Are You Too Busy for a Spring SAT/ACT?
April showers bring May flowers, and both months pack a wallop with tests of all shapes and sizes. As many states have moved to EOC (End-Of-Course) Assessments, the last month of the school year has become a testing bonanza for high school juniors in particular. In Georgia, for example, juniors are in the midst of the annual barrage of EOC Milestone tests (end of April/early May), AP exams (May 2-13), and final exams (last week of school). The mere prospect of adding another test to the plate is enough to warrant some questions: Should I even take the June SAT/ACT? When will I have time to prepare for it? What about Prom?!?! Will my grades suffer? Won’t this just make me more anxious? Can’t I just enjoy my summer?
These questions are all valid, and, while a universal answer is difficult to come by, there are several factors to consider.
1. You will want to take advantage of as many testing dates as possible.
The June SAT and ACT are popular test dates, and for good reason. After the June standardized tests, there are just three more SAT and three more ACT test dates that students can realistically hope to include on most college applications. Senior year will be chock full of important deadlines, and it would be most advantageous to have a solid SAT/ACT score before classes resume in the fall. The first fall ACT isn’t offered until September, and students will have to wait until October for another crack at the SAT (The College Board recently announced that it will offer an August SAT for the first time ever, but this will not take place until 2017). By this time, most rising seniors will already be embroiled in college applications and, at the very least, will need to make decisions about where to apply. If a student is a football/softball/volleyball player, cheerleader, cross-country runner, musician, swimmer, or involved in theater, that can also throw a wrench in preparing for or even taking the SAT or ACT in the fall. Furthermore, those students seeking early decisions from colleges will only have until the end of October to get the score they want.
2. You will want to take the tests at your best.
Another argument in favor of the June tests is that there is something to be said for taking the test while in “school mode.” Students who go into the fall tests after a summer of relaxing, traveling, or even working a summer job may not be in the right frame of mind to read, write, and do math for three hours on a Saturday morning. Although juniors are coming off an arduous year, it is important to capitalize on momentum and finish the year strong.
3. Every extra piece of data helps.
Getting an official SAT/ACT score in the books in June allows families to make an informed decision about scheduling test prep over the summer. Can Jenny work at the pool and “just chill” this summer? Or should she be meeting with her tutor during the week and taking mock tests once a month to assess progress?
4. You will have some time after exams finish up.
One option is to allow students to focus on school and grades over the last month of the semester, and then to make use of the time between when school ends and the date of the SAT/ACT. The June 4th SAT gives students who finish school at the end of May a solid week to focus on nothing but SAT prep. The ACT is on June 11th, which would give most students time for an intensive 2-week preparation period.
To cope with the frenzy of testing, parents and children (and if necessary, counselors, IECs and tutors) need to have an honest, open discussion about goals, timeline, organization and workload. Those students who have A’s in most of their classes, just one AP test, and aren’t sweating their final exams, by all means can do a couple of hours of SAT/ACT prep per week in May. Meanwhile, a student who has testing anxiety and is doing all she can to stay afloat with her three AP classes, might want to wait until school ends to renew her focus on the SAT/ACT.
Students can avoid overload and burnout by staying organized and aware of upcoming test schedules. Parents can help them not to take on more activities/responsibilities than they can handle. Junior year grades are very important when it comes to college admissions, so there is no shame in taking this month to focus the energy on school, and coming back to SAT/ACT prep with a vengeance when finals are over. We assure you – the June tests will still be there.