For rising seniors who plan to apply, or are considering applying, early to college under Early Action or Early Decision programs, June marks two major SAT and ACT test dates. Early Admission hopefuls should aim for June so they’ll get two cracks at the SAT or ACT before applications are due in early November.
Think of this strategy as the Olympic high jumper’s approach to the SAT/ACT: students need more than one try to reach their highest score.
Let’s take a look at why a June test date is so important for students who need to submit their scores by November:
SAT and ACT Scores Matter
If you’re interested in applying to competitive four-year colleges and universities, scoring well on the SAT or ACT is of paramount importance. According to the hundreds of thousands of students who have been admitted to four-year colleges and reported their profiles on Cappex, standardized test scores are the single best predictor of admissions decisions, even more so than grades.
Maximizing your scores means improving your chances of acceptance in the most meaningful way. One factor to consider is when to take the test.
Taking the SAT or ACT More Than Once is Essential
Testive Coaches make one recommendation to their students time and time again: “Take the test again.” There are several reasons for this.
That means there’s a 50% likelihood that your score under-reported your true ability. Even if you’re not planning to do any more prep, you should still consider taking the test again.
Second, veteran test-takers out-perform first-time test-takers. When we poll our students who take the test a second time, about 80% score better than they did on the first attempt.
This isn’t very surprising, is it? Taking the test is stressful and comes with a whole host of logistical surprises. You’re sitting in a foreign place, surrounded by strange people, in a weirdly uncomfortable chair, facing down a gladiator-style opponent in high-stakes conditions.
The stress is unbelievable.
One of the things that best helps students offset stress is experience. So, when you go sit for the exam a second time, you’re better able to manage your stress and focus on your performance.
Third, prep helps. When you take the test a second time, you have an opportunity to continue your prep and build on your experience. The only consistent limiting factor is the appetite of the student. A student who wants to do better almost always can, if they put in work.
For these reasons, one of our most common pieces of advice is to take the test again.
Here’s the thing: one of the most heartbreaking moments for Testive Coaches is when they want to give that advice to a student, but can’t because time has run out.
If you wait to test until the fall of senior year and you are applying Early Action or Early Decision (and even if you aren’t), you only get one shot and, whatever the scoreboard says, that’s it. The only recourse at that point is to delay a year.
You Should Only Take One Test in the Fall of Senior Year
While students are technically allowed to take the SAT or ACT more than once in the fall (there are, after all, test dates in August, October, November, and December) strategically, this is inadvisable. And, if you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, it may actually be impossible.
Why? The most signification reason is the way score release happens. Most scores are released within six weeks of the test administration. While most scores are released about three weeks after the test, there are enough exceptions, errors, and delay that you are best not counting on this.
Since test dates are about a month apart, you aren’t likely to receive your test scores until right before you take the next test, if at all. And, since scores come out after the registration deadlines for the next test, you would need to register for your next test with only limited information about your performance on the last test. Back-to-back testing in the fall just isn’t optimal.
And, this all sidesteps the main reason that you should avoid taking tests in back-to-back months: human behavior.
There is a powerful human inclination to take a break after taking the SAT or ACT. The run-up to the test and the administration itself are so stressful that it’s simply inadvisable for most people to take one, and then turn around and take another one without a chance to rest or reflect in between.
Junior Year Spring is the Try Before Your Last Try
If stress is all-time-high on your last try, then it’s important to schedule a next-to-last-try. That try is the test you take in the spring of junior year. For most people that test will be in June.
Early Action and Early Decision Make the June Test Even More Important
The Early Action deadline at Harvard (typically the first deadline) is November 1st in 2017. Now, if you’re following along closely, you’ll notice that there is scarcely enough time to get a test in after the summer if you’re planning to apply Early Decision or Early Action.
There’s an ACT on the second Saturday of September and there’s an SAT on the first Saturday of October. At the best of times, the SAT releases scores three weeks after the test date. That just leaves a few days if you are planning to apply Early Decision between score release and your application due date.
If you’re applying Early Decision or Early Action, it is essential to take both the first test administration in the fall of senior year and a next-to-last try in the spring of your Junior year.
If you’re reading this during the fall
The June SAT and ACT are still pretty far away. Most students prepare for three to five months before the test. If you are targeting the June test date, you should start prepping in January after the December holidays are over. The next step, which you can take now, is to pick a coach and sign up to start prep in January.
If you’re reading this between January and April
You’re right in the zone of when you should prep for the June test. Sign up now to start prep ASAP to maximize the amount of prep time you have before the June test.
If you’re reading this in May or June
If you have already been prepping for the June SAT or ACT, then stay on course.
If you’re considering starting from scratch right now, then you have a decision to make. Sophomores should consider taking either the May or June SAT with little or no prep to get a baseline score and some real-world testing experience. We have covered this strategy in our article on the best time to take the SAT and ACT.
Parents who are looking for a low-pressure way to get their students started down the road of prep can use June as a way to get something on the calendar as a wake up call. Many students like to take the test once with little prep just to see where they stand. June is a great test date for that.
If you’re a Junior, as we have covered above, you have entered the last-chance or next-to-last-chance countdown, so you should consider taking the June test as part of your main test effort. However, because there is very little time for prep, you’ll be cramming, so you should use our boot camp plan which doubles up on coaching sessions. You should also lower your expectations for how well you’ll score and you emotionally prepare for taking another last-chance test in the fall of Senior year.