The short answer is “now”.

Many students wait until the fall of their Senior year to study for the SAT. They are often overwhelmed with responsibilities: such as school, college applications, and sports. On top of that these Seniors are usually left with one opportunity to take the test, which is fine if they do well, but troublesome if they don’t since they are left with very few options.

Preparing for the SAT takes about two and a half months for the above average student. It often takes longer for students to reach their full potential. It’s standard for students to take the test two to three times so it’s important that each attempt is made after good preparation. This way the students can grow during each attempt and eventually get the highest score that they can possibly get.

SAT preparation is a two step process. The first step is to learn the content and the best approaches for taking the test. I recommend one or two meetings a week during this step in order to keep students on track and to facilitate retention. Most test preparation programs focus most of their time on this step. Unfortunately, content knowledge is only a small part of standardized testing, and students are often ill prepared for the reality of the testing environment.

The second step is to drill the material repeatedly so the new knowledge and techniques are reliable and accessible in a high pressure situation. Standardized tests are popular because they prey on “standard” student responses. Students often have to learn non-standard approaches in order to increase their scores. They learn the best approaches and techniques during the first step, but it is important for them to practice it repeatedly before the approaches become natural and repeatable. The second phase of the test preparation process usually consists of weekly meetings, homework drills, and mock tests.

Different students progress at different speeds. Therefore I highly recommend that students start preparing for the SAT and ACT as early as possible. Even Sophomores can benefit from some early preparation, such as working on critical reading skills and increasing their vocabulary.

Students can, and should, start studying for these crucial tests right now. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about what you should be doing in order to reach your highest potential on the SAT and/or the ACT.