During the school year, my students balance classes, sports, social lives, and sleep. Their schedules are hectic. During tutoring lessons, students often only have time to focus on the immediate assignments at hand in their classes. We usually have little time for test prep unless the student and parent has specifically requested that we focus solely on the SAT or ACT. So, when is the best time to study for the SAT or ACT? You guessed it. Summer vacation.
Many of my students have a summer schedule that gives their school year calendar a run for it's money. However, their busy summers do not contain nearly as many academic activities as their school year schedules. Most have summer sports, camp, or jobs. This is the perfect time to balance those physical and social activities with test prep. In addition, students can learn the ropes of the SAT or ACT better when they are not juggling other classes and tests. Every kind of standardized test is unique and it takes time and practice to master each one.
Another great reason for your student to prep for the SAT or ACT over the summer is that he or she will be more likely to retain skills learned during the school year. Students generally lose some academic skills over the summer if they are not engaged academically. Studying for the SAT and ACT hones students' reading, writing, and mathematical skills and prepping over the summer keeps students engaged and ready for school in the fall.
So, what does an ideal prep and test schedule look like in my eyes? Well, first let's discuss what is not ideal. Most students take their SAT or ACT their junior year. The majority of my students wait to take these tests until the spring of junior year, when many are also taking numerous AP tests and finals. Juniors' course loads are generally the most laden with APs, so you can imagine the stress that mounts when they have to worry about the SAT or ACT and AP tests.
I recommend that students begin test prep as soon as summer begins after their sophomore year. Students can then take their SAT at the beginning of junior year with less stress than those who wait until spring. For juniors who'd like to improve their scores, I recommend studying for the SAT in the fall and taking it again in the winter, preferably a month or two after midterms. Most students take the SAT three times, and I would recommend studying over the summer after junior year and taking the test in the fall of their senior year.
Are there other factors you take into account when scheduling your student's SAT or ACT? Please leave comments in the box below!
In addition, please look forward to a blog post in a few weeks about spacing out SAT and ACT tests and giving your tutor enough time to prep your student for the test.