Finding the Right Time to Take the SAT

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Pursuing further education with an undergraduate study is a route many high school graduates choose to go. Although some students have a calling and know exactly what they want to do academically and professionally, a vast majority are still figuring that out and need to see which path suits them best. Going through the age-old question of what you want to be when you grow up, but we are ever-changing individuals whose interests and strengths develop over time. Going to university and attaining a degree in a field of interest opens up many opportunities while the years spent allow you to hone and develop key life skills. Gaining admission into university will let you explore different options to find your calling with future opportunities still to encounter. The SAT is a large part of advancing on your path and should be treated in a serious manner.

Submitting your applications can certainly be a daunting task as there are many requirements to meet and documents to assemble. An SAT score is necessary for almost all applications, with the benchmark varying from school to school. SAT scores, in almost all cases, need to be sent in before or on the deadline for submitting applications. There are a few factors to keep in mind when figuring out your SAT schedule such as the amount of time it takes to receive your scores as well as how long it takes for the official scores to reach the admissions office. Below you will find logical strategies to ensuring that you have efficiently laid out your SAT preparation time and found an optimal date for testing based on your application deadlines and personal situation.

  1. Figure out your application deadline
    Identifying your application deadline is one of the first steps that needs to be executed before going further with a preparation plan and test date. It also serves as a motivating factor because you now have the knowledge of the timeline for studying and know that you can properly get ready for the day of the SAT. It is commonly recommended to put in around 40 hours for preparation spread out across 2-3 months and to start as close to test date as possible in order to more effectively retain the information. With the SAT only being offered a handful of times throughout the year, it is critical to lockdown your exam date and hash out the prep time. It is always possible to retake the SAT, but you have to leave yourself significant time or find out if the school to which you are applying will allow for extra time to submit scores. Some students choose to take the SAT once during their junior year (3rd year in high school) and once more in the early part of their Senior year. This is a great way to approach the SAT if you are willing and able to put in the time to effectively get ready for both attempts. Either way, having a target date (the application deadline) will serve as the building blocks of your SAT journey.

  2. Efficiently and realistically distribute your resources
    The SAT is the first standardized test for many students and is highly weighted on applications. It should not be taken lightly and does require proper preparation and motivation. Learning how to motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable are necessary aspects for executing the preparation curriculum you have come up with. You will have to effectively allocate your time, resources and attention in order to achieve an elite score, which is necessary for gaining admission into your schools of choice. Figure out when you are most receptive to new information and aim to assign your study sessions to those times every week. There are always external factors that influence life and scheduling but developing the ability to adapt and overcome these with the goal of putting yourself in the best situation for preparation are key skills that you will benefit from beyond academic purposes. Check your schedule and pick a test date that allows you to pin down your study sessions for the few months prior.

  3. Is it the right time to start university studies?
    Although many students apply to start university right after finishing their high school years, it is possible to take a gap year and do something else to make sure you are going into your college years with a fresh mindset. Taking time for self-reflection can clarify your vision of your future and help you come to a decision not only about pursuing a Bachelor’s, but also on which discipline you want to focus. Of course, it is perfectly acceptable, and sometimes advantageous, to apply directly after graduating. Taking a gap year or half year to gain life and work experience can also work in your favor as long as something productive is being done during this time. Perhaps you take the time to travel and experience something new before dedicating the next 4-5 years to education or rediscover a lost hobby, but keep in mind that the SAT is still an obstacle that will have to be overcome so some time should be dedicated to getting ready. Knowing your goals and how a bachelor’s fits into the journey are important things to consider before diving in headfirst. Having a plan will allow you to more effectively dedicate your time and energy to an academic area that actually interests you. Once you are ready to apply, it is time to get started on creating that curriculum which will lead to elite SAT scores and bolster your application.

  4. Get your test date scheduled early
    With the SAT only being offered sparsely throughout the year, it is recommended to book your test date early. Since you will need to physically attend a proctored environment to take the test, there are limited seats available. Test dates and time slots can fill up quickly, so it is a hiccup of which to be wary. Many schools also offer SAT dates that are only available to enrolled students, so it is a good idea to keep you ears open for that opportunity. If you book your test date early, you will also be able to put your mind at ease and have a set day ahead of you around which you can design your full preparation plan. Booking late and not getting a spot can only cause anxiety and unneeded stress and there is no excuse to not trying to lock in a date quite far in advance. The Collegeboard website will help guide you through this process and find the perfect date for your SAT.

  5. Identify your opportune start time
    Application deadlines for undergraduate studies are quite constant, but a few offer late registration or altered application dates. It is important to find out whether you will be applying for admission in the Spring or Fall semester depending on your situation. Knowing that some schools offer late registration or that you have a buffer to postpone your application to the next semester can give you a bit of wiggle room with regards to your SAT preparation. If things are not going according to plan for some reason, knowing there is a possibility to postpone is comforting. Keep in mind that the SAT is only offered 7 times a year, so if you do postpone, be sure to immediately look up the next possible test dates that suits your timeline. Being limited to a smaller window is perfectly acceptable but requires a well-organized plan to allow you to be ready for the SAT. Give yourself sufficient time and energy to be both mentally and physically prepared to take potentially your first standardized test by starting early and accounting for any unexpected hiccups along the way.

  6. Leave yourself time for a second attempt
    It is certainly not uncommon for students to take the SAT twice. Perhaps you just were not physically or mentally prepared on test day due to extenuating circumstances and it negatively affected your performance. If this is the case, you can look at the first sitting as a test run and get a good idea of how you reacted to the actual test environment and questions. Making sure you have enough time to potentially have a second shot at the SAT is a good approach to creating an effective study plan and will reduce anxiety on test day. Collegeboard allows students to take the SAT as many times as they want with only the most recent 6 scores being valid. You will most certainly not need 6 attempts if you prepare yourself properly, but it is comforting to know that it is feasible. Ensuring ample study time for retakes is equally important as it is not recommended to go into the next attempt believing that you have already put in enough work and will cruise through. Put in the extra effort and work on those areas of weakness to cement a higher score on your next SAT attempt and always keep your application deadlines as the highest priority.

Coming to a decision as to when the best time for your personal to take the SAT would be is something that should not be taken lightly. Approach this process with analytical thinking and keeping several factors in mind including application deadlines, personal situation and your preparation schedule. Every student learns differently so start to figure out what makes your brain work most efficiently. Clearing up time in your schedule specifically for SAT study sessions will give you a set goal and help push motivation. This will also aid in finding a suitable study environment allowing for the best chance at retention of the content being studied. Allocating time and effort into a well thought out curriculum and schedule will be a large factor in future success on the SAT, which can be extremely advantageous for future academic and occupational endeavors.

Finding the Right Time to Take the SAT


Read on the optimal timings to sit for the SAT that will give you a competitive edge. With the SAT only being offered a few times every year, it is critical to find the right time to take your exam.