Studies have shown that preparing early for these tests improves your ultimate scores.
Why? Well, preparing early allows for more distributed learning sessions, more contact time, exposure to the material, and more time to take official tests. To understand a concept you need to be able to apply it to other problems that you will be tested on in the future. If you are cramming for an exam you are using memorization. After the test the information may leave your brain. To truly learn you must study at a deeper level. Here are some techniques:
- Pick a Prep Method and Make a Study Plan. Follow through.
- Stay on Schedule. As I outlined, waiting until the last minute means that you are no longer studying – you are memorizing.
- Actively Learn. Studies have shown this to be the most effective way to study. As you read your notes and your text, create exercises for yourself to ensure you are learning the material. Apply it, or discuss it, or try to teach a friend the information.
Testing companies suggest that you prepare for 6 – 8 weeks before taking your first sanctioned test. This makes you more confident, relaxed and capable. Here is information on preparing effectively.
Experts agree that students should take the test three times between junior year and the beginning of senior year. Multiple testing periods may allow for some colleges to Superscore your test. Through repeated testing, there is also a gain in mastery and exposure. You get a different effect from a live sitting vs. a practice test. When you’re in a live test, each time you take it work for a higher score. This reinforces a feeling of accomplishment.
All testing should be finished by October of senior year so that you can take advantage of Early Action and Early Decision application deadlines, which in the admissions process can give you an enormous advantage.
For these reasons I want all my juniors to take a timed and scored practice test for both the SAT & ACT in late fall or early winter. From those we will determine which is the better test for you. Here is the conversion table. If you are better at one test, stick with that exam. If you are the same or close, it is the student’s preference.
If you are taking Algebra 2 in junior year, you should not take your standardized tests until May or June since this material is part of either test. Otherwise, depending on your test scores, we will put together a plan of when to take the tests. We will do this at our January meeting, when we will also review what classes to take senior year, summer plans, and grades.
Both the ACT & SAT have added new summer testing dates (see all dates) except the August one which is not yet scheduled. There are not enough seats for these tests due to a limited number of schools offering them, so we want to sign-up early.
May and June are the best time to take SAT subject tests so that they correlate with your AP classes. Only top-tier colleges are using these scores, however.
In summary, testing is a journey which is best to start early so your results will be positive.