How to Set Test Prep Goals for 2020

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Get a Head Start on Planning for the New Year

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With the new year right around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about your test prep goals for 2020. Whether you’re a freshman who is just beginning to think about college, a sophomore gearing up to start test prep, or a junior who is already in the thick of it, there are concrete steps that you can take in 2020 to get closer to achieving your test prep goals.

If you’re a freshman, you might think that it is too early to start planning for standardized tests, but there are important things that you can do now to make the process easier as you progress through high school. You may consider signing up for the PSAT 10 in the fall of your sophomore year. Until then, the most important thing you can do is to focus on your academic work, particularly your foundational reading and math skills. The harder you work in your Math and English classes now, the easier the SAT or ACT will be when you take it later on.

If you’re a sophomore, you should set a goal of taking a practice SAT and ACT by the end of the school year to determine which test is the better fit for you. Most highly selective schools require one or the other, but they are treated equally and there is no preference for one over the other. Therefore, you should choose the test that you are more comfortable with and on which you have the highest scoring potential. For example, students who are stronger in math may gravitate towards the SAT, since it accounts for half of the overall score, rather than a quarter like on the ACT. Other students may find ACT questions to be more straightforward.

The summer after sophomore year is a great time to get a head start on test prep, as junior year is typically the most challenging academically, leaving less time for test prep. You should also sign up for the PSAT/NMSQT, which you will take in the fall of your junior year – this not only gives you some practice with the real SAT, but top-scoring students can also qualify for scholarships!

If you’re taking any AP classes as a sophomore, you may also want to consider prepping for the SAT Subject Tests that align with your classes, as some universities require these as well. For example, if you’re taking AP World History and are doing well, you may want to consider taking the World History Subject Test as well.

If you’re a junior, you’ve probably already begun preparing for your standardized tests, but this year, the prep should really ramp up. If you haven’t already determined whether you are taking the SAT or ACT, you should commit to one right away. With the academic challenges that junior year brings, you need to be as efficient as possible with your test prep.

Junior year is when you should start building your balanced college list and researching what kinds of test scores are needed to have a chance of admission at your top-choice universities. This might be a wake-up call to some students, and it’s important to be realistic when it comes to how much you can improve your scores. Targeted test prep and support from a tutor can go a long way in increasing your SAT or ACT score.

Junior year is a busy time, and it goes by quickly! You should plan for at least three test dates before your first early applications will be due in your senior year. The first sitting for an SAT or ACT can be nerve-wracking, and first-time jitters can be a big factor when you take these exams. If you achieve your goal score on the first sitting, great! Most students, however, will need to test at least twice, so you should account for this when registering for your first exam date. You should ideally plan to have all scores prior to November 1st, 2020, in time for most universities’ early application deadlines. If you are taking the SAT, it’s important to remember that you cannot take the SAT and Subject Tests on the same day, so keep this in mind when picking potential test dates.


Wherever you are in your test prep journey, it is important to plan ahead and set concrete goals. The IvyWise team of expert tutors and counselors can help you navigate this process so that when it comes time to submit your scores to your top-choice institutions, you can do so with confidence!


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