When Should You Take the ACT/SAT?

We all know that preparing for the ACT and SAT can take considerable time, but how much time should it take? How early should you start studying, and when should you take the actual test?

Good preparation for these tests is demanding, so the smart move is to get started early. Remember that the test score is only one factor in the overall application--you'll want to balance test prep with your extracurriculars, AP classes, not to mention something resembling a social life. A good goal is to have your first shot complete by the spring semester of sophomore year.

Of course, the road to getting ready for test day is unique to each student. But having your goal score achieved by the end of fall semester Junior year is a fantastic place to be. Not only will you have confidence that your score makes you a competitive candidate but you will also have more time available to pursue meaningful extracurriculars and work on your class standing.

As to the question of when you’re ready for the tests, that depends on your individual strengths and challenges. First, keep in mind that the preparation time for each test varies due to differences in the two tests. (Remember, you DO NOT want to take both tests!). Decide which test you will pursue, then plan accordingly. Then you'll want to tailor your study plan based on your most difficult subjects. If you’re a math whiz but grammar gives you headaches, then your timeline is dependent on your needed improvement in grammar. At Vanguard, we target the gaps in our students’ knowledge and work to fill them until they achieve perfect or near perfect scores in the subject. The sooner you know where you need to improve, the greater your odds of improving in the subject.

Looking for more guidance in mapping your road to the SAT/ACT? Learn more about our test prep services here!

Ari McGuirk
Division Supervisor of Test Prep
University of New Mexico, MFA
Pennsylvania State University, BA

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