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SAT, ACT, AP, SAT subject tests…During their junior year, soon-to-be college applicants can expect to sit for hours of standardized tests. While you won’t find us arguing that such testing is our idea of a good time, we have some suggestions to help make the process more manageable. An important element of minimizing the stress of applying to college is starting early and plotting out the next steps. Standardized testing is no different. Students should arm themselves with a testing plan that will permit them to take the standardized tests they need to submit with their applications. Here are some things that students will need to keep in mind as they think about when to take their standardized tests.

Start Early!
Begin compiling college lists as early as possible, so that deadlines are firmly in mind as students plot out their test dates. As students check application deadlines, they should also check testing requirements, which vary by school. Students will want to keep a record of this important information, so that they can use it to formulate a testing plan.

The Major Tests: SAT and/or ACT
Students taking the PSAT will do so in October. They will receive their results in the winter, which will allow students to review their scores and determine which areas of improvement they need to focus on the most. Students will have plenty of time for the test and take it in the spring.

Students should plan to take the major tests—the ACT or the SAT—twice. However, if they are satisfied with their original scores, students can submit the score and be done with the SAT or ACT.

The SAT is offered seven times per year; the ACT is offered six times per year. In the fall, start reviewing the details of each test to choose which one to take.

Students will need to be sure of other testing requirements. For instance, some schools may require SAT subject tests (For more information on what a subject test is, see this blog post: http://galined.com/archives/everything-you-need-to-know-about-sat-subject-tests), and students cannot take the SAT and the SAT subject tests on the same day.

Plan to take the SAT or ACT in the spring of junior year. Make sure to choose dates wisely so that test dates do not conflict with other important commitments (school, athletic or otherwise), and so that students allow themselves sufficient time to prepare before and rest after they have taken the exams. Staggering out the tests as much as possible will aid students in completing necessary requirements without causing more stress than absolutely necessary.

Be mindful of college deadlines. If students want to take their SAT or ACT tests over again, they’ll need time to study and take the exam again in the fall of senior year. Students who plan to opt for one of the early notification options will need to arrange to take their tests in time to submit their scores by the earlier deadline.

Advanced Placement Tests
Advanced placement tests take place in May. If taking more than two AP tests, students should aim to take other major tests like the SAT in another month to avoid too heavy a schedule.

SAT Subject Tests
Students should take SAT subject tests as near to the time that they complete the coursework as possible. Coursework prepares students for SAT subject tests, so they should take the exams while the material is fresh in their minds. June subject test date coincide well with the completion of coursework. A complete list of the subject tests offered can be found here: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-subject/about .

Students can take up to three subject tests in any one sitting; students should consider whether they are up for taking three tests in a row, since it can be draining to sit for three tests in succession.

Subject test requirements depend on the school; check each college’s website for information about how many subject tests must be included in the application, and whether applicants need to take specific subject tests or can choose which ones to take.

Students who elect to take the SAT should be aware that they cannot take the SAT and SAT subject tests on the same day. Plan accordingly.

Bottom line:
It is to be expected that standardized tests cause some degree of stress for college applicants. By creating and sticking with a testing plan, students will be able to leave themselves plenty of time for test preparation as well as retesting, if necessary, students can minimize the stress that often accompanies taking these exams. Students will also have the peace of mind of knowing that their tests will be sent to the colleges to which they are applying in time.