When to Take the SAT: A Timeline

When to Take the SAT: A Timeline

SAT_timelineOnce you have made the decision to take the SAT, the next logical question to answer is when you would take it. Should you take the SAT in your junior year, or should you wait for your senior year? The short answer is to take the SAT in your junior year, and again in your senior year if you have the time and energy and hope to improve your score. But we’ll break down this question in a little more detail.

What should I consider when deciding on when to take the SAT?

First, college applications have several important pieces that you need to prepare. You have to request for recommendation letters, start on your test preparations, write your essays, and search for scholarships. If you can get your SAT out of the way in junior year, that gives you more time in senior year to work on the other parts of your application.

Second, practice with standardized tests tends to be helpful. Many students improve their scores the second time they sit the exam.

With these two things in mind, the obvious choice is to take the SAT early, preferably your junior year. Taking the SAT in your junior year has several advantages. First, you get to start your test preparation early, and you can get a lot of practice in your junior year, which isn’t nearly as busy as senior year. Second, you actually have the Score Choice option, so even if you do not get the score that you were aiming for the first time you sit the test in junior year, you can retake the exam and have the option to send your best score to the colleges you are applying to. Third, with college application being the long process that it is, taking the test early can free up your time during senior year so that you can focus on the other aspects of your college application, like your admission essays. Finally, having your results early can open up avenues for scholarships that otherwise wouldn’t be available if you delay taking the test.

What if I have taken the PSAT?

It is generally recommended that you take the PSAT if you are planning to eventually take the SAT. Your PSAT score would give you a good idea about how well you are likely to do in the SAT. If your PSAT score was well below your SAT goal, then you may want to focus on preparing for the SAT in junior spring. Note that I say “may” here because one of the best ways to prepare and practice is to prepare for the SAT itself and take it, primarily because you have Score Choice.

Your SAT and College Application Timeline

Here’s a sample timeline for taking the SAT and applying to college. It gives you a little room to recover in one semester if things don’t go as planned in the previous one.

It pays off to plan ahead. However, if you fall a bit behind, don’t give up on the process – there are many roads to success!

What To Do

Junior Fall

Junior Spring

Senior Fall

Senior Spring



Prepare for the SAT


Prepare for up to three SAT Subject Tests


Take the SAT


Take some SAT Subject Tests


Send your scores to colleges or scholarship programs


Retake the SAT


Take SAT Subject Tests


Send your best scores to colleges or scholarship programs


Complete your college applications


When is too early to take the SAT?

You may still be undecided about taking the SAT in your junior year or, alternatively, you may be wondering if it makes sense to take the SAT earlier than junior year. (We’ll discuss that in a separate post, “When is too early to take the SAT?”)

All things considered, remember that at least 50% of all students actually take the SAT twice—typically in the junior spring semester and senior fall semester. The majority of students get improved scores the second time they take the test. With Score Choice, you have nothing to lose when taking the test in your junior year.

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