Many people think taking the SAT/ACT is a 12th grade thing. I remember that was my mindset when I was a high school senior, too.
If you get anything out of this article, it should be that waiting until 12th grade to take the SAT or ACT is a bad idea. In fact, since scores take a while to process, it can cause your student to miss an application deadline and ruin his/her chance of getting into the college. No joke.
If you get anything else out of this article, it should be that SATs and ACTs are not the kind of tests you wait until 12th grade to think about. Students who take these tests without practice and without experience may not do well. They might, but taking the tests multiple times often results in higher scores. Why take that chance?
It’s so much better to start planning early.
Time and Preparation
In my professional opinion, which matches the opinions of many other experts in this field, SAT and ACT test taking requires time and preparation. Preparation, when done right, that spans all four years of a high school education; and preparation, that if ignored, can harm a student’s chances of getting into college and receiving scholarships.
The purpose of this article is to give you a workable plan, one you can use to plan your student’s high school testing experience. It is based on my research, what I learned thru my own childrens’ successes, and what I’ve seen via the families I work with (comparing those who listened to this advice, and those who didn’t).
Are there other ways to plan SAT and ACT testing? Of course. But, if you’re looking for advice from a the parent of high scoring students (we’ve even had a “perfect” here and there), read on.
Grade by Grade Recommendations
for SAT and/or ACT Testing
Research and preparedness
- Begin conversations about college.
- When in doubt if a student is college-bound, assume yes.
- Learn the names of each test, the cost, the registration process, and browse test schedules.
- Offer high school courses that target the specific subject areas covered on each test.
- Begin researching colleges and universities, programs and careers, and requirements.
- Involve student in every step (in later grades, this should be student-led).
PSAT in the fall
Actual test in the spring (optional)
- Continue all 9th grade activities.
- Register for fall PSAT at your local high school. Take it for learning and practice.
- Target which test(s) to study for. Purchase study workbooks. Find sample tests online.
- Start studying in the spring, a little every day or week throughout the rest of the school year.
- Register for an actual test in the spring. Don’t send scores; use for learning and practice.
- Plan for intense study over the summer.
PSAT in the fall
Test in the fall
Test in the spring
Test in late summer (optional)
- Continue all 9th grade activities, paying special attention to strengthening areas of weakness.
- Take PSAT in October (for National Merit eligibility and additional practice)
- Purchase updated materials for newest test(s) as needed. Use only reputable materials.
- Continue regular studying. Take practice tests (actual previous tests).
- Use classes, workshops, tutors, or other help if necessary.
- Decide which test (SAT or ACT or both) seems most appropriate for the student.
- When looking at test-optional colleges, discuss the possible impact of skipping tests altogether.
- Create online account with test provider(s). Explore college planning tools available there, too.
- Decide if writing portion of test is necessary (check with colleges).
- Decide if subject tests are needed (check with colleges).
- Test in fall
- Unless a perfect score in fall, test again in spring.
- Plan summer test if necessary.
- Send best spring (or summer) scores to colleges of choice.
- Continue intense studying if needed.
Early fall testing (optional)
- Continue all 9th grade activities.
- Test again if scores will process in time for college deadlines.
- Make sure best and highest scores are sent to colleges of choice (or all if super-scored).
As you can see, it’s all about 11th grade. That’s why it’s so important to use grades 9 and 10 wisely for preparation and practice. This is exactly what I recommend, and almost exactly the schedule my children followed before each received lots of acceptance letters, lots of free tuition and lots of great scholarships. If you need help with this, I’ve linked some articles, below. If you still need help, I’m available.
To your success,
Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT,Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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