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For those of you planning to apply to US universities, you’ll know that you will most likely be taking the SAT or ACT. These standardized tests make up a crucial part of your application, and are unlike the tests you have encountered in school. The SAT is usually held multiple times a year, and there is no limit to the number of times you can take them. So at this point, you might be wondering, when should I take the SAT, and how should I prepare for it?

Well, the short answer is that most students take the SAT in either junior year or early senior year in high school. When planning for these standardized tests, you’ll first need to consider your academic calendar at school. In Singapore, most international schools (UWCSEA, CIS, and GIIS for instance) follow a different academic calendar from local junior colleges. 

This article takes into account the international school calendar and provides a timeline of what you should be doing on the standardized test front.

Summer before Junior Year (June – August)

Start to familiarize yourself with the SAT and ACT test formats. Most universities accept both SAT and ACT scores. There is no added advantage in taking one test over the other. Begin by taking a diagnostic test for each under actual testing conditions. This will give a realistic picture of where you are starting from and which test you perform better on. Use the extra time in your holidays to hone your reading and mental math skills. 

Junior Year (August – December)

  • Schedule your test date

Singapore’s SAT Test Centers usually fill up well in advance of the test date, so it is important to reserve your seat early. Consider taking the test sometime in junior year. By the time you start senior year, you’ll be busy with other academic deadlines and writing college applications. Taking the test earlier also gives you the flexibility to retake the test if needed. So pick a date (December, March or May for the SAT) and begin preparing for the test.

  • Set a target score

For the SAT, scores range between 400-1600. You can determine your target score based on your college choices. If you are aiming for top tier US universities such as the Ivy Leagues, a score above 1500 on the SAT will place you in a competitive position.

  • Create a study plan and stick to it
    • You will need to balance studying for the SAT along with your other commitments such as academics and extracurriculars. Factor in your target score, your diagnostic score, and how much time you have before the test. Start by learning concepts. Once you are confident with the content, you can focus on implementing different test taking strategies. Lastly, take full practice tests while simulating the actual testing conditions. 

Junior Year Summer Break (June – August)

By now, you will have taken the SAT at least once and have your scores in hand. You’ll quickly need to decide if you are satisfied with your scores. If you are unsure about whether your scores are good enough for your target universities, approach an admissions consultant for advice. If you decide to retake the test, register early for the next available dates. To meet your college application deadlines, you should plan to retake the test in October, November, or December.

Senior Year (August – December)

This will be a hectic period with important academic deadlines and college application deadlines fast approaching. So when studying for the retest, make sure that you focus on your problem areas, rather than studying the sections equally. Finally, do remember to send in your scores to universities.

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