Consider 4 Factors to Choose an ACT, SAT Test Date
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However, there are year-round opportunities to complete both this exam and the ACT. If you are struggling to choose the right test date, here are four factors to consider:
1. College application deadlines: First, determine your application deadlines. If you have not compiled a list of colleges to which you will apply, investigate several programs that interest you. Harvard University, for example, requires you to submit your application by Nov. 1 for early action, while regular decision packages are due by Jan. 1st.
When scheduling your exam date, remember that your scores will not be immediately available. The Stanford University admissions department notes that the last acceptable ACT and SAT test date for regular decision applicants is in December. Each exam will require a different length of processing time, although three to four weeks is a safe estimate.
2. Balancing multiple exams: It is also in your best interest to ensure your assessments do not overlap. Certain colleges and universities require the ACT or SAT alone, while others, such as Cornell University, may also request one or more SAT subject tests.
Each exam will cover markedly different material, so it’s important to allot each test the individual attention it deserves. Students should also allow for the possibility that they will need to retake one or more exams. Studying for more than one exam simultaneously is difficult for most students, and it adds unnecessary stress and complication to an already challenging process.
Finally, note that subject tests are available less frequently than general exams, which can further complicate matters.
3. Consider school commitments: Even for those students who must only complete the ACT or SAT, there are several advantages to targeting nontraditional test dates. The summer, for example, may offer plentiful study time and a minimum of scholastic distractions.
In this instance, the first ACT or SAT test date, generally in September or October, can enable you to capitalize upon ample prep time. For students who work full-time in the summer, or who attend summer classes, the school year – say, January or February – may be a more viable option.
Camps, internships and travel can also have a negative impact on your review habits. The intensity of your schoolwork, midterms or final exams, sports and extracurriculars can also factor into your schedule. Plan your responsibilities ahead of time, and then choose a time of year that will have minimal distractions before your test date.
4. Manage your family commitments: Finally, consider the world beyond academics. Many students have family obligations such as weddings and vacations. Speak with the important people in your life and identify unavoidable commitments. You may find that you must alter your exam dates or, more radically, register for a different test.
Since colleges and universities often assign the ACT and SAT equal weight, and the exams are scheduled on different dates, simple availability may factor into your decision. Take advantage of the full range of possibilities when making your plans.
Sitting for the ACT and SAT can be very stressful. You can mitigate this stress, however, with basic planning and preparation. Know your deadlines and try to give yourself enough distraction-free time to study, and you may soon find that scheduling your ACT or SAT test date is much easier than you imagined.
Last Updated June 13, 2018