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Maybe you’re tired of thinking about standardized tests like the SAT or ACT looming in your future.
Or maybe you’re dreading the approach of test season and want to delay it as long as the colleges of your choice will allow.
Regardless, the question remains: When is the best time for you to be taking the SAT or ACT?
Common wisdom holds that students should take the SAT or ACT in the spring semester of the year before they apply to college (known in the US as the junior year of high school). The first test-taking date of the senior year is also acceptable.
You can take the SAT or ACT before then. But ask yourself: Is it in your best interest to do so? The test is designed for 11th and 12th graders, so you probably won’t be as prepared as if you wait – especially with the ACT, which focuses more on classroom knowledge.
You also shouldn’t wait too long to take the SAT or ACT. The latest you can take them and still have the scores appear on your US university application by the deadline is December of your senior year. You also want to have time to retake the test if your ACT or SAT scores aren’t as high as you had hoped.
It’s good to have confidence in your test-taking abilities, but it’s not smart to let an important part of your transcript depend on one make-or-break day.
Who knows what could happen? Illness, personal problems or simply a mental off-day could negatively affect your SAT or ACT score and leave you wishing you had time to retake the test.
Some students like the idea of taking the SAT or ACT when they’re on winter or spring break from school. They aren’t worrying about school, they have more time to study, and they have more time to rest and relax so they can be fresh on test day.
However, during your vacation your brain and body could be recovering from your action-packed school schedule. It could be more difficult to motivate yourself for the SAT or ACT when your brain isn’t quite functioning at full capacity.
In the end, there’s no definite answer. Just be honest with yourself and figure out which situation will help you function best.
The vast majority of students taking the SAT or ACT do so in the spring of their junior year and, if they decide to retake it, in the fall of their senior year. (It’s not recommended that you take a standardized test more than two or, at most, three times.) Those dates simply make the most sense because of where you’re at academically and where college application deadlines occur.
Determine the best time for you to be taking the SAT or ACT. You don’t want to wait too long to take your tests, but you also don’t want to take them too early!