When should my student take the SAT?


By: Belinda M. Gonzalez-Leon, Ed.D., MBA

Program Director, Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program


During the summer months, the SAT and the ACT take a break, but the CLT does not. State colleges and universities in Florida still require the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the ACT (American College Testing) or the CLT (Classic Learning Test) for admissions- and that includes Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida State University, and University of Florida to name a few.

More importantly, students will still need those test scores to qualify for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship, which can cover up to 100% of a Florida state college or university. Many parents think summer is the best time to focus on test preparation- or is it?

When a student should take the SAT/ACT/CLT depends on the student’s math level in high school and if the student has prepared for the test. Students should be at least half way through Algebra II to sit for one of these exams. Also, typically, high school juniors should wait to take their last PSAT in October and then use those test results to prepare for the SAT/ACT/CLT that is offered after the December holidays.

Students need not study over the holidays, but should definitely start as soon as they get back to school in January. Remember that Khan Academy can use PSAT scores to create a study plan allowing the student to practice the areas of the PSAT where they did poorly.

Some schools will ask to see all test scores. At times, they may question a radical jump in score when comparing two different test dates. There are some colleges that only three test attempts for Superscore purposes. Superscore means the student can use their highest achieved test score in an individual category regardless of when you took it.

Students who take the test without preparation gauge themselves could be wasting a valuable opportunity. It is important to seriously study and prepare for every single time the test is taken.   

Test taking should be undertaken at the right time and the right number of times. As a high school junior, after the December holiday break, the next SAT test date is typically in March. That’s a good time to take the exam. The next opportunity is typically in May but know that in that month there is also AP, Cambridge, and IB exams.

The third opportunity presents itself in June which is also the end of the school year. Students need to consider if they can take the exam with so many other exams taking place as well as whether they can structure themselves for an exam when they are ready for summer break. The fourth and preferably last opportunity should be the August test date.

Students have all summer to prepare and the date is right before things get serious at school. The October, November, and December dates should be reserved for those who have no choice but to take it one more time- but my preference is spending those months working on college applications.

Students should start studying 2-4 hours per week approximately 6-8 weeks before test day. Students should arrive to the test with the skills, techniques, and knowledge for their test fresh in their brains but not burnt out from all the practice tests. Many times, students find that test dates sneak up on them and they have not prepared adequately!

Students should take the SAT exam several times because with each attempt, the student tends to improve their score. This happens because the student becomes more comfortable with the overall exam. The student also starts to understand how questions are asked and they learn to pace themselves better through practice to complete the exam.

Yes, students can use the summer to prepare for upcoming college entrance exams. Families should carefully plan out exactly when to attempt the exams and then study for them accordingly. Students should schedule their time carefully so that they can be ready for their exams but also take advantage of the down time during summer. Everything can be done in a balanced way so as to avoid burnout.

Good luck!




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