When is the Right Time to Take the SAT/ACT?

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The recent New York Times article When to Take the SAT chronicles a disturbing new trend in which students are preparing for and taking the SAT & ACT exams at an earlier age than ever before. The article points out that more than ten times as many middle school students completed an SAT test in 2014 than in 2010 and that this trend is likely to continue in the years to come. School districts at the middle school (and elementary school!) levels have already begun implementing SAT/ACT test prep into educational curricula while an increasing number of Test Prep Centers are advocating preparing for these exams at younger and younger ages!

The fact of the matter is that the SAT & ACT are very important exams that students should spend considerable time preparing for, however, there is very little to be gained by studying for these tests before Sophomore year. Both exams test students on advanced mathematical, grammatical, literary, and, in the case of the ACT, scientific principles that are rather universally included in Freshman, Sophomore and Junior high school curricula. The overwhelming majority of students I work with on these exams see their scores rise rather significantly from the end of their Sophomore year to the end of Junior year as they finish learning the aforementioned concepts in high school. Furthermore, there are seven SAT and six ACT tests administered each academic year with no limit or penalty for taking these tests multiple times. If test-anxiety is an issue, students can take the SAT and ACT exam as many times as they want their Sophomore, Junior and Senior year to achieve their desired.

In my experience, the best course of action is to focus on school work before weighing various test prep options one’s Sophomore or Junior year.

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