When to Start Taking the SAT or ACT?

Taking the SAT or ACT requires a large amount or preparation ahead of time. In order to get the best results, you should give yourself both enough time to properly study for multiple attempts as well as the time needed to prepare for each attempt. Just as you wouldn’t start studying for the SAT a week before the test, you shouldn’t take the SAT or ACT for the first time in December of your senior year.

Now, there is no correct answer or specific day of the year that someone should start studying for the SAT.  One of the most important aspects of test preparation is that every student will (and should) have a different road to success. Different students may be ready to prepare early during their high school tenure, other students may need more time to catch up to relevant material, or mature enough to handle the pressure of the exam. Some students may only need to take the exam once or twice to obtain the score they’re looking for, others may want to take it three or four times to ensure they get the score they want.

Before you begin to set a schedule for when you should take your first exam, you should look up when the exam dates are ahead of time. If there are two dates that work for you, let’s say one them is October, then you know you should begin to prepare for that test during the summer. Most students should begin preparing 4 months prior to taking their first SAT or ACT exam. Anything less leaves students prone to cramming, which does not work on standardized tests.

After you have determined when the optimal test dates are that work with your schedule, you then have to decide which year you would like to begin taking the exam. Senior year is usually not an ideal time to start the process (although it is a great time to squeak out a few more points). You would be really limiting yourself to one or two relevant exam dates, plus you would be missing out on some important time to polish your college applications. You also never know if you might get sick the day of the exam and underperform.Then you would be in a serious predicament!

Starting to take the SAT or ACT your freshman year is also not usually the best idea. There are still parts of the exam that most students are either still learning or have yet to learn, so achieving the most amount of success would not be favorable. The best time to start preparing for the SAT or ACT for many students (but not all) would be the end of Sophomoreyear. This allows the students  time to obtain knowledge necessary to ace the exam. This also grants students enough time to take the exam multiple times if they think they continue to improve. Starting to take the exam around this time offers the student a nice chunk of time to prepare for each test as well.

Being a high school student requires having many responsibilities. So, choosing when to start taking the SAT should be a simple and well-prepared decision. Don’t wait before it’s too late!


If you have any questions about when you in particular should start prepping for the SAT or ACT, or better yet which test would be better for you, contact our experts at (516)728-1561 and we will set you on the right track to success.


By: Chris Desimone, Test Prep Expert, Curvebreakers

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