When is the Best Time to Take the SAT or ACT?

The conventional testing paradigm suggests that teens should take the SAT or ACT at the end of junior year and again, if needed, at the beginning of senior year. Experience shows, however, that today’s high school students have far too much on their plates to follow a default testing strategy that may conflict with other priorities. Instead, the best time for a high schooler to take the SAT or ACT is as early in junior year as makes sense based on a student’s goals and activities.

Earning an optimal score on the SAT or ACT requires preparation and focus, which means that nobody should try to test while studying for APs or in the midst of an important sport or activity. Don’t plan to test during sports seasons, performance rehearsals, or the weekend of prom… it rarely works out! Proactive students test—and earn their target scores—during every stage of junior year.

One concern about this testing strategy raises the issue of Algebra 2. Students on an honors track may take Algebra 2 before 11th grade, but the regular track at most public schools usually schedules that level of math for junior year. This may not present the problem you think; students who aren’t taking honors math don’t expect perfect scores in SAT or ACT math anyway. Those students are likely to hit their expected targets with the math they’ve already learned, assuming they test when they are best positioned to focus and prepare effectively.


When are the SAT and ACT offered in a year?
How many official tests should a student take?
How much time is needed to prepare for the SAT or ACT?
During which month is the SAT or ACT “easiest” in terms of scaling?

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