As the 2016-2017 school year winds to a close, it’s time to consider a test prep plan for students in the Class of 2018. Most students do not complete the required coursework to begin successfully preparing for the ACT or SAT before the end of sophomore year. To that end, we suggest not taking your first practice test until the May or June after sophomore year. (Please note that we have suspended SAT pretesting until June.)
We offer free practice testing nearly every Saturday at both our Mission and Leawood offices. The practice test is an important first step – please don’t skip it! The earliest we suggest taking the practice test is May or June, but for the deadline-oriented people wondering how long they can wait, here’s a handy guide.
In order to use this tool, you’ll have to pick an official test date (or two – it’s not a bad idea to have a backup available) that will work well for you. Consider sports schedules, exam schedules, family or religious obligations, travel plans, etc. when deciding which test date will work best for you. Preparation schedules are targeted at a specific date; preparing for a test date you end up being unable to take can be a big setback.
The key is to take your practice test at least three full months before your selected official test date. You may or may not need three months to prep, but the sooner you (and we!) have a practice test score on file, the sooner we can work together to come up with a plan and a schedule that works for you.
If you haven’t begun visiting colleges or thinking at all about what kinds of colleges you might want to attend, this summer isn’t a bad time to start. It’s important to have a target score to work towards as you begin prep, and that target score is largely determined by the colleges and universities to which you’re applying. A college list will also help you determine whether to take the optional ACT or SAT essay portion, and whether you’ll need to take any SAT subject tests.
Here’s a suggested timeline to get your planning started.
Suggested Schedule for the Class of 2018
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the September ACT.
- Plan summer college visits and begin a college list. Take notes as you research and visit!
- Begin preliminary scholarship searches.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the October ACT or SAT.
- The October SAT may be a good date for students who also want to prepare for the PSAT. The content of the PSAT and SAT, while not identical, is similar enough that preparing once for both tests makes sense!
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the November SAT.
- Think about courses and extra-curriculars for Junior year. Plan to take the most challenging courses you can be successful in, and look for opportunities to take leadership roles in activities.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the December ACT or SAT.
- If you haven’t already, make a solid timeline for Junior year with deadlines, goals, college visits, test dates, etc.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the January SAT.
- Make a good impression on your teachers. You’ll be asking them for recommendations in a few months.
- ACT – September 10th.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the February ACT.
- SAT – October 1st.
- PSAT – October 15th and 19th
- ACT – October 22nd.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the March SAT.
- Plan college visits for winter break.
- SAT – November 5th.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the April ACT. All public school students in Missouri take a statewide administration of the ACT on April 19th, so begin preparing for that exam now if you attend public school in Missouri.
- SAT – December 3rd.
- ACT – December 10th.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the May SAT.
- (Consider whether you’ll need to use the May SAT administration for Subject tests.)
- Begin thinking about which teachers you want to ask for recommendation letters.
- Begin thinking about summer plans, like projects, jobs or internships.
- SAT – January 28th.
- Take a practice test, especially if you’re targeting the June ACT or SAT or if you haven’t done so yet. If you haven’t begun preparing for the ACT or SAT yet, now is the time! You’ll have a chance to retake in the fall if necessary, but that shouldn’t be your first test.
- Plan spring break college visits.
- ACT – February 11th.
- Keep refining your college list.
- Once you have a good idea of which teachers you need to ask (based on your college list) begin asking for recommendation letters.
- SAT – March 11th.
- Missouri public school students take the ACT April 19th.
- Review for AP Exams and SAT Subject tests if you’re taking them.
- ACT – April 8th.
- AP Exams
- SAT – May 6th. (This is a good date for Subject tests!)