When to Take the SAT Test - dummies

By Geraldine Woods, Ron Woldoff

The SAT pops up on the calendar seven times a year. You can take the exam as often as you want. If you’re a masochist — that is, you enjoy pain — you can take all seven tests, but most people stick to this schedule:

The last “old” SAT is scheduled for January 2016; the first “new” SAT debuts in March 2016. Keep those dates in mind as you make your own personal test schedule.

  • Autumn of junior year (about 1 3/4 years before college entrance): Time to take the PSAT/NMSQT, the exam that serves as a preview of the real thing. Even if you don’t believe you need a preview, take the PSAT/NMSQT anyway; this test serves as a sorting tool for several scholarship opportunities and special programs. The first redesigned PSAT/NMSQT will be given in October 2015.

  • Spring of junior year (about 1 1/4 years before college entrance): Take the SAT strictly for practice, though you can send in your scores if you’re pleased with them.

  • Autumn of senior year (a bit less than a year before entrance): The SAT strikes again. Early-decision candidates should take the test in October or November; regular applicants may choose from any of the three autumn dates, including December.

  • Winter of senior year (half-year before entrance): Some SAT-lovers take the exam in autumn and again in winter, hoping that practice will make them perfect, at least in the eyes of the colleges. The high scores won’t hurt (and you probably will improve, just because the whole routine will be familiar), but don’t put a lot of energy into repeated bouts of SAT fever. Your grades and extracurriculars may suffer if you’re too fixated on (obsessed with) the SAT, and you may end up hurting your overall application.

If you’re transferring or starting your college career midyear, you may sit for the SAT in January, March, May, or June. Check with your counselor or with the college of your choice and go with that recommendation.

Everyone takes the SAT on Saturday except for those students who can’t for religious reasons. If you fall into that category, your SAT will be on a Sunday following a Saturday SAT day. Get a letter from your cleric (religious leader) on letterhead and mail it in with your registration form.

In terms of test sites, the early bird gets the worm. (Do you ever wonder why no one talks about the worm? He got up early, too, and look what happened to him.) When you register, you may request a test site, but if it’s filled, you get an alternate. So don’t delay; send in the form or register online as soon as you know when and where you want to take the exam.