Your junior year of high school can easily become the Year of College Preparation. From standardized test review to building a strong resume of extracurriculars and challenging classes to preliminary research into colleges and majors, you will have many demands on your time.
One way to buy yourself a bit of breathing room is to register for the earliest SAT or ACT test date. For the SAT, the first available exam session is August 26, with a regular registration deadline of July 28. The first ACT test date is September 9, with August 4 as the regular registration deadline.
Remember that you can take each test more than once, so registering for an early session does not preclude you from retaking the exam later. Here are three reasons to register for the first SAT or ACT of the school year.
1. The first test can serve as a baseline: Most SAT and ACT study plans strongly suggest completing a practice test early in the preparation process. While there is always a chance that the results will be discouraging, these can help you build a targeted review strategy.
However, practice exams only go so far in replicating the stress of your SAT or ACT test date. Gaining access to an exam center early in the process will help you paint a very realistic picture of your readiness.
If you are already scoring above your target result, then you have removed one challenge from your junior year. This will leave you with more time to focus on other tasks.
If you do not score as well as you had hoped, you will gain insight into where to focus your efforts. As you take later practice tests, you will be able to measure yourself against your first exam score. Your study plan should produce measurable results – if you are not improving, you will also have time to change your plan or seek extra help.
2. The first test can free you from undue stress: Summer is rarely a full rest period for the modern high school student. Whether you are tackling an Advanced Placement reading list, a summer internship or part-time summer employment, you are unlikely to be sitting at home passing time.
Even so, the lack of formal school work often means that summer provides an opportunity for focused, in-depth study. Many prep plans suggest devoting an hour a day to SAT or ACT review, spread out over the course of several months. “Slow and steady” can be a great study tactic, but it can also be a constant drain on your resources.
The unfortunate truth is that your junior year of high school will be one of multiple competing responsibilities. Getting your SAT or ACT exam out of the way early can help you remove a significant source of stress, especially if you must also manage challenging coursework and demanding extracurriculars.
3. The first test can influence your coursework: Even if you take the earliest SAT or ACT possible and do poorly, you will have a head start on preparing for a later exam date. As a bonus, many of the skills you need for these standardized tests are transferable to high school coursework, so you will also be getting a head start on your classes.
Taking the SAT or ACT early can likewise help you refine your choice of courses for the remainder of high school. If, for example, you fared poorly on the reading portion of either exam, you will have time to take a literature-focused elective or find online classes, if no electives are applicable to your goals. Do not choose classes just to maximize your exam scores, but do use the SAT and ACT to help identify courses that will further your education.
Reading and writing are critical skills for success in college – and life beyond school. The math on these exams maps less explicitly to real-world skills, but it is very good for developing the mathematical reasoning essential for success in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
There are several potential advantages to taking the SAT or ACT at your earliest opportunity. When deciding on a test date, remember to weigh the benefits of a head start against the cost of study time.
Omega Learning® Center is AdvancED accredited nationwide and provides tutoring and test preparation services for grades K-12. To find a learning center near you, visit OmegaLearning.com.