of times students now take the SAT or ACT is 3-4 times.

Key things to consider:

  • Don’t wait until spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year to begin testing! It quickly becomes a stressful endeavor if you only have one or two shots at the test, but want to have the opportunity to improve an initial score. The old-school advice of waiting until spring of the junior year to start thinking about these things no longer fits with the early admissions deadlines students now face.
  • If you play a sport or are involved in a time consuming activity – don’t test around the peak time of that sport or activity. If you play football, the fall tests will be grueling. If you are a ballerina – testing during the Nutcracker season could be exhausting!

Students who plan to take the SAT or ACT during busy times like these get very stressed, don’t have enough time to prep, and unfortunately can end up with lower-than hoped for scores on test day. 

Choose a test date before or after periods of busy school or extracurricular activities so you have more flexibility in your schedule to prep with less stress and anxiety. Ultimately, this will make a big difference in your approach that should show in your scores.

For planning purposes, here are links to the upcoming SAT and ACT testing dates:

SAT: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/dates-deadlines

ACT: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration.html

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