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Test Prep Checklist for Sophomores and Juniors

If you’re not already preparing for the SAT or ACT, now’s the time to get started!

The spring semester is a popular testing time, and high school sophomores and juniors need to have a plan in order to prepare for these important college admission exams. An excellent SAT or ACT score is not a guarantee of admission, but it can be the difference between the “maybe” and the “no” pile when admissions officers are reviewing applications.

Starting early is the key to success when preparing for college admission exams, and beginning the test prep journey as soon as sophomore year can help alleviate the stress associated with testing and assist students with staying on track for their college admission goals.

Here’s the test prep checklist that will help sophomores and juniors jump start their SAT and ACT prep this semester.

While you don’t need to take the SAT or ACT right away, it’s a good idea to get a head start with evaluating which test is the best-fit for you, and any other testing you might want to do, like AP exams or SAT Subject Tests.

  • Learn about the SAT and ACT. First, read up on the tests and why they’re an important component of the admissions process. Learn about what each test covers, how they’re formatted and scored, and all similarities and differences.
  • Consider classes that align with SAT Subject Tests. Are you taking any classes that align with any SAT Subject Tests you might want to take? Now is the time to think about what you’re learning in the classroom and if you should take exams like SAT Subject Tests while the information is still fresh in your mind. Many colleges ask for SAT Subject Test scores as part of the college application, so it’s wise to get a head start if it’s advantageous.
  • Take a diagnostic. It’s good to become familiar with the tests during sophomore year, and taking a diagnostic of the SAT and ACT is a great way to gauge which exam is the best-fit for you, and where you might need to improve. This will also make it easier to create a test prep schedule for the spring/summer – especially if you plan to take the SAT or ACT in the fall of junior year.
  • Take a practice PSAT. Yes, you can practice for the practice SAT exam. Most students take the PSAT junior year, but sometimes sophomores have the opportunity to take the exam. Since it’s offered only in the fall, it’s too late to take the official test now. However, there are a number of practice PSAT tests online that you can take to see how you’d do on the actual exam. It’s good to prep now, as your performance on the PSAT in the fall of junior year could qualify you for the National Merit Scholarship program.
  • Create a test prep schedule for the summer. While test prep shouldn’t be your only summer activity, you can spend some of your free time during summer break preparing for the SAT or ACT in the fall. First, decide how much time you want to dedicate to test prep over the summer. Is it one day a week? One hour three days a week? Will you start in June or July? Create a plan for study time and work it into your summer schedule. Stay on track by planning a few practice tests throughout the summer, so you can track your progress.

The spring semester should be test-prep crunch time for juniors. You only have a few shots at the ACT or SAT before the first application deadlines approach in the fall of senior year, so now is the time to get serious about your testing.

  • Evaluate PSAT scores. If you took the PSAT/NMSQT this fall, you should have received your PSAT scores in December. Take some time to read your score report to evaluate areas in which you may need to improve. This isn’t just helpful for the SAT. Your scores can also be used to identify which general areas you might need improvement on in regards to the ACT, too, like math or writing.
  • Take a diagnostic. You may know how you did on the PSAT, but do you know how you’d do on the SAT or ACT if you took it today? Arrange to take a diagnostic test of both the SAT and ACT, in order to see which test is the best-fit for your abilities. It’s better to focus on and prep for one test, rather than two, so use the diagnostic to pinpoint which test you should take.
  • Pick a test date and register. If you only have a few areas to work on, plan to take the SAT or ACT in March or April. If you have a lot to improve upon, plan for a May or June test date. Make a note of the registration deadlines for the tests and be sure you register on time.
  • Create a study schedule. Now that you know which test to take, what you need to improve based on your diagnostic, and when you plan to take the exam, you can create a study schedule. Start simply, by scheduling the time you want to dedicate to test prep every week. Maybe it’s one hour per day two days per week, or maybe it’s two hours per day every day. Once you know how much you want to dedicate to studying, put it in your calendar!
  • Plan for SAT Subject Tests. The SAT and ACT may be main exams students focus on, but most competitive colleges also ask for SAT Subject Test scores. If you haven’t already, evaluate which courses you’re taking that align with SAT Subject Tests and your academic interests, like chemistry, biology, history, or other subjects. Incorporate SAT Subject Test prep into your study schedule.
  • Take practice exams. Practice makes perfect, so plan to take a few timed practice exams of the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests while you’re preparing for the real thing. Not only will it help you become more familiar with pacing and the test format itself, it will also show you how you’re improving and what areas may need more attention.

Need additional help preparing for the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests? Our team of expert tutors can develop a personalized plan to get you on track and help you reach your goal scores. Contact us today for more information on our tutoring and test prep services, and watch our tutoring demo video below!