Test Prep (All Articles)

Your SAT Scheduling Plan

Perhaps one of the most overlooked components of a high schooler’s college search and admission plan is a “smart” strategy for taking standardized tests. These would include the SAT, Subject Tests, and the ACT (if applicable). The speed with which high schoolers advance through their academic years sometimes makes it difficult to plan ahead, and some students end up in their junior (even senior) year wishing that they had been more thoughtful about when and how to prepare for the requirements for these tests.

Developing an testing strategy can be a challenge. It doesn’t have to be, though, if you observe some basic considerations. First, define your goals. Obviously, you want your score to be as high as possible. But what is high? Over 830 four-year colleges view the SAT as optional. For students applying to these schools, low SAT scores are no problem; they don’t submit them. Schools that do require the SAT have a published range of scores, called the middle 50 percent, which tells you where yours should fall if you want to meet their SAT guidelines. Most high schoolers take the SAT well before they know these ranges.

Getting SAT experience early is a good tactic. Often, your first encounter with the SAT should be in ninth grade. Some sixth and seventh graders take the SAT as a qualifier for Johns Hopkins University’s Search for Talented Youth program. So don’t be upset by the prospect of a ninth-grade SAT. In terms of how many SATs to take, sometimes more is less. Most students will have achieved an optimum score by the third taking of the SAT, assuming you take the final one in the Fall of your senior year. A rule of thumb states that SAT scores tend to rise naturally at the rate of 100 points (total) for each school year that elapses after the student’s first SAT. Coaching, however, can make a difference.

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