Updated: September 11, 2023

When Do You Take the SAT?

Scholastic Aptitute Test

The journey to university acceptance can often be a winding road, filled with numerous steps, milestones, and crucial decisions. A notable crossroad in this journey is the scheduling of your SAT examination. With a list of colleges and academic scholarship programs frequently mandating standardized test scores, selecting the ideal time to sit for the SAT prep and filling out forms is a vital facet of the application process.

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This guide is designed to aid you in making an informed choice about when to prepare for, register for, and ultimately take the SAT.

Article Highlights

SAT Availability

The SAT is administered by the College Board on seven occasions each year, typically on Saturdays during the months of March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. To access scholarship resources, scholarship opportunities, and additional college resources, please visit our homepage.

Exceptions can be made for those unable to attend the set test date due to religious observances or unforeseeable circumstances that are beyond their control, such as school-related conflicts, athletic commitments, or illnesses. A different standardized testing date can be requested under these conditions, typically requiring proof of the prevailing circumstance.

Selecting Your Ideal SAT Test Date

Choosing the most suitable SAT test date for yourself entails a careful consideration of multiple factors. While the fundamental rule of thumb is to sit for the SAT two to four weeks before the scores are required, other elements such as early decision college application deadlines, your preparation needs, and your college preferences also play a significant role.

What grade are you currently in?

Most students take the SAT in the fall of their junior year, allowing for multiple retakes in the spring of junior year, over the summer, or in the fall of senior year if needed.

If you're a senior who has yet to take the SAT, it's recommended to register for a test date at the earliest. Scheduling an exam in August or October allows for potential retakes later in the fall if necessary.

It is important for seniors to be aware of deadlines for college and scholarship applications. Generally, scheduling a test date before December should allow enough time to receive test scores before applications are due.

What kind of college are you planning to apply to?

Different institutions have varying expectations regarding test scores. Hence, your choice of prospective colleges can significantly influence when to take the SAT. While many institutions no longer mandate SATs or other entrance exams for admissions, a strong performance on the SAT can enhance your application, especially if your GPA isn't particularly strong.

Important Considerations

The Influence of Early Decision or Early Action

Choosing to apply early decision or early action can significantly influence your college application deadlines, thereby impacting the ideal SAT test dates. The majority of institutions set early decision or early action deadlines for November 1 or 15. It is crucial that all application materials, including SAT scores, are submitted by this deadline.

In order to meet the given timeline, students who are applying early should schedule to take the SAT during the summer months, which are typically June or August. While it's still possible to take the test in October and receive the scores on time, it's important to consider the stress and busy schedule that comes along with the fall of senior year. Planning ahead is highly recommended.

Standard College Application Deadlines

If you're not applying early, align your SAT test date with the regular college application deadlines. For applications due on January 1 or 15, you could take the test as late as December.

However, to alleviate stress, an earlier test date could be beneficial. Several colleges accept applications into the spring. If this applies to your target institutions, you can comfortably sit for the December test.

The Role of Scholarships in Your SAT Planning

Don't let scholarship opportunities slip through your fingers! Get ahead of the game by diving deep into each application's requirements and deadlines. Trust us, your wallet will thank you later because late registration deadlines can lead to fees.

Retaking the SAT

Don't be discouraged by your first SAT score! Did you know that 63% of students boost their scores on a retest? Multiple attempts not only help you get comfortable with the test format, but also give you a chance to develop a winning test-taking strategy and build up your confidence. So go ahead, take that second shot! Increase your chances of acing the SAT by taking it multiple times within one academic year! It is important to set aside enough time for studying in between test dates.

SAT Preparation Time Frame

According to experts, beginning SAT preparation during sophomore year of high school is recommended, but it should not dominate one's schedule. Treat it like another class with homework. Consistent preparation increases your chances of scoring higher.

The suggested duration for SAT preparation is 40 hours, which may involve a range of activities such as taking practice tests, reading prep books, working with a tutor or study group, enrolling in a prep course, or practicing math problems independently.

For students getting ready for the spring SAT during their junior year, it is recommended that they spend the autumn semester preparing. If they plan on taking the senior year SAT in the fall, it is a good idea for them in the summer months before that test date, they should study and take practice tests.

Potential Obstacles to Testing

Your life doesn't stop for the SAT. Various obligations, both family and extracurricular, could clash with your test dates. The process to reschedule the SAT can be cumbersome, so it's essential to meticulously review your calendar before finalizing your test day.

For instance, if you're a competitive athlete with regular weekend competitions, consider scheduling your SAT test before the season kicks off. Balancing your commitments with the SAT schedule will ensure you're prepared and undistracted when the test day arrives.

Choosing a Convenient Testing Center

To ensure a spot at your preferred location for the SAT, it may be necessary for you to register well in advance of the deadline, as certain test dates are more in demand than others.

What is the recommended frequency for taking the SAT?

According to experts, taking the SAT multiple times may be necessary depending on individual circumstances. Harvard research shows that retaking the test resulted in an average increase of 90 points for high school students.

Many colleges and universities offer "score choice," enabling students to submit their highest score, or even a super score (a composite score created by selecting the highest scores from each section of different test sittings). If you have the resources to take the test thrice, feel free to do so. However, the consensus is that two attempts are usually sufficient.

Is there any overlap in the scheduling of the SAT and ACT exams?

No, the SAT and the ACT have separate schedules, with each offered seven times annually. Thus, you can strategically plan to take both tests in accordance with college admissions timelines.

Considerations for Choosing Between the ACT and SAT.

Many students choose to take both the ACT and the SAT, comparing their performance on each before deciding which one to retake for an optimized score. Others may focus their time and effort on a single test that aligns best with their strengths.

The ACT consists of four sections, including a science portion, while the SAT comprises three sections: reading, writing/language, and math. A unique aspect of the SAT is that certain math problems prohibit calculator use, unlike the ACT, where calculators are permitted throughout the math section.

If you lean towards math and science, the ACT might be a better fit. Conversely, if you identify more with language and liberal arts, the SAT could be your ideal platform. A practical approach to identify the best-suited test for you would be to take practice tests for each, simulating test day conditions as closely as possible. Comparing your ACT score percentile to your SAT score percentile can provide valuable insights.

Is there a difference in dates between PSAT and SAT exams?

The PSAT/NMSQT is administered annually, usually in October. The SAT is offered on seven different occasions throughout the year. These occasions take place in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. It should be noted that the exact dates of these occasions vary from year to year. The test is usually available in August and October during the first half of the month, and in November during the second half of the month.

Is there a difference in the exam dates for AP and SAT?

Yes, AP exams are conducted annually, usually during the first two weeks of May. Unlike the SAT, which tests general knowledge and skills, AP exams focus on specific areas of coursework. They can also be a cost-effective way to earn college credits while still in high school.

Do SAT Subject Tests Still Exist?

As of January 2022, the College Board has discontinued SAT subject tests, which were previously a significant part of college admissions. As a result, this task can now be removed from your college preparation checklist.

When is the Right Time to Start SAT Preparation?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, most students typically spend two to three months (or around 40 total hours) preparing for the SAT exam.

The length of test prep can depend on different factors, including familiarity with the test, test-taking abilities, and college admission objectives. If you obtain your starting score from the PSAT, you can create a personalized study schedule. If your school does not administer the PSAT, consider taking an online practice SAT test to determine your study needs.

When considering universities, it's important to research their selectivity and determine what test scores are required for admission.

What is the recommended registration timeline for the SAT?

To ensure registration for a test, it is recommended to choose a date and register promptly as deadlines for registration are usually a month prior to the test.

Late registration for the test is available for a fee of $30 if you decide to take the test within a month of the test date. The specific dates for late registration vary but are typically around two weeks before the test date.

What is the Cost of the SAT?

It costs $55 to take the SAT under typical curcumstances. However, fee waivers are provided by the College Board for students who meet the qualifications.

Can Sophomores Take the SAT?

Yes, high school sophomores are welcome to take the SAT. However, as the SAT assesses knowledge typically acquired up to the junior year, sophomores may not have completed all the necessary coursework, potentially impacting their scores.

When Can You Expect Your SAT Scores?

The timeline for receiving SAT scores varies based on test date and location. Typically, scores are available two weeks after taking the test on a Saturday during the school year. However, alternate test dates may result in a four-week waiting period for scores.

Is there a difference in difficulty between test dates?

A common myth suggests that some test dates are easier than others due to grading on a curve. However, this is untrue. The SAT is not graded on a curve, and all test dates carry the same level of difficulty. Your best test date is the one you're most prepared for!

Scholarships and the SAT

Some scholarship programs require SAT scores, so it's important to have them ready for financial aid applications. It's recommended to select scholarships before registering for your first SAT test. With proper planning, scheduling, and preparation, you can approach the test confidently and improve your college application.

For more insights, advice, and resources on SAT preparation, college applications, and scholarships, visit Scholarships.com.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the SAT format the same for all students?

Yes, the SAT follows a standard format for all students. It consists of sections on reading, writing and language, and math.

Can international students take the SAT?

Yes, international students can take the SAT. The College Board has numerous international test centers where students outside the U.S. can take the test.

How can I prepare for the SAT?

There are numerous resources available for SAT preparation, including books, online practice tests, study groups, and tutoring services.

What is a good SAT score?

While what constitutes a "good" SAT scores can vary depending on the universities that you are targeting, a score of 1200 or more is generally considered above average.