As a professional SAT/ACT tutor I read many books and blogs on standardized testing. To my surprise there is a key component that seems to be missing from the world of Test Prep… and that is WHEN TO START.

Why do most students test Junior Year?
Students begin to take the test their Junior Year (sometimes continuing through the fall of Senior Year). This makes sense. If the tests are taken too much before Junior Year then students are less likely to have covered all the material that is tested. For math, the SAT covers up to Algebra 2 (Probability or Sequences is one of the last concepts covered in Algebra 2 and on the SAT). The ACT covers some material in Pre-Calculus (Some Trignonometry concepts that are not usually covered in Algebra 2). So students have a tough time on either test if they have not finished Algebra 2. Although they can take it prior to finishing Algebra 2, their score will be lower than if they had waited.  Additionally, the material will not have had time to sink in thus students may be slower taking the test.

What is the big deal about Junior Year?
Junior Year is a freight train.  There is a significant difference in the work load between Sophomore and Junior Year.  Not only is there more school work, many students opt to add one or more AP classes to their schedule.  Schools generally have more Honors class options and students are adding these more difficult classes to their schedule in order to impress colleges.  Not only are Honors and AP classes more difficult in terms of the work and tests, they also require more of a student’s time and AP/Honors teachers know how to assign boatloads of homework.  In addition to academics, Juniors are playing more Varisity sports and may spend a lot of the time in other school activities (planning Prom, etc.).

You can see why the last thing Juniors want to do when they are finished with their homework is study for the SAT/ACT.

Did I mention the pressure of deciding on a college?  It is looming in the back of their minds, adding to their stress.

What do I suggest?

Start mid-Sophomore year getting used to the test(s).  If there is no possible way for you to get going in the middle of the year/Spring Semester, then plan on starting at the beginning of Summer Break.  (Just know that this will be tough to get motivated once School is out.)

Categories: All, Front Scroll, SAT/ACT

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