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When Should SAT or ACT Prep Start?

hi I'm dr. Robert Cohen one question I

get asked a lot is when a student should

start preparing for the s80 or a CT what

I always tell parents is that if

possible they should start the summer

before junior year so why should they

start so early well let me preface all

this by saying that the final date a

student is able to take the s80 or a CT

and Stillson it to colleges as an

applicant will be generally in the fall

of senior year and that date is going to

approach pretty quickly in fact if a

student applies early decision the

latest they can take the s80 or a CT

senior year is either november or

october um for some schools the earliest

sorry the latest as a CT day senior year

is September so by starting to prep the

summer before junior year that ensures

that a child will have at least one year

of time to prep for the test and take

the test possibly more than once I think

that having at least a year is really

the right amount of time because student

for really two main reasons students

take usually a number of months to

really adequately prepare for either the

s80 the s80 or a CT and additionally

they're probably going to take either

test more than once you know part of the

reason is that students tend to score

within a range so you know on a good day

they may get an 800 and math msat on a

bad day they may get a 700 so by taking

the test more than once either two or

three times you're getting a broader

range of scores and because colleges are

only going to pick the highest score it

becomes more likely that the student

will obtain a higher score and unlike

some other tests that are available on

the computer the s80 and a CT are still

paper tests so that means they're only

offered a couple times of year a year so

test dates are spaced out often by one

month or two months sometimes even a bit

more so you want to have you know a

range of dates test dates to pick from

make sure you can have get two or three

test dates that would be convenient for

the student another great reason to

start the summer before junior year is

because summer is when students usually

have the most time to study once the

school year starts students get you know

really bogged down with homework with

extracurriculars um so setting aside

that summer time to get going can allow

them to get a lot more studying under

their belt the last thing you want to

have happen is the student not be able

to do enough prep and then to find

themselves to three weeks before the

test trying to cram everything in you

know right before the test which usually

doesn't work very well and can really

cause major burn out the last big reason

to start early is that the college

application process is very intensive

it's all-consuming and you know the

student is going to be increasingly

involved in this process picking

colleges thinking about application

scholarships as junior year and senior

year roll along so the sooner you can

knock out the s80 and a CT on the better

because then you have more time to think

about and work on the applications also

knowing the s80 or a CT score earlier on

in the college admissions process is

helpful because it gives you a better

idea of what range of schools the

student would be competitive that okay

so at this point you might be saying

great start early so why not start

before on the summer before junior year

well I think this is a bad idea because

you know each year in school students

are learning skills that are going to be

very applicable to the test they're

vocabs improving their critical reading

their reasoning skills and they're

learning more and more math which is

obviously going to show up on the test

so you know they need to have geometry

and algebra one completed at a bare

minimum before going into either test

and they're not likely to have completed

both of those before that summer now

there are some students

out there who you know can take a

practice test freshman or sophomore year

and score fantastically and if your

child is one of those students you know

please by all means have them take the

test now and get it out of the way um

but for the vast majority of students

you know they're going to be at a real

disadvantage if they try and take it as

a sophomore or as a freshman because

they're simply going to be competing

with people but much more schooling

under their belt that's going to be

really critical for either test alright

so in some start the summer before a

junior year not everyone will be able to

start that summer you maybe have you

know a trip to Antarctica or something

and study is not feasible who knows but

try and start as closely as possible to

that time