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As a new school year is about to get under way, we thought it would be important to lay out an intelligent timeline for juniors as far as the SAT and ACT goes.
Juniors will take either the PSAT or PLAN in the fall. For many students this will be their second time taking one of these practice exams as more schools choose to have sophomores take these practice tests. The one thing we try to emphasize to juniors is to give these tests 110% effort so that we can learn something when the results come back around December. It is a shame that for many students, who don’t try their hardest on these practice exams, the results are worthless since they are not an accurate indication of their abilities.
When the results of the PSAT or PLAN come back around December, juniors need to go through the questions they got wrong or left blank and try to figure out either what they did wrong or how to answer the question correctly. Most juniors do nothing with their results; since these results give a student the most detailed picture of where they can improve, not going through a PSAT or PLAN is truly a wasted opportunity. Of course, many juniors will need to go through these results with a teacher, friend, parent, or tutor to figure out the more difficult questions.
Juniors should consider taking the January and/or May SATs since these are the only spring SATs that offer the Question and Answer Service. This service allows juniors to have the entire question booklet along with their answer key sent to them so they can analyze the questions they got wrong. Of course, analyzing a prior SAT is one of the most intelligent ways a student can prepare to take the SAT again. For the ACT, the same service is offered on the April and June exams. The ACT calls its service the Test Information Release.
This leads to the question “When is the best time for juniors to take the SAT and ACT?” In our opinion, every junior should take both the SAT and ACT once on an exam when the Question and Answer or Test Information Release service is offered. For example, a junior could take the January SAT and the April ACT. The student could then compare his or her scores to determine which test he or she scored better on. The student would then analyze the questions missed or omitted to understand where there is the most room for improvement. The student would then take whichever test he or she scored higher on a second time in the spring of the junior year. After this third test, the student would hopefully be done. But if the student had to take either exam again in the fall, at least he or she would have the benefit of three full exams to look through to understand where the most improvement could be made.
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