High School 2 College

June 27, 2017

Should I Take SATs This Summer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — highschool2college @ 7:05 pm

Of all the questions parents ask me about college applications and college testing, the most important question I almost NEVER get asked is:

“When do you think my student should take these tests?”

Parents ask their friends, they ask their students, they ask their student’s friends, they ask their favorite school teacher.  Why not ask a professional who has helped several hundred students optimize their college testing?

My advice always takes several factors into account, such as a particular student’s sports schedule, what level math class that student is taking, whether that student is stronger in English/Social Studies or Math/Science, and what other tests or pre-tests that student has already taken.

So if you really want the best advice for your particular student, just ask me.

But if you want my best general advice, read on.

Several months ago, the College Board announced that they would no longer offer the January SAT, but would add an August SAT.  Since the January SAT was becoming increasingly popular, this change will affect many rising (incoming) high school juniors and seniors.  (Next year, the ACTs are adding a July ACT — not in New York, but students can take it in New Jersey or Connecticut.)

Before I forget, let me say clearly that the August SAT is designed for rising seniors only. Students about to enter 11th grade should not be considering this test.  They just haven’t had enough math or reading experience in most cases to do well on this test.  So why not take it anyway just to see how you’ll do?  Because I believe strongly that when students take tests they’re not ready for, they do poorly.  And when a student does poorly on a test, it’s hard not to take the next one without thinking, “Boy, I stink at this test.  I’ve tried it before and been disappointed.”  How can you do your best on a test when you go into it with such a defeatist attitude?

A much better strategy is to wait until the student has done at least some meaningful, sustained preparation before taking even the first test of its type.  That’s why I discourage students from taking the PSAT in 10th grade — students haven’t had enough school or prep, it doesn’t count for scholarships, and can only serve to depress the 11th grade PSAT score.

If you really want to know how you’d do on the PSAT, take a practice test.  There’s a complete free PSAT online.  Print it out, take it (timed), and score it.  Taking a practice test at home makes more sense to me than going through the expense and stress involved with taking the test on a Saturday at school.

So when SHOULD juniors and seniors take their tests?

I advise most of my students to prepare for (either on their own, in a class, or with a private tutor) and take at least one SAT and one ACT in the late fall or winter of junior year.  That way, you’ll know which one you’d like to work on more intensely for the spring.

Specifically, juniors should consider the December SAT and the December ACT.  They’re given on different Saturdays, and the results should come back around the same time — with plenty of time before the March/April tests to do some analysis about which test(s) have the potential for the biggest gains, and enough time before those March/April tests to hone in on the areas that need targeted work.

Another significant benefit to winter testing is that students who take at least one test by December are more motivated and focused when it comes to spring college visits.  They have a clearer sense that college is imminent, and they have a bettter idea of which colleges might be a match to their scores.

June, for most students, should be saved for test re-takes where necessary and for SAT Subject tests.  (See my blog post on SAT Subject tests.)

What if you’re a rising senior and you aren’t satisfied with your SAT or ACT score?  By all means, prep for and take the August SAT and September ACT.  

WARNING:  Although you  have a month before the deadline to sign up for the August SAT, few schools will actually be hosting that test.  You may sign up with plenty of time to spare, only to find out that all the seats are taken in your preferred testing site.  If you plan on taking the August SAT and/or September ACT, do yourself a favor and REGISTER RIGHT NOW.

Any questions about the summer/fall tests?  Please just go on my website (www.wendysegaltutoring.com) for my contact info — and ask!

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