When should my child take the SAT and ACT?

As you undoubtedly know, the college admissions process has many different components that students must juggle while simultaneously challenging themselves with rigorous courses and demanding sports and extracurricular schedules. When you factor in college visits, PSATs, SATs, ACTs, application essays, requesting letters of applications, interviews, FAFSA, and, of course, the application form itself, the whole process can quickly become overwhelming if a student waits too long to get started. It’s essential, therefore, to get the standardized tests scheduled early enough to allow your child enough time to complete the rest of the process.

Calendar So here’s how you pin down a standardized testing plan for your child.

1. Pick the right test
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Before trying to pin down a testing schedule for your child, first make sure you aren’t inadvertently doubling what your child has to do. All colleges accept both the SAT and the ACT, and it is no longer true that some prefer one test to the other. On the other hand, students often have strong preferences for one test, with 70% of students scoring significantly better on one than the other. There is therefore no reason to take both, and students should prioritize whichever test paints them in the best light.

Pacific Learning Academy currently offers a Combination SAT/ACT Diagnostic Test. In just one test, families can learn which test is best for their child. Click here for more information.

2. Think about math readiness
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The SAT tests up to Algebra 2, whereas the ACT includes a little bit of Trigonometry. When planning test dates, make sure that your child has completed at least most of Algebra 2. It is ok to test during the spring of Algebra 2, but not advisable during first semester.

For the ACT, since there are only 4 Trig questions on the whole math test, it is not necessary to wait until the student has completed Trig or Pre-Calc. Being proficient with “sohcahtoa” will be sufficient on most of the ACT Trig questions.

3. Plan for multiple testing dates, just in case
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It’s always sad to see seniors narrowing down their list of colleges based on how late the application deadlines are. Make sure your student tests at LEAST once with sufficient time to get the scores to colleges. October is the last test to meet Early Decision deadlines. Generally, December is the absolute last test date for seniors, although some colleges will take the January SAT.

Of course, if you plan ahead using steps 1-4, step 5 becomes pretty unnecessary. Remember that the goal is to make the process less daunting. If your child is taking the right test and planning far enough in advance, your child should be able to get the SAT or ACT out of the way so that most of the fall of senior year can be devoted to college essays and the rest of the application process.

(Want help with the rest of the process? Pacific Learning Academy also offers college consulting. Whether it be narrowing down college options, planning for college visits, or simply orchestrating all of the components of the process, Pacific Learning Academy is here to help!)

Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one high school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time high school. We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including SAT/ACT diagnostic testing and prep, either in homes or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…). See more at www.PacificLearningAcademy.com.

March 19, 2013

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