High School Juniors Part 1: Take Your Standardized Tests

January 11, 2018

At first glance, senior year may seem like the most crucial year in high school, but junior year is really where a lot of the preparation work comes in.

Junior year plays an important role in the application process, because if planned accordingly, it could be the extra time advantage many high school students need. Students don’t need to have already finalized their college list or have started writing their personal statement; what they need is a plan.

There are so many different aspects to preparing for the college application process. We’ll break it down for you so it’s easier to digest. First, plan to study and take your standardized tests.

Step 1: Know Your Standardized Tests

To start, find out what standardized testing requirements you need. At this point, you may not have finalized your college list or decided on your intended major just yet, and that’s okay! At the minimum, you are most likely required to take the ACT or the SAT, as well as two (2) SAT Subject Tests (also known as the SAT IIs).

When it comes to SAT and the ACT, there is no easier test. There is, however, a test that you’re more comfortable with. Here are the differences between the two tests to help you make your decision. Whichever you choose, stick with it.

Then, there’s the SAT Subject Tests. Most universities do not ask for this test, but many of the selective universities will require it as part of their application. You’ll be asked to take 1-3 Subject Tests. While most universities will give you the option of choosing your own subjects, if you apply to study a technical major, you may be required to take specific Subject Tests. Here’s a complete guide to understanding the SAT II. 

Step 2: Schedule Your Standardized Tests

Now, look at the test dates available to you. The test dates for the second half of 2018 will be similar to that of 2017. How do you decide which test date to go with?

You need 100 hours to reach your ideal target score for the SAT or the ACT. It’s ideal to take the summer when you don’t have to worry about your high school course load as well to really focus on studying for the SAT or the ACT. Then, take it in August before the school year begins.

If you have the discipline to study for the SAT/ACT during the school year, then choose any of the test dates as you see fit! Please note that the last SAT/ACT test date accepted for early admissions is in November, and December for regular admissions.

Additionally, the March SAT test date does not offer the SAT Subject Test. More importantly, you cannot take the SAT Reasoning Test and the SAT Subject Test on the same day. You can take up to three Subject Tests in one sitting. Please take these into account as you plan ahead for junior and senior year.

Step 3: Stick to Your Study Plan

The point of planning ahead and taking your junior year to study for the standardized tests is so you don’t have to cram everything 6 months before application deadlines. If you’ve made the effort of putting together a study plan, stick with it. It’s important to find someone, a friend or a coach, to keep you accountable. Parents are a great support, but you may not want them to be the ones to keep you accountable. We both know that will soon sound like nagging and not something you want to hear from them every day.

Don’t switch between the SAT/ACT. Again, once you’ve made your decision, keep at it. The SAT and the ACT have different formats, different timing, and different subjects. Going back and forth might actually turn into a setback when you’re trying to pick up testing strategies. 

Step 4: Retake If Necessary

No one wants to take the ACT or SAT again, but it’s important to plan so you have the option of bumping up your score if you really need to. By the time you get your first test results back, you may have finalized your college list and want to aim for a higher target score. Or, you didn’t test as well as you wanted and have the time to improve your score.

We recommend students plan to take it 3 times. Again, you should study and prepare to only take it once, but you should be ready for the unexpected. You might not be a great condition on test day or get too nervous. Give yourself the breathing room to improve your score.

If you do give yourself the time and opportunity to retake the test, it does not mean you have to. Evaluate how much of a score boost you need. Are your 20-50 points away from your target score, or 100+ points away?

Standardized Testing Plan

So, what does this look like when you put it all into plan? Well, if you’re still currently sophomore, here’s what your junior and senior can look like when it comes to your standardized testing schedule:

Start studying this upcoming summer, and you’ll be able to spread out your potential retakes. If you do not need to retake the SAT or ACT, you can bump up your SAT II schedule and take it over the summer. Or, stick to the schedule and take it early fall of your senior year.

There’s no need to take them earlier than that. You’ll likely be choosing subject tests related to your AP classes or on subjects you’re good at. Your high school curriculum will help with the knowledge required for the subject tests.

Already a junior? There’s still time to fit all of this in.

Get started on your SAT/ACT preparation now to get your first test date in by the beginning of summer. This will give you the opportunity to retake the test and also fit in your SAT IIs. Still not sure about the SAT and the ACT? Here are the answers to all the most frequently asked questions about standardized testing. 

Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.

Check back next week for the next part series on how to plan for the college application during your junior year! Best of luck with your standardized tests. If you have any questions, please comment below.

About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


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NYU ‘19

Accepted to NYU, BC, BU, GWU, Northeastern

I was born and raised in Korea, but I've studied in in U.S. boarding school for 7 years. I love people, building, and cars so I love every cities in the world.
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I'm from the SF Bay Area, but I'm betraying my roots by attending The University of Texas at Austin as a chemical engineering major. I like music, science and eating!
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Accepted to Dartmouth, Vassar, Kenyon, UVA

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