When should an 11th grader start college admissions testing?

Parents and students ask this question every time a new school year is about to begin.

The answer depends on when the 11th grader wants to complete testing, and on how prepared the student is if he/she wants to start testing early.

The advantage to finishing early is that the student can then focus his/her attention in the fall of the Senior Year on college visitations, writing the application essay(s), preparing college admissions materials, etc.

The disadvantage to starting early is that college testing may require curriculum content which the student won’t be exposed to until later in the Junior Year. This information, however, should be readily available from the student’s school.

Here is some basic SAT information.

The SAT is given in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June.
You can take it whenever you like and as often as you like.

The best way to get the highest score is to take the test, get the maximum feedback available, identify areas of weakness as indicated by the feedback, strengthen weak areas, take the test again…Rinse and Repeat as many times as necessary.

Scores are reported approximately 4 weeks after the test.
The Score Report you receive, however, provides minimal feedback.

If you take the test in August, November, December, and June, you can pay extra for the Student Answer Service. The SAS provides partial feedback. You receive a list of the correct answers, a list of your answers, questions are rated by difficulty, and question types such as Command of Evidence (reading comprehension), Word in Context(vocabulary and context clues), Standard English Conventions(grammar), etc. are identified. You do not, however, get the questions themselves.

If you take the test in October, March, or May you can pay extra for the Question & Answer Service. The Q&AS provides maximum feedback. You get all of the above plus a copy of the test booklet.

You’ll pay roughly twice as much for the Q&AS as you will for the SAS but it’s worth it because you get the questions..

Now consider the ramifications of what I’m about to say:
Both SAS reports and Q&AS reports arrive 12-14 weeks after the student takes the test. The delay in getting maximum feedback (i.e. the Q&AS) “drives” what I’m about to recommend.

If you want to finish early, prep for the October test. When you register, elect both the optional essay and the Q&AS. You’ll get your Score Report in November. The Q&AS results will arrive in December.
Prep for the March test using the Q&AS report.
When you register for the March test, elect the optional essay. If you want to finish in May or June, also elect the SAS.
If you want to finish in August, elect the Q&AS instead.

If finishing admissions testing early is not important, then use the above procedure for SAT tests in March, May or June, and August.

Should an 11th grader also take the PSAT in October?
f you’ve already taken the PSAT as a sophomore, then I’d say the junior PSAT is optional. I recommend taking it because practice makes perfect and because you automatically receive both the Score Report and the SAS. In fact, if you ask for a copy of the PSAT test booklet, they will give you one-SO ASK FOR IT!!


Much of what I’ve already said also applies to the ACT.
The ACT is given in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.
The equivalent of the SAT’s Q&AS is the ACT’s TIR(Test Information Release).

The TIR is available in December, April, and June tests. The reporting time for the TIR is approximately 8 weeks after taking the test. With those dates in mind, 11th graders should prep for the test in December. When they register, they should elect the optional essay and the TIR. They should then prep for the test in April. As before, registration for the April test should include the optional essay and the TIR. Skip the June test. The TIR report won’t arrive in time to help.

As with the SAT, if they want to finish early, they should elect the test in July.

If finishing college admissions testing early is not important, then use the above procedure for ACT tests in April, June, and September or October.