Last weekend was the May SAT.  Many high school juniors took the SAT for the first time.  The first SAT can be an intimidating experience for students. Many juniors returned home feeling overwhelmed.

Here are five of the most common questions students have after their first SAT.

  1.  Should I cancel my scores?
    • Short Answer: No.
    • Long Answer: You want to get a good sense of your current score, what that score shows about your strengths and weaknesses, and what you need to do to prepare for the next test.  Knowing is half of the battle.  Your SAT score report will come with valuable insight about your SAT performance. These insights will help with the next SAT.   And who knows, you may have done better than you think. Instead of cancelling scores, you can choose not to send your scores to any colleges when you register. This way, you don’t have to worry that the school of your dreams will see your first score.
  2. Should I take the ACT instead?
    • Short Answer: Yes, if you’ve taken a practice test.
    • Long Answer:  You should take a practice ACT to determine if that test is a better fit.  Sit down and take a practice ACT in test-like conditions.  Then grade it and see how you did. Use this information to help guide you to the right decision. See how your ACT score compares to your SAT score using the concordance charts provided by College Board. Find a free full length ACT here.
  3. Should I register for another test?
    • Short Answer: Very likely
    • Long Answer:  You will not get a lot of time to prepare if you take both the May and June SATs.  If you can, register for a later test, like August or October, so you have time to examine the score report and determine your strengths and weaknesses.  Then develop a game plan to improve the weak areas. If your SAT score was much lower than expected, it may be better to try the ACT instead (see answer to question #2).
  4. When should I take the SAT next?
    • Short Answer: August or October 
    • Long Answer:  This will depend on your schedule and your situation.  You may want to do the June test next if you want to get it out of the way during the school year and you are not too overwhelmed with finals, SOLs, and AP tests. However, if you do have finals and tests, you may find it difficult to dedicate enough time to prepare for the SAT.  Since most students are in this situation we recommend August or October. You may want to do the August test if you do not plan to travel a lot and feel you can stay motivated throughout the summer to study.  You may want to do the October test if you are traveling often during the summer or have other obligations that will keep you from being able to dedicate the time to prep.
  5. When should I start preparing for the next SAT?
    • Short Answer:  Prepare daily
    • Long Answer:  If you felt anxious and overwhelmed, then practice 15-30 minutes a day. Daily practice will help you gain confidence in the material so you feel prepared for the next test.  In terms of official prep, you want to schedule a class or tutor at least 8-10 weeks out from your next test depending on how much you need to increase your score.  If you are taking the test in August start prep in mid-June in case you need a week or two off for vacation.  If you are taking the test in October start prep in early August. Make sure to contact the tutoring company early so you can guarantee availability.