by Owen Pittet
For juniors, now is a good time to start shaping a long-term plan for taking the SAT. While there aren’t so much right and wrong choices with this issue, there are necessary tradeoffs with each test date. You’ll need to balance your desire to do as well as possible on the SAT against the need to manage competing demands on your time. Ideally, you’ll want to be fully prepared the first time you take the test, and if you retake the test, you’ll want to have the results from the first test in time to know where you need to improve.
Analyze Your PSAT Results
Results from the October PSAT will soon be arriving, and your performance here can be used to start shaping your plan. If your PSAT results are very strong, it might make sense to get the SAT out of the way on January 23rd. There’s still time to do a quick review before the test if that’s all that’s necessary, and meeting your goals for the January SAT means that you can focus your energy in the spring on AP classes, school projects, extracurricular activities or other interests. For the January test, please note that the regular registration deadline is December 16th, and the late registration deadline is December 30th.
However, the major drawback with the January test date is that it typically falls near semester exams in school. Most students will probably be better off planning for the March 13th test date. Academic demands will be lighter for most students that time of year, and there’s more time to prepare for this test date. If you can get the core of your preparation done in time for the March test, you’ll have that much less to worry about later in the spring.
Start as Early as Possible
Some students will wait until May 1st or June 5th to take the SAT for the first time. If you’re in this situation, one important thing to keep in mind is that, while you could potentially take the test on both of these dates, you won’t get the results from May until you have less than two weeks before the June test. With end of the semester projects, papers, and exams starting to peak, it will be difficult to work on areas you need to improve in time for the June test. Furthermore, it’s quite likely that you’ll only be able to use one of these test dates for the SAT, devoting the other to subject tests.
The earlier you get started on this process, the sooner you can potentially be done with the SAT. If you’re trying to improve your PSAT results, a good rule of thumb is to allow two months to get ready for your first crack at the SAT. For subsequent test dates, leave enough time for results to come in from your previous test so you know what you need to improve. Your particular situation may require fine tuning this plan, but as long as you can keep your plans organized, focused and realistic, you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to do well on the SAT.
Owen Pittet is an independent private tutor providing in-home test preparation and academic support for students in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Newton. For more information, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.