Both the SAT and ACT are offered multiple times each year. With exam dates coming right up, the fall round of SAT and ACT testing is on the minds of many high school students in the US right now. Guidance counselors, parents, teachers are all fielding questions about when is the right time of the year to take these critical tests.

The first part of the “when” question is: in what year of high school should the test be taken? Since the reason most students take these tests is to fulfill an entrance requirement for college, it is generally advisable to take it during the junior year. That way you know your results in plenty of time for the college application process. (Middle school students seeking admission to summer academic programs may need to be tested before their junior year.)

So then the question becomes: at what point in the junior year is it best to take the SAT or ACT? Here the answer can be different for every student. According to, testing in March (or May) is a good default option because it gives you time to both complete any necessary school work and also to prep for the test with no end-of-term exam pressure. It is not recommended to take either test before March of the junior year, because they cover the full spectrum of high school curriculum.

Beyond that, a student’s individual schedule of midterm or final exams, sports seasons, school plays and other extracurricular activities may be a deciding factor. The CATES Blog suggests that many students do well taking the SAT or ACT in the fall (October or November) because these dates fall before the college application process really intensifies.

The CATES Blog also offers some very specific advice regarding SAT subject tests:

June represents an optimal SAT Subject Test date, especially for tests in Science and History. You will already be filled to the brim with facts and concepts in these topics as you prepare for finals, so why not kill two birds with one stone and knock off an SAT Subject Test or two. That said, if you are a junior preparing to take the AP tests in early May, you may consider taking the SAT Subject Test in the same subject as your AP test during the May SAT Test date. Doing so allows you to integrate and concentrate your time and focus on two tests at once in the same week.

What about retesting? Students planning to retake either test are often advised to do so in October or November of the senior year. This offers momentum to head straight towards college application deadlines for admission the following fall. “Also, many students who found themselves struggling the SAT in the spring, come into the fall of their senior year really switched on,” says the CATES Blog.

Upcoming SAT and SAT Subject Tests dates are:

October 1, 2011: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests
November 5, 2011: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests
December 3, 2011: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests
January 28, 2012: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests
March 10, 2012: SAT test only
May 5, 2012: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests
June 2, 2012: SAT test and SAT Subject Tests

Upcoming ACT test dates are:

October 22, 2011
December 10, 2011
February 11, 2012
April 14, 2012
June 9, 2012

Please comment if you have guidance to share on this important topic.

Featured image courtesy of the mad LOLscientist.

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