Now that you have taken your PSAT and hopefully have gotten your scores back, take a moment to congratulate yourself! You have successfully started the process into prepping for college. If you have not taken your PSAT yet, now is the chance to start up your test prep for the college entrance Exams.

This begs the question of when you should start prepping. To answer this, you must look at a few factors such as the types of exams, your current score, and what you need to get on your exam.

What are the differences between the exams?

The PSAT is styled immensely similarly to the SAT only differing in the amount of questions in each section and how much it may impact your acceptance to a school. If you felt comfortable with the PSAT and scored well, it might be a good idea to take the SAT.

The ACT differs from the SAT by having four subjects as opposed to the three subjects of the SAT. The exam is broken down into grammar, math, reading, and science. The way the questions for certain subjects, like math, are formatted differently than their SAT counterpart and may be more understood by some students. The addition of the science section tends to worry most students but despite its scientific vocabulary, it is more of a reading comprehension section than anything else. This test also weighs the subject scores differently so it might not be better for those who are really good at certain subjects rather than others.

What does my score say about which exam I should take?

Now that you are more aware of what the exams are like, it is time to determine which exam you should choose. While this can be decided through personal preference, you can also use your PSAT score to help determine which exam might be best for you.

The SAT is weighed on a slightly higher scale than the PSAT. The SAT is out of 1600 while the PSAT is out of 1520. Your total score should be a good indicator of where you are scoring on the SAT, keeping in mind the difference in points. If you had trouble on one subject more than others, it may be a good idea to look and see what your score might be on the ACT.

The ACT is scored very differently than the SAT but there is a conversion chart released by College Board that can help you see what score you might have on the ACT. You can find that conversion chart here.

What score should I try to get on my exam? Do I need a 1600?

After you determine your score, you might be wondering how you should know what a good score is to aim for. Well, first and foremost, knowing which schools you want to apply for, and their requirements is very important. Does your school require the SAT or ACT or even both? What score requirements do they have? Should you score higher than that?

We believe a good score is the one that gets you into your dream school. With that being said, having a target score you would like to reach is important. Taking into account of what you scored and what you need to get, having a score that is able to take into consideration is a helpful building block for determining your target score.

Okay. When should I start prepping then?

Finally, we have reached our major question. When should you start prepping? Well, it depends on what kind of scores you got on either the PSAT or a practice exam.

If you are a student who scored from the 900 to 1100 range, beginning prep as early as you can after your PSAT in your junior year is important. This would provide you with plenty of time to take the exam and get your highest score before submitting applications before December of senior year. Enough preparation time can potentially benefit your score and make it more likely that if you have trouble with the exam initially that you have enough time to work through problem areas or switch exams to one more suited for you.

Ideally, beginning prep at the beginning of Junior year seems to benefit most students. The time of test prep and school overlap in a symbiotic relationship, usually letting students adjust to the workflow and use new learned concepts to help their schoolwork and their test prep. These students typically begin testing in December of Junior year. This gives them an idea of what they might be getting in a testing environment and they can either keep that score or test again at a later point, most students tend to then test during the March date.

If you are scoring above that 1200, starting test prep during the second semester of your Junior year can also help improve your score. This prep should typically be more tailored around pacing and strategy to help students work through smaller issues to boost their score overall.

To answer the question fully depends on each student and how they scored. Starting prep sooner than later after the PSAT is always wise as to not try to do all of the prep in the few months before scores are due. This gives the student more time to improve and less chance of them feeling rushed into scoring higher. So, take a moment to look over your scores, try a practice test or two, and determine what score you want. Do you want a score that is higher than your current score? Start prepping and best of luck.

Well there are a few common timelines that students usually fall into. These do not cover everyone, of course, but they are intended to be the best ways to begin test prep.

Common Timeline

Initial Preparation

This common timeline is the most common route for Juniors who want to begin test prep before their PSAT or throughout the first semester of Junior year. This provides many students with plenty of time to take the exam and get their highest score before submitting applications before November/December of senior year.

First in Person Exam

Most students will want to take an exam to see how they score after they spend so much time prepping. Typically, most students that follow this timeline will take an official SAT exam in March and April or June for the ACT exam. This way, if they do not score where they wish to, they always have more time before their application dates.

Back to Practice

After this first exam, most students who did not score at their target score, the summertime is a smart time to reconnect with tutors or continue with tutoring. This time helps students understand test anxieties, learning new concepts, and focusing on strategies for their next exam.

Second in Person Exam

The second exam is typically the last exam students want to take. Most students taking the SAT tend to take either the August or October and for the ACT many students will test in September. November is usually the last available test for most students who are submitting in applications at the end of the first semester of Senior year.

Content-Based Timeline

Initial Preparation

This preparation timeline is preferred by students who need some additional time to work on the basics. Many students might find it is easier to work on the content to begin to improve on the exam as it is the very backbone of the exam. This prep tends to begin before school starts for junior year. This summer practice time can also be beneficial for schooling in junior year.

Shift into Test Prep

Throughout the beginning of junior year, many students will begin to shift their focus from content to more intentional test prep. Many of these students spend this time taking practice exams and working on drills with tutor to focus on their pacing and strategies for the exam.

First in Person Exam

For many of these students, they tend to take their very first official exam in May for the SAT and June for the ACT. Students will tend to work on schoolwork until the end of the school year.

Back to Practice

Once summer begins, many students will regroup with tutors for additional test prep for their final exam. This includes more focused sessions on strategies and pacing for the exam.

Final in Person Exam

Most students will aim for their final exam to submit applications in November. SAT students will aim for the October exam and ACT students will aim for the September exam.

Early Prep Timeline

Initial Prep

This prep is usually the most ideal for students who have had prep for the PSAT or have scored pretty high on their PSAT. Many students who take this route start the summer before their junior year beginning to work on fixing minor errors and plan on testing before senior year.

First in Person Exam

Since many of these students take the PSAT in October, SAT early testers tend to take their first exam in November while ACT students will take their exam in December.

Back to Practice

After the holidays, many students will want to pick back up with tutoring in order to practice for their final exam. They will focus on working on any errors from their previous official exam and how to improve with pacing and various strategies.

Second in Person Exam

Early testers will usually try to take their second exam before their senior year. SAT students will typically take the May or June test date. ACT students will typically take the April exam.

Final in Person Exam

If students did not receive their target score in the Summer, after some brief refreshers with their tutor, they will take an exam right before school starts up again. The August SAT and June ACT seem ideal for a final exam for these early testers who are really trying to get their highest potential score.

If you want to begin your prep, please call 1-858-617-8615 for a consultation and a free lesson!


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