Thinkwell Resources

Deciding on a Test Date

Amidst the whirlwind of essays, extracurriculars, teacher recommendations, and paperwork of college applications, students have to find a time to sit down and take the ACT or SAT. First, they need to decide which one to take (more on that here). Then, they need to decide when to take it. 

Whichever test they choose, they should plan to take it three times. We love it when students reach their dream score on their first try, but they often then decide to reach higher! Typically two test dates will be the perfect number of times to be sure they have reached their maximum score, but we like to plan for a third just in case something goes wrong one of the first two times (yes, students have suddenly come down with food poisoning during the middle of the test). Both tests are now offered throughout the year, which creates several options for when to take them. Ideally, students should take their first test by the second semester of junior year at the latest, but the specific date they choose depends on a variety of factors. Here is a list of things to consider:

  • The vast majority of students should take their first test during junior year. During the fall of senior year, students will be juggling homework, extracurriculars, and college applications – not to mention trying to have some fun in between it all. Studying for and taking their first SAT or ACT during this period is very stressful and takes time away from everything else.


  • What level of math is your student taking? 
    • If they are taking Algebra 2 as a junior, they should wait until later in the year to take the test. Both tests include mostly Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2, so let them soak up as much Algebra 2 as they can before taking the test. Both tests also include a few Pre-Calculus and Statistics questions, but they are so minimal that students can still do well without knowing how to do them! Don’t worry if you know they won’t get to Pre-Cal and/or Stats before they have to test. Those concepts that do appear on the test can be taught quickly, if need be.  


  • What is your student’s learning style?
    • Every student is different. Does your child need a lot of repetition stretched out over a long period of time, or do they prefer a more condensed timeline? You and your student should think about what works best for them and how much time they will need to prep before the test. Choose a test date that gives them enough time to prepare, but do not plan to prep for so long that they will lose steam. 


  • Factor in their academic schedule to be sure they can maximize grades and test scores:
    • When are final exams?
    • If they take AP or IB classes, when are their end of year exams?
    • Are there other important projects that will require lots of time and focus?


  • Take a look at extracurriculars:
    • Do their athletic activities meet year-round, or are they during one season only?
    • Are they traveling to championships or competitions at any point during the year?
    • Is their big musical, dance, or theatre performance the night before the test? 


  • And finally, they should leave room for their personal life:
    • Plan around any upcoming family vacations, holidays, or big events. Our past students could tell you that testing the weekend of prom definitely has its drawbacks!

Everyone’s schedule looks a little different, so don’t worry if your student’s timeline doesn’t match their peers’ plans! If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

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