While most of your standardized test taking will happen during your junior year, there are many things you can do to start preparing early. College may not be the first thing on your mind as you start high school, but by thinking ahead you can give yourself an edge on college applications. Here’s what to think about during your freshman year. You’ll thank yourself later!
· It’s not too soon to enroll in SAT & ACT prep classes. The earlier you start, the better prepared you’ll be.
· Start thinking about SAT Subject Tests*. Not all colleges require these, but if your goal is to attend a highly competitive college, you should start considering what high school classes to take in preparation. For example, the foreign language Subject Tests require at least 3 years of coursework, but the listening tests can be taken each November by anyone that is fluent.
· We’re getting redundant, but start your ACT and SAT prep classes! Even just once a week will help you start learning the types of questions you’ll see and leave you much more relaxed come test time.
· Two SAT Subject Tests* to consider taking at the end of this year are the World History and Chemistry tests. As they are quite challenging, these tests are only appropriate if you are currently in their respective AP level classes.
· Take the PLAN test to prepare for the ACT, if it is offered at your high school. The results do not count for college, but are a great way to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. PLAN scores can predict how you will do on the ACT and help you know where to focus your preparation efforts.
· Crunch time! Test Prep should ideally begin no later than the summer before junior year,so you are ready for fall testing. The PSAT will be taken in October and then the SAT and ACT can be taken as early as December and February, respectively.
One benefit of taking the tests in the winter months is to avoid testing with high-level seniors, since many of their college application deadlines will have already passed. Removing these scores typically gives the winter tests a more generous curve. In addition, if you aren’t happy with your scores in the winter you will have plenty of time to retake the tests in the spring. The only exception to this early-testing rule is for the ACT. For most students, you will want to wait until the April ACT date to give yourself more math preparation time.
· The SAT Subject Tests* should be taken in May and/or June of your junior year. They aren’t required for all college applications, so be sure to check with the schools you’re interested in. And be careful with your timing – you can’t take the Subject Tests the same day as the regular SAT!