Three Spring and Summer Test Prep Tips for Juniors
As the spring semester of your Junior year winds down, it’s still not too late to get going on the SAT or ACT.
While many high school juniors are wrapping up their SAT/ACT prep, many others are just getting started now. If you’re in the latter group, this article’s for you. Maybe you were busy with fall and winter sports, or your college application list has changed. Or your top choice is no longer test optional.
Whatever the reason, there’s no reason to fret about getting on track to have SAT or ACT scores for your fall college applications. Here are three tips to help you get started and get on track.
Start by choosing between the SAT and ACT
As a current junior, you have roughly 6 to 8 months (depending on where you plan to apply and whether you plan to apply early decision or not) to study, take the test, and hit your goal score.
With the time remaining, it’s important to commit to one test or the other. The best way to determine which test is best for you is to take a practice test of each. If you took a PSAT back in October, that will give you a good sense whether the SAT is a good fit for you. Comparing your PSAT scores to practice ACT scores will give you an even better sense.
You may also want to consider which math class you took in junior year. The SAT tops out at algebra 2 concepts, while the ACT includes many precalculus concepts. Additionally, the SAT is a test that focuses on your comprehension and application of concepts, while the ACT tests your ability to process a greater variety of concepts at a faster rate. If you prefer to think things through a bit more, you might find the SAT to be a better fit. On the other hand, if you thrive in a more fast-paced setting, you might prefer the ACT.
For more information about the differences between the two tests, check out our comparison guide, here.
Set up a testing timeline
With a shortened timeline, it’s important to be strategic about when you’ll be testing. The SAT offers tests in June, August, October, November, and December. The ACT offers tests in June, July, September, October, and December.
Typically, we advise that students plan for three testing dates. Our research shows that students typically get their highest score on their second or third official test attempt. Plus, multiple test dates confer the benefits of superscoring (combining your best section scores from multiple test dates for a higher overall score). If you hit your goal score early, all the better! But having a plan that includes multiple test dates will ensure you’re not scrambling.
As you select your test dates, it would be wise to plan to take one of the summer tests, which would give you an opportunity to retest in the fall.You should be aware that the July ACT is notorious for having limited testing locations as many testing sites are shut down for summer break. If you’re planning any early decision or early action applications, you’ll want to have all testing done by October. If you’re applying for standard admission, then you have until December to finish testing.
Maximize your summer-studying
Preparing for the SAT or ACT over the summer is a double-edged sword. On one side, you don’t have to worry about managing test prep with your schoolwork. You can study when you want and potentially where you want.
The danger comes with having too much free time. It’s easier to get into full “summer mode” and fall into irregular sleep habits. If you’ve been staying up to 2 or 3 AM every night, it’ll be hard to align yourself to a test that starts at 9 AM.
Rest is an important component of performance, so make sure that you guide yourself to sensible sleeping habits two weeks before the test date. A great way to get into a summer study rhythm is to schedule your test prep study time in the morning. One hour of practice first thing will do wonders for your performance on test day.