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What is your son or daughter's SAT/ACT test prep timeline?
  • Calendar Mar 26, 2018
  • User Jared Wells
  • Category In Uncategorized
  • Comments 0 Comments

When should my son/daughter take the test?

Woman with doubtful expression and question marks all over her h This it the first question I’m asked by parents who are looking into test prep. The short answer is: the soonest test that your child can spend about 3 months in advance preparing for. The long answer is a little more complicated. Keep these three keys in mind when planning out your child’s test prep timeline. 1) How much improvement does your child need? To answer that question, you need to know -What their score is now (schedule a free diagnostic exam with us if you’d like to find out!) and -What schools they are thinking about applying to. Ideally, you are shooting for a score that puts them in the 75th percentile of acceptees. If your child's scores are nearly where they need to be (within 50 SAT or 2 ACT points or so) a month of prep can be enough to give the scores a slight boost (and make sure that the student scores consistently...on any given day they might score 50 points higher or lower!) However, if the score needs to be improved by 100 SAT or 3 ACT points or more, I’d recommend looking at a test 3 months out at the soonest (and for big improvement, 300+ SAT or 9+ ACT points, even farther out). The sooner you know where your child stands, the better decision you can make about a test date (and the more options you’ll have). 2) What is the student’s schedule like outside of school? Doing test prep the right way takes time. It’s about developing good habits and good problem solving skills. That means deliberate practice, which isn’t what you get from a student who does the homework from 11pm-1am because she had soccer practice, then homework, then a test tomorrow to study for. It’s very easy for the priority of SAT/ACT prep for a test months from now to fall below that of studying for a chemistry test this Friday. There is almost no time for a high-schooler that will be easy, but with good planning and organization, prepping during the school year can work. Are there times during the school year that the student will be more or less busy? Look for times where sports and other extracurriculars will be lighter. For Sophomores especially, I recommend prepping over the summer before Junior year for an August or October SAT, or a September ACT exam.  Over the summer, students generally have more time and mental energy to prep for SAT’s and ACT’s. It can be a good time for Juniors too; the problem is that waiting to take the test in August of senior year doesn’t leave a lot of options for future tests if the student has a bad test day. 3) Sooner is better All things being equal, taking the test sooner, rather than later, will give the student more options for future tests if the results aren’t where they need to be. Of course, all things are rarely equal :) But students will rarely be learning much in their classes Junior year that will help them improve their SAT scores, so there is little reason to wait until Junior year is underway to take the test. By then, they've typically covered the vast majority of math on the test, and most English classes don't put much focus on the English mechanics that are tested on the SAT/ACT. Give us a call (858.551.2650) or email ( to schedule a free SAT/ACT diagnostic exam and consultation. You'll leave understanding much more about the test, your options, and the mindsets that will lead to the greatest improvement on the test. -Vince

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