Admit it: The part of the college application that causes the most anxiety amongst college-bound students is standardized testing. What tests should I take? Will the scores be important in the process? When should I take the SAT? What are the SAT Subject Tests? With annual changes in the admission process, a calendar of test-taking can be difficult. Crisp Consulting + Coaching is partnering with Mindspire Test Prep to offer a calendar for test taking that will prepare high school students for the college admissions process.
No-Frills, Tell-It-To-You-Straight High School Test Prep Calendar
- Read as much as possible. More than what’s assigned in school. This is the greatest predictor of success on the Verbal sections of the ACT and SAT.
- Take challenging courses. Don’t go the easy route. If you start taking challenging math and English courses now, the SAT and ACT will seem much easier when the time comes.
- October: Take the PSAT. Just to see where you are and get a feel for the test. The PSAT doesn’t count for anything, and your scores can (and probably will) go up significantly over the next two years. It’s just good to get acquainted with the format of the whole thing.
- April: Register for SAT Subject tests given in June. Take one or two, depending on which courses you took this year. A science and/or a foreign language test might be possible. It’s nice to get one or two of these out of the way early.
- June: Take the SAT Subject tests.
- July/August: Consider prepping for the October PSAT, especially if you are aiming for a Merit Scholarship. A tutor or prep course can bring you within reach of that achievement. Summer is a nice time to prepare since you don’t have many other academic distractions.
- July/August: Take a simulated ACT and SAT, with a proctor, under timed conditions. This process will help you determine which test might better suit your strengths and learning style, and thus allow you to focus on the test that will get you the best score.
- October: Take the PSAT. When you get your scores, use them to help plan your course of action to prepare for the real thing. If your scores aren’t where you want them to be, start preparing as soon as you can. It takes time to prepare adequately for the SAT. Don’t wait until a few weeks before the test. Speak to your college counselor about the various test prep options.
- November: Register for the January SAT. Start preparing for the January SAT on a weekly basis.
- December: Register for the February ACT. Start preparing for the February ACT on a weekly basis.
- January: Take the SAT.
- February: Take the ACT.
- March: Based on your SAT and ACT scores, decide if one test is a better fit for you. If so, focus exclusively on preparing for that test at the end of the year. If you did about the same on both, it probably makes sense to take both again. Begin a second round of preparation for the next test, either the May or June SAT, or the April or June ACT. Also, decide which SAT Subject tests you will take, either in May or in June. This is the best time to take a Math SAT Subject test, which some competitive schools require.
- April: (Possibly) take the ACT.
- May: (Possibly) take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
- June: (Possibly) take the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests.
- July/August: If you are not satisfied with your ACT or SAT scores, you have this summer to prepare one more time. Register for the September ACT or the October SAT. If you are not applying for early decision, you can take the November or even December SAT. Be sure to keep practicing over the summer, or you will be rusty in September!
- September: (Possibly) take the ACT.
- October: (Possibly) take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
- November: (Possibly) take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
- December: (Possibly) take the SAT or SAT Subject Tests.
- June: Graduate! You’re done!
This is a basic plan. Some students might have a good reason to take an SAT in March of their junior year instead of January. That’s fine. And there are many other possible variations. In my experience, the plan above works well for most students and doesn’t involve taking the SAT 5 times, which, in my opinion, is not a good idea.
Prepare for each test for at least a month, including taking simulated practice tests. Not preparing is like doing a marathon without taking any practice runs for weeks. You want to be in solid shape on test day.
Shahar Link is an educator and standardized test specialist who guides students to academic success by combining a deep understanding of content with a respect for students’ individual needs and ways of learning. Shahar has been teaching and tutoring for over 15 years, and founded Mindspire Tutoring and Test Prep in 2011 in order to bring an experienced application of evidence-based research on motivation, learning, and teaching to the field of tutoring and standardized test preparation.