When to take the SAT/ACT

When to take the SAT/ACT

While we’ve all heard that the college application process is “holistic” (and it is), we can’t ignore the fact that students with higher SAT and ACT scores are admitted at a higher rate than students with lower scores.

So it’s important that your child strategically plans WHEN to take the SAT or ACT.

You might wonder… “can’t we just take it the end of junior year? Beginning of senior year?”


And here are the reasons:

Reason #1: The SAT/ACT will never be your child’s #1 priority.

During the school year, students are BUSY. Likewise, your child probably doesn’t even have time to get a good night sleep — endless quizzes, exams, projects, club meetings, tennis practice, and the list goes on.

Standardized tests will never be your child’s #1 priority, especially during the academic year. And even if it was, putting in 100% effort and energy in both GPA and SAT/ACT is not easy. There’s so much to learn.

Reason #2: SAT/ACT tests are almost never “one and done”

Even the most brilliant students should take the SAT/ACT more than once (Even three times). It’s hard to perform at your optimal level the first try — although that’d be ideal! This strategy also depends on your child’s list of dream colleges — every college has different SAT/ACT policy.

Related: How I spent nearly $8,000 in test prep

Reason #3: Senior year, your child will be writing college essays and filling out college applications ALL NIGHT LONG.

For my awesome seniors, we’re currently wrapping up the application and essay season. And let me tell you, my seniors work VERY HARD. We hold essay office hours twice a week and we also provide unlimited essay editing. The amount of mental and physical energy that goes into writing college essays and applications is more than you can imagine — so when students are studying SAT/ACT on top of all application materials, it’s hard to get a good score. All SAT/ACT prep must be completed by August of senior year!

So to answer the question — when is the best time to start preparing for the SAT/ACT?

This really depends on your child’s SAT/ACT Diagnostic Test Scores. Some students perform very well on their Diagnostics, so all they need is a few testing strategies and a refresher on punctuations and parallelism.

Most, however, are NOT taught quadratic equations, diction, evidence-based reasoning, and much more. Now, in this case, the test prep timeline will last longer.

If you need support in planning out the SAT/ACT plan, book a strategy session– I’ll assess if we’re a good fit or not.

From reactive, to proactive.

My philosophy to approaching college admissions (which has proven to be correct based on my students’ acceptance rates) is that your child CANNOT be reactive to test prep.

Instead of “Oh, I got 1400 on my SAT. I need to take it again” we aim for:

“I expected my score to be around 1400 and I already planned out a strategy and timeline for my next SAT test. I know that SAT is not a one-time thing. I’m ready for my 2nd round.”

The goal is to get the highest score on SAT/ACT without feeling overwhelmed, confused, and stressed so that your child can spend more quality time working on what’s truly important — creating passion projects, shadowing doctors, interning at a local start-up, and volunteering at local elementary schools.


By Julie Kim Ed.M Harvard University