As with most things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when students should take the ACT and SAT tests. In an earlier blog I highlighted the test differences, but with the question of when students should test, there is not one blanket answer for every student, unfortunately.

As a nationally sought after test prep coach and certified English teacher, I have seen many, different situations in my 30+ years in education.  I will discuss some of the scenarios and suggest a path for many students.

For most students, I suggest taking both ACT and SAT tests late in the student’s Sophomore year in school as a BASELINE test. Why? There are five simple reasons.

  • Taking both allows your child to see which he/she prefers
  • The April and June ACT tests offer the TIR (TEST INFORMATION RELEASE) so your child can see exactly which questions are missed.
  • The March & May SAT tests offer the chance to order the test booklet and answers
  • Most students have had most of the math covered by both tests (Alg 1, Geometry & Alg 2) Most students take Alg 2 junior year.
  • Summer test prep means no competing school work and more hours in the day to devote to studying
  • Recruited athletes might need a score to share with coaches. Saying, “I haven’t tested yet” could raise a red flag with a coach, especially senior year.

Once you have a baseline score, you can create a test prep plan to maximize those scores for scholarships, merit monies, and possible out of state tuition waivers. Many people think that test scores have to be finalized BEFORE applying. Not true! You can still work to raise your scores even after applications are sent in.

What are some special circumstances that would create the need for earlier ACT and SAT testing? Ask yourself these questions to see if any apply.

  • If you are a student-athlete who wants to play in college, it is recommended that you take is a few months before the regular student population. Do NOT wait until your senior year.  If you are having legitimate discussions with coaches and are receiving actual athletic scholarship offers, then you need to discuss the timetable with coaches. Some may want you to take it based on your current course work.
  • Does your child have test anxiety?
  • Will your child need accommodations for the test due to an IEP or 504 Plan?
  • Will outside of school activities keep your child from having a lot of test dates that work?
  • Does your student have the potential to be a National Merit Finalist (>1300 on PSAT as a 10th grader)? Taking the SAT is great prep for the PSAT test.

For a free timeline for your student to follow to be college-ready, email me through my website at  and ask for the high school checklist.

Want Jen to lead an ACT Boot Camp at your child’s school? Email her for more details:

Jennifer Henson ( a.k.a “The GOAL DIGGER”) is a nationally sought after test prep expert specializing in the ACT test.  Jennifer, who was Winton Woods City School’s (OH) Teacher of the Year in 2014, holds a Master of Education degree with a Bachelor’s in English from Xavier University—where she was a walk-on tennis player.  She’s taught 21 years and coached ACT prep for over 7 years– and has an army of teachers trained to assist her requests for tutorials. Her former ACT students now attend notable higher learning institutions, including Notre Dame, The Ohio State University, Texas A&M, The Naval Academy, and Dartmouth—among others.