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How to Build the Ideal SAT/ACT Prep Schedule

Although many schools no longer require standardized testing scores, the SAT and ACT are still very important components of your college application. There are many ways that the SAT and ACT factor into your profile as an applicant. Where your transcript, activities, and personal essays give Admissions Officers insight into your profile as a student and prospective member of their college community, SAT and ACT scores more directly compare you to other students.

Think about what you’ll have on your plate in the remaining time before finishing your college applications. Do you have a summer internship or research opportunity? Will you be working a job over the summer or during the school year? What sort of personal or family matters will be taking a lot of your time? Once school starts, how rigorous will your classes be? What sort of commitment will your extracurriculars require?

Before we review when you can take these tests, let’s think about why you’re taking them:

Sometimes, colleges use SAT and ACT scores when awarding merit scholarships. More generally, scores demonstrate to colleges that you are prepared for their academic programs. Competitive SAT and ACT scores are crucial to positioning yourself strongly in comparison to other applicants.

Securing the best possible scores, as early as possible, will make each aspect of the college application process simpler. The closer it is to application deadlines, the more time you’ll be spending finalizing your college application essays and completing classwork. Locking in your SAT and ACT scores earlier will also give you a better idea of what category certain schools would fall into for you. Retesting to raise your SAT score from 1450 to 1550 could change one school from a reach to a match. Taking the ACT again to aim for a perfect math score—even if you’re already satisfied with your overall score—could help increase your chances for admission to STEM-related majors.

In all, it’s important to put your best foot forward when it comes to college admissions tests. Create a schedule to help keep you on track in your preparations for taking the SAT or ACT, whether that looks like 30 minutes of review per day, one practice test per week, or whatever else fits your particular needs. Making a plan ahead of time in regard to your application deadlines, testing options, and study plans will help you become a stronger applicant while minimizing stress during an already busy time.

Let’s start with a 4-year test prep overview:

9th graders:

Take a diagnostic test for SAT/ACT by the end of the year to determine your baseline score and also to determine which test format you are most comfortable with and stronger at.

10th graders:

Determine your test prep strategy

1) Determine your goal test date. We suggest you only take a maximum of 3 tests, especially for SAT because some colleges will request to see all of your scores so you want to study well for each one and show improvement without taking too many. B2A has many resources for SAT and ACT prep such as intensive summer classes, semester-long classes, cram sessions, 1:1 tutoring sessions, and practice test materials.

2) Pick your study format:

  • Do you learn better in a class?

  • Will you be able to engage better and ask questions in 1:1 tutoring?

  • Do you need 1-hour classes over a longer period of time in order to digest the material?

3) Identify your strongest and weakest points so you know what to study first:

  • Which sections of the test need more improvement: Math, Reading, Science, or Writing?

  • Which reading passages, grammar concepts, and math concepts do you need more practice with?

  • Do you struggle more with content or pacing?

11th graders:

Summer before 11th grade is one of the best times to do CONSISTENT prep. Not only will this help you potentially gain your best score when returning to school in the fall, but it will set you up for better success on the fall PSAT which could help you qualify for National Merit.

Your goal will be to continue sticking to your test plan or adjusting your test plan to your new needs in order to get your goal score before junior year ends in the spring. This way, you can focus your summer before 12th on activities and college applications.

12th graders:

As a senior or rising senior, you’ll probably have taken both tests at least once by the end of your junior year. That way, when summer comes around, you can spend time researching colleges with the scores you are satisfied with or start working on a study plan for retesting.

If you still need to take a test for the first time or if you are going to take a test again, there are some important things to remember regarding college application deadlines:

  • SAT and ACT scores are typically released to you around two weeks after your test date.

  • You must secure your goal test score by September or October for Early Decision or Early Action—this changes per school so you want to check all of your colleges’ policies.

  • You must secure your goal test score by November or December for Regular Decision.

To get construct your ideal SAT/ACT schedule for the rest of this year, take a look at the remaining 2023 testing dates:


June 3 was the last date to take the SAT until fall.

The Fall 2023 SAT Test Dates are

  • August 26

  • October 7

  • November 4

  • December 2

Regular registration deadlines are about a month before the test date; late registration is open until about 10 days before the test date. You can get more information on SAT Dates and Deadlines from the College Board website.


The remaining Summer 2023 ACT test date is

  • July 15

The Fall 2023 ACT test dates are

  • September 9

  • October 28

  • December 9

Regular registration deadlines are a little more than a month before the test date; late registration is open until about three weeks before the test date. You can get more information on ACT Dates and Deadlines from the ACT website.

Need help creating a test prep schedule tailored to your goals? Want to discuss what SAT/ACT scores you need for your favorite colleges or which preparation style fits your learning best? Set up a 1:1 consultation with our Directors, James or Emily, or contact the front desk to inquire about our award winning programs.


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