SAT/ACT: Picking Dates and Prepping


Once you’ve decided whether or not your child should test and take practice tests, it’s time to pick your child’s SAT and ACT test dates and begin test prep.

Pick Test Dates Strategically

We encourage students to strategically select their ACT or SAT dates. Research shows that most students achieve their best score in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. We suspect it’s because they’re older, they’re more mature, and they have more curriculum under their belt. 

With that in mind, it really is okay to take a fall test. But you want to consider if your child will have the capacity to test again in the late winter or spring. We recommend pairing test dates, which means planning for two test dates.  After the first test, the student can identify areas of weakness. Then, they can practice, practice, practice to improve their score in those areas on the second attempt.  

For the ACT, for example, you could pick a December and a February date, or maybe a February and an April date. For the SAT, maybe it’s a December and March date, or perhaps a March and May date.

If you’re not sure which dates are best for your child, we can help! We do this all the time and offer free consultations for exactly this purpose. Click here to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll use your child’s PSAT score or SAT/ACT practice score to determine the best test timing for your child.

Decide How to Prepare

There are essentially three ways a child can prepare for the SAT/ACT.

1. Independent Prep – If you have a very independent, motivated student with strong practice test results, they might be fine buying a book or using an online resource to practice independently. 

2. Group ClassesYour child can take a group class with lots of other kids. Right now, many of those are happening virtually. If a student is relatively strong in all areas and just wants to review test-taking strategies and get general practice, this might be a fit. But it doesn’t provide time or space for customization based on a child’s particular needs for improvement.

3. Private TutoringThe advantage of one-to-one tutoring— and the reason it’s the only option we offer— is that it can be customized to each child. Our academic coaches can work with your child to identify their strengths and areas for improvement. By focusing personalized instruction on the skills a child finds most challenging, the academic coach is more likely to help boost their score.

Start Planning Now

Whichever path you choose, don’t wait until close to test day to begin! The brain works best when you space things out rather than cramming at the last minute.

Most students benefit from starting test prep about two to five months before their first test, depending on how much they need to work on. We recommend weekly sessions with practice homework in between to best prepare students and build their confidence.

To learn more about our test prep coaching click here. Our Educational Experts are happy to answer your questions and handpick a College Admissions Coach for your child’s testing needs.

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Read our last post in this special series on college admissions: Control What You Can: Test Prep Factors to Consider in COVID-19.