“When should my kid take the SAT?” — The Best SAT Prep Timeline

by | Jul 6, 2018 | SAT Practice Strategy

One of the most common questions I get asked is, “When should my kid take the SAT?” Here’s the best timeline that I’ve found almost across the board. Sure there are always exceptions. Some students are massively ahead of the game and are ready for the SAT during their sophomore year. Others were late getting started and are taking the SAT for the first time during their senior year. That’s okay.

No one should ever panic because they somehow did it wrong. That will just make everything unnecessarily stressful and probably lower your scores come test day.

Sophomore year:

I rarely recommend that sophomores take the official SAT…although I HEARTILY recommend that they relaxedly start their test prep process. There’s really no need to take the test this early, and many sophomores have not yet completed algebra 2, which is the highest level math they’ll find on the SAT.

So it’s best to let them finish Algebra 2 in school (or at least come close)…whether that’s sophomore or junior year, before they take the actual SAT.

However, like I said, test prep can definitely begin this year. I’ve found that the critical thinking skills students learn as I teach them how to own the SAT are totally transferable into other parts of school and life at large. So prep all you want! Just don’t use up all of the College Board’s official practice tests. Those are precious and need to be used wisely and closer to when you take the real deal.

Junior year:

There really is freedom here as to when during your student’s junior year they can take the SAT. And there are many personal factors to consider, such as stressful times of the year, sports your kid is playing, AP tests, etc. But ideally, I recommend that students take the test at least once during the spring of their junior year. Why? Fall can be busy and hectic with holidays and also getting back into the school year after summer.

Spring also gives your student more time to cover more ground in their math classes. This is especially important if, as a junior, your student hasn’t finished Algebra 2 yet. Give them a chance to make it most of the way through first. Or, you could have them take the test that June when they are finished with school anyway.

Students CAN take the SAT twice during junior year and may find it helpful if:

Your kid is already past Algebra 2 and is having a good, low-stress year. Taking the test mid year and then again at the end of the year allows them to spread out their tests so that they can practice at a good, steady pace…rather than crunching to get more practice in real quick before the next round in a month.

With SAT prep, slow and steady is a good way to go. So taking it mid year, then using the next few months to practice and get coaching before taking it again is a great idea.

Then, having taken it twice, your student will still have the opportunity to take it again in the fall of senior year…which most students do.

Senior year:

Taking the SAT senior year is standard practice. Most students do it, because most aren’t satisfied with the scores they’ve received thus far.


I highly recommend utilizing the new August test date. This is such a blessing as it allows seniors to get their SAT done either before school starts, or right after, AND just before the major college app and college essay madness that October-December brings.

That said, the October test date will allow students to meet most deadlines for college apps, even early decision/early action deadlines…so it works for many students as well.

The College Board typically offers test dates in November and December as well, but these won’t meet the application deadlines for all schools or all programs, so it’s important that you research what your student’s prospective colleges need before you plan on one of these test dates.

The test prep factor:

This is a topic for another article, but MAKE SURE you start this sooner rather than later. Not all prep options are created equal, but I’d personally rather have you do SOMEthing than nothing. Even if you just buy a workbook and plunk your kid into their chair once a week to work on it for an hour. SOMETHING is better than nothing.

And…please let this sink in: There’s no reason for your son or daughter to go into the SAT blind. Even if it’s their first time taking it, you should definitely make sure that you download one of the free official practice tests from the College Board so that they can at the very least look through it before seeing the real thing. Obviously it’s better if they actually DO it, but hey—they are teenagers after all 🙂

Stay tuned mom and dad. I’ve got more S.O.S. articles coming soon. I’ve got you covered 🙂

Bless you. God loves you and your kid.

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