By Jessica Brondo
Hopefully you’re in the middle of enjoying the last days of summer (and not scrambling to finish your last minute summer projects), but since Labor Day is around the corner, it’s inevitable that you’ll need to start thinking about school and the fall exams. But how do you know if you need to take them again OR if you should take them for the first time.
If You’ll Be a Senior…..
You should really only take the SAT and/or ACT again if you haven’t hit the scores you need for your dream schools. Now when I say this, I don’t mean you need to be at the top of that school’s range, but if you’re at the low-end of the range, you might want to give the test another shot in order to see if you can bump your score up to the middle of the range. HOWEVER, if you have done zero prep this summer and plan to jump right back into school and take the September 10 ACT, you should probably hold that thought. There’s no point in taking the test again if your score isn’t going to increase (or, even worse, go down), and if you haven’t done any prep this summer, there’s no reason to assume that your score will magically increase. You could probably take the October SAT if you plan to commit to doing lots of prep work in September and taking several practice exams.
In terms of how many times you should take the test, it varies based on whether you’re taking the SAT or ACT. The ACT is a score choice exam, meaning that you don’t have to report all of your scores to colleges. So technically, you could take the exam as many times as you want and only report your “good” scores. You don’t want to burn yourself out, but I’d say go for it, if you’ve been prepping this summer, even if it will be your fourth time taking the test.
The SAT also offers score choice, but not all schools allow that, so you definitely have to be a lot more careful when deciding whether to take the SAT again. If the schools you’re interested in allow score choice, then test away, but if they don’t, you really want to take several practice tests in September to make sure that your scores will actually improve. The last thing you need is for your scores to decrease.
If You’ll Be a Junior….
You might not want to jump right into taking exams just yet, unless you’ve done a ton of prep during the summer and have been acing all of your practice exams. An ideal timeline would be to take your PSAT either October 12 or 15 (depending when your school offers it) and then take an ACT on October 22. Your PSAT scores are released in December and your ACT scores will be released in November. This will give you the opportunity to compare your SAT and ACT scores to see which test is a better option for you. If you score drastically higher on one test, you should probably focus your efforts on prepping for that test, rather than dividing your time between two exams. Then you should aim to take the exam again in the spring.
Hope this helps. Which tests are you taking in the fall?