The Ultimate SAT and ACT Prep Timeline

Test Prep & Grades
December 15, 2020
Timelines Can Be One Of The Most Helpful Tools For High School Students Preparing To Apply To College.

During their junior and senior year of high school, your child can expect to be busy juggling their classes and activities on top of applying for colleges. The stress that surrounds standardized tests like the SAT and ACT only adds to their list of responsibilities.

This is why keeping a detailed timeline of what’s expected of them for their standardized tests can help them stay on track and avoid becoming overwhelmed during the college prep process. This guide highlights some important dates and deadlines your child needs to know regarding their standardized tests, as well as some fool-proof methods for preparation, test day itself, and what to do after they receive their scores. Let’s get started!

When Should You Take The SAT And ACT?

The SAT and ACTs are used by colleges to measure important aspects of a student’s education like reading and writing skills, and things like comprehension and mathematics. Colleges usually don’t prefer one test over the other, but they do use a student’s test results to make their admissions decisions.

This is why it’s so important that students not only take their standardized tests seriously, but also register for their tests with plenty of time to spare. A student’s freshman and sophomore year is a bit too early for students to take part in standardized tests, but the end of senior year is definitely too late. When your child takes their SAT or ACT is just as important as how they take it. Most education professionals agree that the best time for students to take their standardized tests is in the spring of their junior year.

Most colleges require standardized test scores on their applications, so it’s safe to assume that your child will need to take one of these tests, sometimes multiple times, to achieve an impressive score. Should your child take their SATs or ACTs twice, and improve their score, they’ll be demonstrating great initiative and a desire to grow.

Fortunately, taking the test early allows them plenty of time to retake these tests if they want their scores to be higher. Because the SAT and ACTs need to be taken during some of the busiest years of a student’s high school years, utilizing a timeline to help them plan out their testing schedule will be an indispensable tool.

The Ideal Timeline For Taking The SAT And ACT

This timeline is designed specifically for students, regardless of which standardized test they choose to take. If you think your student will find this helpful, encourage them to print it out or keep it somewhere they can reference often.

Dividing their tasks into semesters will help your child stay on track with all the other activities in their life, while preparing for their standardized tests the right way.


During the fall semester of your child’s junior year, they should be enrolled in an SAT/ACT prep course of some sort. Whether this is online or offered through their school, these classes provide a great resource for students looking to excel on their standardized tests. Test prep classes give students test-taking strategies, multiple chances to take practice tests, and review of specific material that will be on the SAT or ACT.

If your child doesn’t have access to a test prep course, they should connect with a trusted counselor to explore their options and take advantage of any resource related to preparing for the SATs or ACTs.

Professional counselors like the ones here at WeAdmit are experts at everything involving the transition from high school to college, and this includes test prep. We can help them develop a study strategy so that they’re confident on test day.

Lastly, your child should make sure that they’re actually registered for either an SAT or ACT test in the spring. Standardized tests are typically given six or seven times every year, so your child should head over to CollegeBoard’s Standardized Test Registration to choose a month that will allow them time to study well, take plenty of practice tests, and feel prepared for their test.


During the spring semester of their junior year, your child will most likely be wrapping up their test prep courses and finalizing their practice tests before officially taking either the SAT or ACT.

Students should take the last few weeks leading up to their test seriously, and tackle test day with confidence and preparation.

After test day, make sure your child takes some time to unwind and relax after all their hard work. Encourage them to take a few days off and give their brain a break before jumping back into their normal schoolwork.

During this time, students will also be waiting for their test scores. If your child is feeling anxious or nervous about their test scores, keep encouraging them and remind them that since they took the test early, they have plenty of time to take it again in the fall if they don’t like their score!


During the summer before their senior year, students have varied options for how to spend their time. Some students work summer jobs so they can save money for college, and others continue taking upper level classes to get college credits completed early.

If your child felt that they could’ve done better on their SAT or ACT, this summer break is the perfect opportunity for them to revisit their test results and see what areas could’ve been stronger. On the SAT and ACT results, students receive a breakdown of the scores they received for each section on the test. Your child should carefully go through each section and highlight their lowest scores. Then they can tackle their test prep materials with a heightened focus on those areas.

For example, if your child’s overall test score was low because of their math score, they should consider spending more time in their math books and try to understand why they got certain questions wrong.

While they’re reviewing their test results, they can also be looking for their next test date in the fall, and register for it as soon as they can.


Obviously, your child will be busy applying to colleges during the fall of their senior year. If necessary, they should try to find a test date that’s as early on in the semester as possible so they’re not juggling SAT and ACT prep alongside college applications.

Overall, students should take the same approach with their second test day as with their first. They should get a good night’s sleep, eat a good meal, and not overthink things. All the work that they did over the summer will still be there during their test, so the only way to battle any kind of test anxiety is to simply let go and trust that they did their best.

After they receive the scores from their second test, they should do a direct comparison of all the scores they’ve received. From there, they can consult with their college counselor and send in the best scores to colleges.

Using Our SAT And ACT Prep Timeline  

Regardless of where your child is in their high school years, standardized tests are inevitable. Preparing for the SATs or ACTs can dictate how the rest of their college application process will go. Students should use our detailed timeline to collect their thoughts while they prepare for standardized tests in conjunction with staying on  top of their senior year classes, activities, and responsibilities.

Of course, if your student needs extra help, feel free to reach out to any of WeAdmit’s professional counselors with the questions you may have along the way. We can help your child balance their schedule, plan out their standardized testing plan, and start their college applications on a strong note!



Need more Information?

Gain all the information you need by getting in touch with our admissions team or booking a free 30-minute counseling session.