30 Lyman St, Ste 5
Westborough MA 01581
When should my child take SATs/ACTs?
Our standard advice has been that students take the SAT once in spring of Junior year (the SAT is offered in March, May and June) and then again, depending on their results, either later in the Spring or in fall of Senior year (beginning in 2017, there will be an August SAT replacing the January date, and the traditional October, November and December dates will stay on the schedule), using the PSAT that most students take in the Fall of their Junior year as "practice" or as a "benchmark" for the SAT.
We have also always strongly recommended that every student take the ACT at least once, in second semester of Junior year; it is offered in February, April and June. Many students achieve better scores on the ACT than on the SAT, and this is good news for all students. If both sets of scores are good, then your student has an additional point in his or her favor; if the ACTs are significantly better, then your child can send those scores to the colleges and leave the less-favorable SATs unreported. CTG will offer our students a "practice" ACT some time in October so they have a feel for the ACT and can compare it to the PSAT.
Both tests, as of 2010, have a "score choice" option. This means that a student may take either test two or even three times, but may ask the College Board or the ACT folks to report only some of his/her scores to the colleges. The student may NOT cherry-pick individual scores from a particular date, but MAY specify either test's scores to be reported BY DATE. Be aware, however, that there are some colleges that require a student to send ALL of his/her scores; this will be clearly defined when the student is on the SAT or ACT website requesting that reporting. You might want to check the score choice policy of the colleges you're interested in during Junior year, as it may influence which test you take and how many times you take it.
So, back to the question of "when" to take the SAT and the ACT. With the new format of the SAT introduced in March 2016, the two tests are more similar than ever before. We will begin to prep Juniors for their spring tests right after the Seniors have taken their last SAT, typically on the first weekend of October, or their last ACT, in mid- to late October.
We will prep everyone for the ACT first; students who begin their prep in October will be ready for the February ACT. If the ACT is clearly the student's test of choice, (s)he can take it again in April or June; it is always our goal to have testing finished before the end of Junior year and to relieve the student of having fall testing hanging over his/her head all summer. If the student also wishes to try the SAT, time between the February ACT and the March SAT can be used to prep for the differences between the two, which are much less stark than they were pre-March 2016, and the student can take a first SAT in March. Once the February ACT and March SAT scores are in, we can help your student evaluate both to decide which one to concentrate on going forward. Both tests are given two more times in the Spring -- May and June for the SAT, and April and June for the ACT -- so there are good options, even for students who will also take subject tests or who participate in Spring sports.
Beginning in 2017, both tests will have a testing option in late summer. The SAT will offer the test in August, and the ACT will continue to administer its test in the first half of September. This is a great time for your student to take whichever test (s)he is focusing on if the Spring scores are not where they need to be, because it allows her/him to concentrate on practice over the summer, when there isn't the burden of homework, projects and school exams to worry about. CTG offers an 8-week coaching session over the summer to help facilitate that practice or to begin tutoring if the student was unable to fit tutoring into his/her schedule during Junior Spring. Please email me at email@example.com to inquire about tutoring.