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Standardizing testing is a fact of life. It’s one of many factors used in the selection process, especially for those looking to apply to top colleges and universities. While there’s a growing number of top liberal arts colleges opting to go test optional, which means SAT or ACT are not required, the Ivy League and comparable schools have yet to join the test optional movement. As such, it’s essential that you plan and prepare to take a standardized exam, whether the SAT or ACT. The choice is yours. Colleges do not have a preference for one or the other.
The first standardized exam you’ll face as a high schooler is the PSAT 10, which is typically administered in the fall of your Sophomore year. The PSAT 10 is a practice test for the SAT but it also has other added value such as measuring your readiness for college in addition to identifying gifted students for merit recognition and scholarship.
In your Junior year, most high schools will recommend waiting until late Spring to take your first SAT or ACT. Start sooner, perhaps taking the first one in December of your Junior year and the second one in March or April. If a third examination is needed, an early fall test date in August or September is your best bet. The benefit to following this testing plan is that it will allow you to dedicate time and energy towards your AP exams in May. Additionally, it affords you the opportunity to take SAT2 subject tests in May or June with less stress. For schools that recommend or require SAT2s, you should plan on taking 2-3 subject tests, preferably one in math, science and humanity. Put your best foot forward by scoring in the upper 700’s to show mastery of subject. However, keep the October SAT2 dates in your back pocket if you want to improve on previous scores.
The ideal plan is to be done with all standardized testing requirements before your senior year so that you may dedicate fully to the demanding college application process, with special attention to Early Decision and Early Action deadlines of November 1. So, plan accordingly and wisely to balance school and life.
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