It’s never too early to start thinking about the SAT. The college admissions process is a long arduous journey. The earlier you can start checking off boxes on your college admissions to do list, the better. Sophomore year is the perfect time to start thinking about your SAT plan.
For the 2018-2019 school year, the SAT is offered on 7 different Saturdays in the following months: August, October, November, December, March, May and June. Keeping in mind that most students take the SAT at least twice, here are some handy tips for helping you navigate the SAT process.
Consider the Math
Typically, students have covered the topics needed to succeed on the SAT by the end of Algebra II. Many students finish Algebra II sophomore year so if that’s the case with you, it makes sense to start preparing for the SAT the summer between sophomore and junior year. That way, the topics will be fresher in your mind and you’ll get a jump on the admissions process. Presumably, you’ll have more free time in the summer too.
If you’re on a slower track for college may want to wait until the middle of junior year to take the SAT for the first time. Familiarize yourself with the topics on the math SAT. About 10% of the questions on the Math SAT focus on what the College Board calls Additional Topics in Math. This category covers topics such as trigonometric ratios, radians, equations of circles, complex numbers and the Pythagorean Theorem. If you’re aiming for a high score so you can get into a competitive school, you’ll want to make sure you have a good handle on those topics.
A great place to go for more details on the math is right to the source – Math Topics on the SAT.
Take Into Account Your Schedule
It doesn’t matter if all your friends are taking the October SAT. Maybe you’re too busy and don’t have time to study for a fall exam. Perhaps the December exam would be better for you – just wait until after the SAT for your holiday shopping! If you play field hockey and lacrosse, your best bet might be the March exam, which will give you time over the winter to study.
Don’t forget to take into account other demands on your time – drivers’ education, end of the year activities like graduations and proms, and college application busyness at the start of senior year. Likely, there will never be a perfect time to take the SAT but in general, we recommend that you take your first test as soon as possible.
What About Those Other Tests?
Are you planning to take any AP exams in the spring? Typically these are offered in early to mid-May. It’s probably NOT the best plan to sit for the AP History exam and the AP Biology exam as well as the May SAT. Instead, consider signing up for the March or June SAT.
SAT Subject Tests
If you’re planning to apply to selective universities, many recommend or even require some SAT Subject tests. If you know the colleges to which you’ll be applying, research their Subject test requirements. If you decide to take them, you’ll want to consider the time needed to both study and sit for those tests. Be careful – not all Subject tests are offered on every test date. For example, for the 2018-2019 school year, Latin is only offered in December and June. Plan accordingly. And, you can’t take a Subject test as well as the regular SAT on the same day! Oh no!
These days, many students opt to take both the SAT and the ACT, then decide which test is better suited for them. Not everyone decides to do this. It’s time consuming to prepare and sit for both tests. And, some students have a strong preference of one test over the other. If you decide to take both tests, you’ll also need to factor in the ACT test dates. Often, students who choose to take both tests will try to schedule them around the same time since there is lots of overlap in test prep. This helps with your study time and can be an advantage. For example, if you’ve already spent a fair amount of time preparing for the February ACT and the concepts are still fresh in your mind, then taking the March SAT is good idea.
The ACT Test is offered on 7 Saturdays in the following months: September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.
Summary of All Test Dates
A Final Word
No matter where you are in the SAT process, the bottom line is: make a plan! Summer is the perfect time to get moving on this. Admittedly, it’s tempting to just hang out at a pool or at the beach all summer but the more you do now, the less stressful junior and senior year will be. Let’s start prepping!