08 Feb When should you take the SAT or ACT?


by Kristina PB

Not surprisingly, one of the most common questions surrounding the standardized testing involved in college admissions is, “When should I sit the exam?” Unlike the terminal exams to which we’ve become most accustomed (CAPE and the International Baccalaureate), there is no globally mandated time to take the SAT or the ACT. However, over the years, we have identified a sweet spot for test prep that allows students to achieve their optimal scores.

So when is the best time for SAT or ACT preparation? JUNIOR YEAR! In the summer ahead of your second to last year of high school, before you start any test preparation, you should stop to consider which exam is best for you. While held in equal esteem, most students tend to be predisposed to one or the other. Bear in mind, your first sitting of either exam should never be “just to see what it’s like.” Though there is no official limit to the number of times you are allowed to take the standardized tests, we do not recommend that students take any exam more than 2-3 times as studies show that scores do not tend to improve much between the first and second attempt, and furthermore, at universities that ask you to report the score for each attempt, having more than three attempts on record can actually detract from the strength of your application.


At AIM, we recommend an average of three months of test preparation before sitting either exam, so use your time wisely! Look at a selection of application submission deadlines to create a testing schedule that makes sense for you by planning backward from the deadline dates. Your testing plan should also take into consideration whether you will need to take any SAT Subject Tests recommended by the schools of interest to you.