I’ve been tutoring for over 15 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many kids looking forward to taking an SAT or ACT as there are this year. The rising seniors kind of had the testing rug pulled out from under them this year, and now they’re all raring to test in the fall. So where does that leave you? Hopefully, your upcoming year will look more normal than last year, but it’s really hard to say at this point. As you play the waiting game this summer, be sure to pick a test, get registered ASAP, and use the downtime to your advantage.
The College Board opened up one additional test date in September, so there’s now an SAT in every month from August to December. Even so, seats in some regions — including the DMV — are filling up fast. Check out this incredibly helpful chart that shows just how fast test centers are reaching capacity. That should be all the impetus you need to register now! And you might want to register for two test dates rather than one, just to be safe.
Fall ACTs start in September, but registration is not currently open. Just this week, though, the ACT announced three additional test dates, making a total of 6 between September and December. Historically, the ACT doesn’t open registration for the fall tests until registration closes for the July test date. This year, the last day of late registration for July is Fri., June 26, so you might want to start checking the ACT website soon after. You can also keep an eye on your inbox, since we’ll be letting everyone know when registration officially opens.
So How Do You Prepare?
You’ve still got literally months before you’ll be testing, so what do you do now? The first thing to do is decide which test is the best fit for you, if you already haven’t. The best way to do that is to take practice tests), but you might want to learn a little about the differences between the tests before you do that!
After you’ve made your decision, it’s time to get started with the prep. So when is the right time? I’d argue that the best time to prepare is when you have the time, and that could very well be this summer. The SAT and ACT aren’t intelligence or IQ tests. Like most others, they’re simply tests of acquired skills. The skills required to be successful on these tests, however, aren’t necessarily the ones that are required to be successful in school, and that’s where the prep comes in: skills are acquired through practice. If you’ve got some time on your hands this summer because your awesome plans fell through, you might as well start acquiring those skills that’ll help you on test day, whenever that may be. Once you’ve gained those skills and demonstrated that on some practice tests, it takes much less work and time to keep those skills sharp. There are plenty of metaphors that work here: it’s hard to sharpen a dull knife, but once it’s sharp, it stays sharp. You can jump right on that bike and take off after you’ve learned to ride. It’s the same thing here.
What about Test-Optional?
You’ve also likely seen that pretty much every college you care about has gone test-optional for your graduating class. That’s great. Colleges are reacting to the uncertainty in the testing calendar in the right way and will likely be understanding for those who are unable to test or unable to test multiple times. So, what should you do? Well, think of it like this: colleges are also internship-optional. And extracurricular-optional. And AP-optional. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to do internships or extracurriculars or take AP exams, right? The college application consists of many parts, and your job is to make as many of them as impressive as you possibly can. So will good test scores still help your chances for admission? Absolutely. And, remember, the scores are optional, so if it doesn’t work out in your favor, you don’t even have to send them. But, if you work hard to acquire the skills you need on test day and rock some great scores, your application will certainly be improved. It’s smart to give yourself every chance you can to show off what you’ve got!