Is your student on track with their SAT or ACT test prep?
When Should Students Take the SAT or ACT?
While it’s important for students to spend sufficient time focusing on standardized test prep, there is such a thing as starting too early! Here is an ideal recommended timeline for test prep, beginning with diagnostic exams at the end of sophomore year:
- Summer of sophomore year: Optional SAT and ACT test prep
- Fall of junior year: SAT or ACT test prep
- Winter of junior year: First SAT or ACT test sitting
- Spring of junior year: Second SAT or ACT test sitting
- Summer of junior year: Study to prepare for an additional sitting (if needed)
- Fall of senior year: Final SAT or SAT test sitting (if needed)
Test prep timing
We advise most students to commit at least 2-5 hours per week (i.e., 30-45 minutes per day) to test prep over at least 3-4 months. Some students may need more than six months to achieve their desired results.
Ideally, standardized testing should be completed before senior year so that students have enough time to:
- Meet application deadlines
- Focus on other elements of their college applications
- Use test scores to finalize college lists
- Retake the SAT or ACT during senior year if necessary
Why plan for two test sittings?
Planning for two test sittings might seem like overkill, but believe it or not, students often score significantly better the second time around without much additional effort.
As for target test dates, plan one test sitting for late fall/winter to get it out of the way before finals and AP exams and another in early spring, so there’s enough time to get additional test prep support if needed.
Developing an Effective Test Prep Plan
When developing a test prep plan, it’s best to be as structured as possible. Establish a clear curriculum, and set goals for each week. Plan for your student to take 1-3 full-length practice tests in realistic conditions.
Here are some best practices to share with your student:
- Put in consistent effort over time. Just as you wouldn’t prepare for a musical performance or athletic competition at the last minute, cramming on standardized test prep is not a good idea. Daily practice is key, so plan to commit months—not weeks—to preparing.
- Prioritize skills as well as knowledge. Knowledge of the material will only get you so far. It’s equally important to be able to deploy that knowledge in challenging circumstances and learn how to recognize patterns in tests.
- Use quality materials. When sourcing diagnostics tests and other study materials, go directly to SAT and ACT sources (which you can find on page 18 here). Third-party resources can be helpful supplemental materials but should never replace actual test materials.
- Analyze results and work on areas of weakness. Allocate 50-100% of the time spent doing practice questions to reviewing your work. Analyzing results as you go helps to highlight areas of weakness and focus study efforts accordingly.
Get SAT and ACT Test Prep Support
If your student feels overwhelmed thinking about the timeline ahead and would like outside support to keep them on track, Signet is here to help. Our SAT and ACT test prep services are designed to address each student’s unique needs.
Tutors are ideal for students who need assistance with accountability or want high score gains and have the resources to invest in a high-quality expert.