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I’ve been speaking to a lot of parents of rising juniors this summer and the most common question is when should a student take the SAT (the next most common question is “should we take the SAT or ACT” and you can find the answer to that here)? Let me start by pointing out that there is no “right” or “wrong” time to take the SAT. Generally speaking, the earlier a student can begin their preparations and take the exam, the better off they are. Junior year is a very busy year and the sooner a student can be done with these exams, the sooner a student can give their full attention to their other studies as well as the rest of the whole college application process.

Most parents and students don’t even realize how often the SAT is given. It’s offered 7 times a year: March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. Here are some thoughts on the specific timelines:

Preparing for the late summer and early fall exams

This involves beginning SAT class in July which leads up the October SAT. The August SAT falls exactly in the middle of our 12-week program and for students who are able to take it, the August SAT is a great first shot at the exam. Ultimately, students will have benefited from the full program when they take the SAT in October. For rising juniors who are able to begin their prep this early, this is a fantastic start! This is a great idea for so many reasons and I’ve written about this in detail in a previous blog post here. Sometimes students think they didn’t learn all the math yet, but that’s a tiny consideration. There might be a couple of math concepts on the SAT that a student may not have learned depending on their previous math instruction, but we certainly address those concepts in our classes. Delaying prep by 9 months until later in junior year just to have a slightly better chance on 2 or 3 questions is truly letting the tail wag the dog. Don’t do that!

Preparing for the late fall SAT exam

This involves beginning prep earlier in the fall. While this is not as early as the summer program, I would still consider this an early time in junior year to begin SAT preparations. After taking the December SAT, there are still plenty of opportunities to improve or switch to the ACT. The 2-month class offered this time of year utilizes different SAT exams for its materials allowing students who take this program to come back for a 3-month class in the winter, spring, or summer if needed (hopefully it won’t be needed!).

Preparing for the March SAT exam

The 3-month SAT class beginning in December to prepare for the March SAT ends up being the most popular time of year for students to do SAT prep. I think part of this reason might be the logistics of life. What I mean by that is that most families begin thinking about SAT prep when the school year begins in September. At that point, the next set of classes that still have decent availability are the classes beginning in December. Perhaps there are other reasons? The bottomline is the winter makes for a good time to get ready for the March SAT and the 3-month class offers a very thorough preparation. After the March SAT, there are still more SAT and ACT opportunities in the spring as well as the summer and fall of senior year.

Preparing for the late spring SAT exams

The spring is typically a very busy time for high school juniors. Despite that, many students prepare for and take the May and June SAT exams with tremendous success. The reason why someone might plan in advance to wait until March or April (we offer both 2 and 3 month programs this time of year) is that they may be very busy with sports or other extracurriculars in the fall and winter, but their spring schedule is wide open.

Like I said earlier, there isn’t really a right or wrong time to prepare, but there might be a right or wrong time for your student to prepare. If someone plays sports in the fall and spring (but not in the winter season), then the winter is obviously the ideal time to prepare. The most important factor surrounding the creation of an appropriate preparation timeline is the student’s life circumstances.

If these thoughts bring up any questions or if you have questions specific to your own situation, please reach out!