When to Prepare for and Take the SAT/ACT (Including PSAT/National Merit Info)

Posted by Kimberly Hewitt on Tuesday, May 09, 2017

 

10th and 11th graders: If you’re like many students, your SAT or ACT scores will play a significant role in your competitiveness when applying to colleges, with 88% of colleges placing considerable or moderate importance on students’ standardized test scores for admissions purposes.1  Given the importance of your SAT/ACT scores, how should you develop your testing calendar and plans?  In this article, we’ll explore the best time to prepare for and take the official SAT or ACT—including whether juniors should consider the new summer SAT being offered in August 2017, plus what sophomores should do over the summer to determine whether they may be competitive for National Merit recognition on their junior year PSAT.  But first, let’s start with a high-level overview of SAT/ACT testing strategy.

 

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How Should I Approach the SAT/ACT Testing Process?

 

Let’s begin with the basics.  Our 3 Steps to SAT/ACT Success framework is a quick way to summarize how you should approach the entire SAT/ACT testing process.

 

Step 1: Determine whether to focus on the SAT or ACT

 

All four-year colleges accept either the SAT or ACT for admissions purposes. That means you should determine which test better suits your strengths, then focus exclusively on preparing for that test.  How do you do that?  Take a free practice SAT/ACT to establish your baseline and learn which test better suits your strengths.

 

Step 2: Set your target score

 

Determine the score you would like to reach based on your college admissions and scholarship goals. View average SAT/ACT scores of admitted students at a sample of nationwide colleges by downloading The Frontier 49 College Admissions Factbook.  You can also sign up for North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session, where we can help you determine your target score.

 

Step 3: Select your study strategy


Evaluate your baseline score and target score in the context of your strengths and learning style preferences. Determine whether you should go pro with an expert test prep program, study on your own, or try both. 

 

With this overall strategy in mind, let’s now turn to timelines.

 

When Are the SAT & ACT Offered?

 

The SAT is offered seven times per year.  Traditionally, the first test date of the academic year has been in October.  New for the 2017/18 academic year, the first SAT administration will be on August 26, 2017.  (SAT Subject Tests will be offered in August, as well.)  The ACT is offered six times per year, between September and June.  Starting in the 2018, however, the ACT will also feature a summer testing date in July.

 

If you’re a rising senior (current 11th grader as of May 1, 2017), we recommend you take the June SAT, June ACT, August SAT, or September ACT, depending whether you are focusing on the SAT or ACT.  The June SAT/ACT and August SAT/September ACT administrations confer two important advantages to students:

 

  • First, these test dates allow you to prepare in the summer while you are free from the demands of the academic year.  Our SAT Prep Class preparing for the June 3 SAT, along with our ACT Prep Class preparing for the June 10 ACT, are filling up quickly.  We have also already released our summer/fall 2017 SAT/ACT Prep Class schedules.  SAT Individual Prep and ACT Individual Prep are also options for students not available during the group class dates or for students who prefer one-on-one instruction.

  • Second, if you are planning to apply to colleges with December deadlines, taking the SAT or ACT in June/August/September provides you with more flexibility and options. If you want to further improve your scores after you receive your results from one of these tests, you’ll have at least one more opportunity to do so during one of the first SAT or ACT administrations in the fall.

 

Note: The June 3 SAT and June 10 ACT are registered to capacity at the Anchorage test centers.  Students may sign up for the waitlist, or register for a test center in Soldotna or Seward.  Alternatively, register ASAP for the August 26 SAT or September 9 ACT to save your seat at a test center in Anchorage.

 

Here’s a table of all official SAT/ACT dates from May 2017 – June 2018:

 

Test Date Test Type Registration Deadline

Multiple Choice

Score Release

June 3, 2017

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: May 9

Late Online: May 24

See Note Above

July 12
June 10, 2017 ACT

Regular: May 5

Late Online: May 19

See Note Above

June 20
August 26, 2017 (New)

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: July 28

Late Online: August 16
TBA
September 9, 2017 ACT

Regular: August 4

Late Online: August 18
TBA
October 7, 2017

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: September 8

Late Online: September 27
TBA
October 28, 2017 ACT

Regular: September 22

Late Online: October 6
TBA
November 4, 2017

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: October 5

Late Online: October 25

 TBA
December 2, 2017

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: November 2

Late Online: November 21

TBA
December 9, 2017 ACT

Regular: November 3

Late Online: November 17

TBA
February 10, 2018 ACT

Regular: January 12

Late Online: January 19

 TBA
March 10, 2018

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: February 9

Late Online: February 28

TBA
April 14, 2018 ACT

Regular: March 9

Late Online: March 23

TBA
May 5, 2018

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: April 6

Late Online: April 25

TBA
June 2, 2018

SAT &

SAT Subject Tests

Regular: May 3

Late Online: May 23

TBA
June 9, 2018 ACT

Regular: May 4

Late Online: May 18

TBA

 

When to Prepare & Test

 

When you should start preparing depends on:

 

  • When you want to take the official test, including whether or not you are planning prepare for the PSAT in October of your junior year (learn more about determining whether you should prepare for the PSAT)

  • Your baseline score, your target score, and the number of points you aim to improve

  • How you want to study

 

Here's a step-by-step guide for deciding when to take the official test, as well as when to start preparing, depending on your current grade level and profile.

 

If You Are a Rising Junior (Current 10th Grader as of May 1, 2017)

 

Rising juniors should follow the 3 Steps to SAT & ACT Success outlined above, with one additional consideration: It’s a good idea to see if your current level of performance might make you competitive for National Merit recognition on the PSAT you’ll take in October of your junior year. Here are the steps:

 

  • Step 1: Take a practice SAT and ACT before August 15, 2017, to determine whether you may be competitive for National Merit recognition on the PSAT (learn more about the PSAT and the National Merit process).

  • Step 2A: If you score at least a 1250 on your practice SAT, prepare for the October 2017 PSAT by taking the SAT Prep Class starting July 16 or August 27 (or complete SAT Individual Prep over the summer).  Otherwise, go to Step 2B.

  • Step 2B: If you scored below a 1250 on your practice SAT, plan to take the official SAT or ACT in the spring of your junior year and follow these steps:

    • First, determine your target SAT/ACT score for both college admissions and scholarship purposes. If you don’t already know your target score, check out The Frontier 49 to get a sense of the SAT/ACT score norms for the colleges and scholarships you may be interested in.  You can also sign up for North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session, where we can help you determine your target score.

    • If your practice test scores are within about 140 SAT points or 3 ACT points of your target SAT/ACT score, enroll in one of our SAT/ACT Prep programs during the spring of your junior year.  If the difference between your baseline score and target score is more than 140 SAT points or 3 ACT points, we recommend enrolling in one of our SAT/ACT Prep programs during the summer before, or the fall of, your junior year so you will have additional time to prepare for your official test in the spring.

 

If You Are a Rising Senior (Current 11th Grader as of May 1, 2017)

 

If you’re a rising senior, you should simply follow the 3 Steps to SAT & ACT Success outlined above. Specifically:

 

  • Step 1: If you don’t yet have baseline scores for both the SAT and the ACT (through practice or official SAT/ACT tests), then take a practice SAT and/or ACT.

  • Step 2: If you don’t already know your target SAT/ACT score (for both college admissions and scholarship purposes), check out The Frontier 49 to get a sense of the SAT/ACT score norms for the colleges and scholarships you may be interested in.  You can also sign up for North to My Future, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session, where we can help you determine your target score.

  • Step 3: Determine when you would like to take the official SAT/ACT and select your study strategy.  We recommend taking the SAT/ACT this June, August, or September.  Taking the official test in June/August/September will provide you with the opportunity to test again before nearly all college application deadlines if you wish to further improve your scores.  Also, our SAT/ACT prep programs preparing for the June/August/September official test dates allow you to prepare after school is out, when you’ll be able to devote your focus to test prep without the distraction of regular schoolwork.

 

Getting Started

 

We've covered a lot in this post.  To recap, for most students, step 1 is to take a free practice SAT/ACT at our Anchorage Center or any of the schools where we offer them.

 

Sign Up for My FREE Practice SAT/ACT

 

After you take your practice SAT/ACT, you can sign up for a North to My Future meeting, your free, individualized college admissions strategy session for students in Anchorage.  We’ll sit down with you and a parent for 45 minutes and discuss how your GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and overall profile compare relative to the norms for the colleges and scholarships you’re considering.  In addition, we'll develop an action plan of specific priorities for you between now and when it’s time to apply.  If our SAT/ACT prep, academic tutoring, or college admissions consulting programs are appropriate to help you achieve your goals, we will also provide recommendations on how you can best use these professional resources.

 

And as always, please feel free to contact us directly.  We are happy to answer questions regarding your individual academic, test prep, or college admissions strategy.

 

Additional Resources:

Take a Free Practice SAT/ACT

North to My Future - Free College Admissions Strategy Session

The Ultimate Guide to Designing Your SAT & ACT Prep Strategy

PSAT & National Merit Scholarship Guide for Alaska Students

SAT Subject Tests: Six Things to Know

SAT/ACT Prep

 

1NACAC 2014 State of College Admission Report

 

Topics: SAT Subject Tests, ACT, SAT, 11th Grade - Juniors, 10th Grade - Sophomores, 12th Grade - Seniors, College Admissions: Test Well, Anchorage, PSAT