Enjoying Your Summer and Prepping For the Fall
Should I prep this summer for fall tests or wait until school starts?
Believe us, we know. You’ve spent the past 5-6 months in school mode and are tired. You’re in the midst of final exams or just finished them, and the last thing you want to think about is another test for a good long while. And you’re right! When school lets up, the first thing you should do is take a much-deserved break. Read a book you actually enjoy; go on a Parks and Recreation binge; climb a mountain. And when you’re done with that, read the rest of this article.
Alright, I hope that you enjoyed whatever it was that you did and that you feel rested! Let’s talk about creating a plan for the fall tests to set you up for success with the SAT or ACT tests. The first ACT of the 2015-16 academic year is September 12th, followed by October 24 and December 12th. The first SAT takes place on October 3rd, then on November 7th, and December 5th. This means that you have the opportunity to prepare over the summer before all the craziness with school and sports starts, take the first two or so sittings of your desired test, get the score you need, and hang up your “test prep hat.” What are common objections that we hear from students about starting test prep over the summer and finishing in the fall?
My summer is too busy.
Some students have busier summers than school years. Maybe they are working a 40-hour-a-week internship, are taking summer classes, or are doing extensive traveling. For most students, however, you will have significantly more free time during the summer than during the school year. For rising juniors, you are about to enter one of the most important semesters of your high school experience, replete with AP courses and the serious start of your college search. You will be working hard to keep your grades up, participate on your sports team, contribute by way of community service, and demonstrate to numerous colleges that you are interested in them. Wouldn’t it be nice not to worry about getting the SAT or ACT scores to compete with other applicants because you did the hard work over the summer and already reached your score goal? If you have half an hour each day of the week, then you have enough time to prepare meaningfully for the fall tests.
I’ve heard that the fall tests are harder than the spring ones.
We’ve done our research on this based on our student data and have shown that there is no predictably easy or hard test date. Certainly, some tests have more punishing curves than others, but we have not found them to consistently fall during one testing period. An October test has many seniors trying for one last test before applying early to their schools, but it also has rising juniors who are taking the test for the first time. Both the College Board and the ACT do a reasonably good job of ensuring fairness across multiple testing periods.
I’m worried that colleges won’t accept an old SAT score.
In all of our conversations with college admissions officers, we have not found a college yet that will not accept an old SAT score for a rising junior. Think about it from the college’s perspective. At the moment, it has no idea how to evaluate the redesigned SAT because the College Board has no real data evaluating student performance on its test. It will lose applicants if it prohibits students from submitting their old SAT scores, and the last thing a college wants to do is lose potential applicants. If in doubt, give your prospective college a call and ask them if they will accept an old SAT score for a rising junior. That should set your mind at ease about preparing for the fall.
I just want to enjoy my summer.
Enjoying your summer vacation and spending time preparing for the fall SAT or ACT tests are not mutually exclusive options. As I said earlier, if you spend about 20-30 minutes a day practicing with math problems, reading questions, vocabulary, or grammar rules, you will be setting yourself up for success for the October test. We totally want you to enjoy your summer; we also want you to have a great start to your fall year.
For more thoughts on how to prep for standardized tests this summer, check out “Get a Leg Up on Test Prep This Summer.”