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When Should Your Child Start Studying for the SATs?

test prep

Are you trying to figure out when your child should begin the process of studying for the all-important SATs? Check out this blog post for a comprehensive timeline you can use.

Start Studying for the SAT…Now?

The SATs are a major part of a high school student's career, and the coming examination(s) can start looming over a student as early as middle school. One of the things that makes these exams so intimidating is the uncertainty about how - and when - to start preparing, which can make for a tricky balance.

For example, you want to make sure that your child is completely prepared and has a good chance of getting a good enough score on the SATs, thereby getting into the college of his or her choice. That said, you don't want to start the preparation process too early, resulting in unnecessary stress and redirecting your child's focus from other, more immediate, concerns.

Here are our suggestions for when your child should start thinking about studying - and actually studying - for the SATs.

Studying for the SATs is an important part of high school

Choose Your Target Test Date… And Re-Test Date

Before deciding when your child should start the SAT study process, determine his target test date, making sure to allow time for him to retake the SATs once or even twice in case he's unhappy with his initial score.

The typical timeline, based on the fact that most college applications are due during the fall of a student's senior year, includes taking the SAT in the fall or spring of the junior year. Some students delay the test date until the fall of senior year, but we recommend taking it earlier so that the SATs don't take time or focus away from AP tests and college applications.

Assuming that your child does decide to take the SAT in the fall or spring of their junior year, here's the study timeline we recommend.

SAT Timeline

Freshman Year

Freshman year, in our opinion, is too early to start seriously preparing for the SATs, but definitely not too early to start thinking about and familiarizing oneself with the exam and study process. Your child can start conducting some preliminary research online and maybe take a free practice test. However, at this point, the focus should be on getting used to high school instead of stressing out about the SATs.

Freshman year is a good time to take a practice SAT

Sophomore Year

Sophomore year is a good time for your child to take the PSAT and get a sense of the test, its format, and how ready she might be for it. The test result - and how far it is from your child's target score - should help her gauge future study time. Her PSAT score, plus the amount of study time available each week should help both you and your child calculate how early she needs to start studying. Toward the end of sophomore year is a reasonable time frame.

Summer Before Junior Year

During the summer after sophomore year, and before junior year, your child will probably start thinking about which colleges he might apply to. This information will help him understand the kind of score that he should ultimately be shooting for. He can then adjust his study approach - and even target a test date - accordingly.

Target SAT scores are an important factor in choosing when to study for the SAT

Junior Year

This will ideally be the year that your child takes the SATs. As you might assume, her study process should ramp up in the weeks leading up to the test. Then, depending on whether or not she's happy with her score or wants to retake the test, this same pre-test study process might have to happen again and again, as many times as your child takes the SATs.

We hope that this helps you feel more secure about your child's SAT preparation. Best of luck!

For online test prep you can trust to help prepare your child for the SATs, check out Study.com's SAT prep.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
June 2019

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