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When Should You Take the SAT?
7 Things to Keep in Mind

William Cohen
Published by William Cohen
Last Updated On: June 5, 2021

If you are trying to get into university, you have probably considered taking the SAT or ACT. When you take the SAT, your score choice can make or break your college admissions. The SAT (and ACT) scores measure how well you can analyze and solve multiple-choice problems under different subjects.

If you plan to take the SAT for the first time (junior year or senior year), you can use the following information for test prep.

SAT Testing Dates

The College Board administers the SAT seven times a year in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. The test dates are on either the first or second day of these months.

Students in their high school junior year spring term or those in their high school senior year fall term are typically the ones who take the SAT. We recommend that you take your first SAT in the fall of junior year to give yourself an opportunity for a second time if you are unsatisfied with your initial results. [1]

7 Steps When Choosing Your Exam Day

SAT studying materials

To help you decide on your SAT test dates, you may use the following guide. We compared and contrasted our team's experiences when we took the SAT with what the new first-year students used to take the SAT to develop this concise strategy.

1. Plan Your Test Date

The first step in taking your first SAT test (preferably in your high school junior year) is planning when you should take one. We recommend that you strategize taking the SAT in your sophomore year or at least three months before the test registration. The SAT is usually taken in the middle or towards the fall of junior year. Start deciding your test dates around December of sophomore year or January of the current year.

2. Get Comfortable

You have to prepare well for the SAT subject tests, even if you decide to take it a second time. Taking the test requires many SAT practice tests, which can help with faster retention even if you take your first time in junior year. To do so, you have to consider a lot of factors and options for your SAT prep. Give yourself time to get comfortable before you take the SAT prep materials, especially the method used to teach them.

Planning early (for when you take the test for the first time in junior year) also gives you some leeway to retake the exam if you are unsatisfied with your initial results. It saves you from the uncertainty of not knowing what to do next if you fail to meet your target, which frees more time for revisions.

Students should consider the different scenarios that might occur and always give some time to recover for unexpected results (e.g., bad scores).

3. Choose Your Test Location

Administration of the SATs happens nationwide, so another critical decision to make is where you would take the exam. To look for your SAT testing location, you may visit the College Board website that has a helpful tool for locating which centers are nearest to your area.

We recommend that you find SAT testing locations by state and zip code. You may choose from centers near your city rather than being limited to the area immediately around you. Once you have selected a particular SAT location, you may then register. There are only a limited number of seats available per site, hence the need to file early to get your desired SAT test date.

4. Fix Personal Schedules

Woman holding a calendar and phone

Again, the SATs are not just your average high school exams. It is what determines which college you will get yourself into, and doing well is essential. To fully concentrate on one goal during test-day, which is to ace the exam, you need to free your schedule.

Tie loose ends months before the actual date to avoid conflict, and make sure that you have time to relax and rest one week before the SAT date.

You may think that this is unnecessary for your testing experience, but it is a real need. Getting into your dream school and achieving your target score may sound challenging, and it is. Therefore, you have to remove any blocks that may cause you to fall short of what you have to do.

Recommended Article: How Long is the SAT?

5. Check College Application Deadlines

One other consideration for your SAT exam date is the college application deadlines. Different universities have their corresponding protocols and admissions policies, and each has unique application deadlines. Not only do you have to consider whether your SAT scores are high enough for your target college, but you have to adjust your SAT applications with that of the school as well.

6. Check The Testing Requirements

Keep in mind that your school may require that students take the ACT instead. Students take this test in place of the SAT score to supplement their college application. Junior and senior students, the ones to whom SAT is offered, are the same population who need to take this test. Like the timeline when the SAT is offered, students can take the test in the spring of their junior year or the fall school year.

7. Give Ample Time For Review

As we have mentioned previously, it is imperative to dedicate much time practicing if you want to ace your SAT for the first few tries. To practice is the key to getting good SAT scores, and to achieve that, you have to have time. This advice is concerned with the actual answering of practice tests.

You should also acknowledge revisions such as memorizing concepts and learning new problem-solving techniques. Although three to four months is the average time students dedicate to SAT preps, you can extend or shorten the length. You know what works well for you, so adjust the process accordingly

"I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky."

 

- Oprah Winfrey, American talk show host and philanthropist

When To Register

Typing using a laptop

After you decide on your preferred SAT test date based on the guide above, the next step is registration. You can do this online by visiting the College Board website dedicated to the SATs. Again, every testing center has a limited number of seats.

Settle with a date, sign up, and reserve your seat. In particular, this advice is essential for those taking the test overseas as it will be harder to look for another center with the same date. [1]

Late Registration

If, for instance, you find yourself registering late for the SAT, you have to pay a late fee that amounts to about $30. Typically, the late deadline is three weeks after the regular deadline, which also happens three weeks before the SAT.

However, we do not recommend registering late because it gives you a lesser chance to choose the testing location (and test dates) most accessible to you. Also, you are paying an extra amount of money, so you might as well register on time.

Now, if you end up not having a decision even after the late registration deadline, you can still register online and place yourself on the SAT waitlist. Take note that you cannot do onsite registration; hence you should register at least five days before the test date.

There is no guarantee you will get a seat, and you are unlikely able to choose a testing location. Nonetheless, make sure to bring your waitlist ticket on the test day and come to the center early. The policy for accepting SAT waitlist registrants is first to arrive, first served. [1]

Read More:

Changing Your Test Date

If you want to change your test date for whatever reason - it can be a personal emergency or merely a change of mind - you can proceed online and change your SAT date. You have to pay a fee of around $30, and again, there is no guarantee you'll get your preferred SAT testing location and date.

We do not recommend doing this as it can ruin your well-made test prep plans, but the decision is up to you.

Wrapping Up

The SAT is one of the most crucial examinations you will sit on before attending university. It is empirical that you do well, as most prestigious colleges look at the SAT scores when deciding the students they will accept. You want to do well to highlight your qualifications, and you can if you prepare rigorously and smartly.

The formula to success in the SAT (that is, getting your high score choice) is firmness and readiness with your decisions, especially for a seemingly small but essential thing as the test date.

Reference:

  1. https://blog.collegeboard.org/when-should-you-take-the-sat

About the author

William Cohen

William Cohen

William is an electrical engineer whose great passion is helping promising students achieve their goals and dreams. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and expertise with aspiring learners from all over the world.

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