SAT or ACT Summer preparation

March 24, 2022, by

Do your summer plans include SAT or ACT preparation? 


Ah, summer: beaches, barbecues, baseball, buckling down to prep for the SAT or ACT. Wait, what?

While preparing for the SAT or ACT may not be the first thing on high schoolers’ minds when school gets out, getting a jump on standardized test prep in the summer before 11th grade can be a wise move that allows students to focus on test prep before they are overwhelmed with the academic and extra-curricular demands of the school year.

Test prep in the summer prior to junior year isn’t for all students, but it’s a good idea for those students who are targeting an early fall test date in their junior year as well as those who feel that they need extra help in certain subject areas before taking a first test later in their junior year. The first step is to take baseline diagnostic tests for both the SAT and the ACT to determine which test is best for you.  Once you have baseline scores, a tutor will work with you to determine an appropriate test date to target as well as to develop a testing plan.

Generally, the earliest that we recommend students take their first test is at the beginning of 11th grade – August for the SAT and September for the ACT.  The latest that students will want to take SATs or ACTs is in the fall of senior year (August, October for the SAT; September, October for the ACT).  These dates may vary depending on individual circumstances, such as if a student is recruited for collegiate sports.

Below are three possible testing timelines for students and suggestions for how to use the summer before junior year. It’s important to bear in mind that every student is on their own path, and a testing plan should be tailored around an individual student’s academic and extracurricular commitments. For example, a student with a busy first-semester sports schedule may want to plan on a mid-year rather than an early preparation timeline. Why pack ACT prep on top of a hectic football schedule? Similarly, in most cases, a student taking Algebra 2 in their junior year should wait until the spring of that year to take a first test so they have as much math as possible under their belt.

Timeline for Early SAT or ACT Test Takers

For strong testers who have completed Algebra 2 as sophomores, taking the SAT or ACT at the very beginning of junior year with a retake shortly thereafter could allow them to be done with testing before the midway point of 11th grade – a luxury that allows them to focus on their junior year classes and grades and, if they are enrolled in AP classes, to concentrate on their AP tests in the spring.  For these students, it makes sense to begin SAT or ACT summer preparation in the middle of the summer before 11th grade.  Prepping in July and August can be particularly effective, as students have more time for homework outside of tutoring sessions than they would have during the school year.  This often allows their tutor to cover significantly more material with them per meeting. Students who want to get started on test prep in the middle of the summer should take baseline tests early in the summer.

Timeline for Mid-year SAT or ACT Test Takers

For many students, it is beneficial to wait until the middle of junior year to take their first test, as additional coursework in core subjects in junior year can boost their skills and allow them longer to prepare. A student with a busy first-semester sports schedule may also want to plan on a mid-year rather than an early preparation timeline. However, it can still be useful to get some of the heavy lifting done during the summer, so that there is a lighter load to tackle once classes start back up in the fall. SAT or ACT summer preparation gives students a head start so that when they pick back up on test prep in the later fall or winter, they will have a distinct advantage over those who wait until right before the test dates to begin preparing.

Timeline for Late Junior Year SAT or ACT Test Takers

For students whose 10th grade PSAT scores don’t meet grade-level benchmarks or students who are worried about deficiencies in some content areas, the summer before 11th grade offers the opportunity to solidify the foundational skills that they will need for testing and general academic success later in junior year.  Rather than work specifically on SAT or ACT preparation, these students may benefit from our Summer Math Intensive or Reading and Reading and Writing Intensive, depending on where they most need assistance. These summer intensives can provide a strong base for test preparation that might not start until the middle of junior year. Students on this later timeline may want to wait to take their baselines until later in their junior year, but a tutor will help you decide on the best course of action.

The following chart outlines three possible timelines for testing.  Baseline tests, sophomore PSAT scores, as well as a conversation with one of our tutors will help you determine which is the appropriate timeline for you. We recommend that all students plan to take either the SAT or ACT twice and to have a third test date as a fallback option if needed. The first test will allow them to experience actual testing conditions and to discover which topics, skills, and strategies they may need to focus on. With some work in these areas between tests, students usually increase their score on the second test. In the event you would like to further improve your score, or an unforeseen circumstance, such as illness, causes you to miss a planned test date, that third test date may be necessary.

So remember, while summer is a great time for relaxing and getting outside, it’s also a great chance to set yourself up for success for testing by lightening the load in the busy junior year ahead.  Reach out to us if you have questions about a testing timeline or taking a baseline test to start determining what’s best for you.  And, bring on the sun!

ACT Testing Timelines

(all test dates in 11th grade except those noted as 12th grade)


Early 1st test September
  2nd test October
  3rd Test December/Feb
Middle 1st Test December
  2nd Test February
  3rd Test April
Later 1st Test April
  2nd Test June/July
  3rd Test September (12th grade)



SAT Testing Timelines

(all test dates in 11th grade except those noted as 12th grade)


Early 1st Test August
  2nd Test November
  3rd Test December
Middle 1st Test November
  2nd Test December
  3rd Test March
Later 1st Test March
  2nd Test May/June
  3rd Test August/October (12th Grade)



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