Happy new year everyone! With the holidays behind us, it’s back to school, and for many high school juniors, that means registering for the SAT. For the first half of this year, the College Board is offering the following SAT test dates:
- March 10, 2018
- May 5, 2018
- June 2, 2018
Let’s explore which test dates might be the best fit for you and your student.
Choosing the right SAT test dates
First, we can narrow the choices a bit if you or your student is planning to take SAT II Subject Tests. Because you cannot take both the SAT and the SAT II subject tests on the same date (nor would you want to!), you should plan to take your subject tests on June 2. (If you’re curious about the subject tests, I go into more detail about them in this post.)
With June 2 devoted to subject tests, that leaves March 10 and May 5 for the regular SAT. Which date should you choose, or should you sign up for both? My personal opinion is to register for both, but to prioritize the March 10 date.
Test early and test often
Let’s face it: standardized testing involves performing under pressure, which can produce quite a bit of anxiety in students. If you put the test off until later, that pressure will only increase. Why? Because by putting the SAT off, you will have fewer chances to take it again if you don’t reach your goal score the first time.
Another reason to test earlier: you can go into the test with the knowledge that you will, in all likelihood, take this test again later. Often, just knowing that this particular test is not the only opportunity to do well can help students relax and concentrate, rather than feel stressed by the need to hit a home run.
For this reason, I advise my students to sign up for the March 10 test date. Then, I’ll recommend they take it again May 5. Why both dates? Because each test sitting involves a bit of randomness.
It’s a “standardized test”; how can it be random?
There’s more to taking the test than just the test itself. For one, there’s the randomness of your personal life. Maybe you’re just coming off the flu going into the test, or you didn’t sleep well the night before, or your dog Bobo ran away. The point is, when we sign up for the test in January, we can’t predict exactly how we’ll be feeling the morning of March 10.
Then there’s the randomness of the test itself, or “the luck of the draw.” For example, perhaps the test features a reading passage written by Thomas Paine, and you’ve just studied him in your American History class. Suddenly, a wave of confidence washes over you, and you think to yourself: I’ve got this!
However, perhaps one of the reading passages is 19th-century prose about the distribution of wealth in society, and economics just isn’t your thing. Suddenly, a wave of dread washes over you, and you think to yourself: Gross! (Note: While the SAT will never require background knowledge for the reading passages, studies have shown that some prior familiarity with the subject matter tends to aid reading comprehension.)
For both of these reasons, I recommend my students take the test in both March and May, if they can. Each test sitting is a new opportunity to do well. So test early and test often—it could lead to your best possible score.
A useful add-on: The College Board Question and Answer Service (QAS)
What is the Question and Answer Service (QAS)? This is an extra service provided by the College Board that you can add to your test registration. It is not offered for every test date, but it is offered in March and May 2018. For a fee of $18, the College Board will send you a complete copy of the actual exam you take on March 10 and/or May 5, along with an answer key showing which questions you got right and wrong. If you plan on taking the test more than once, this is an excellent study tool, and one I highly recommend!
Ready to register for the SAT?
If you or your student is not yet registered, you can do so on the College Board website. If you haven’t already created an account with them, you’ll need to do so.
Finally, one last piece of advice: the earlier you sign up, the better, because popular test sites can fill up quickly. The last thing you want on the morning of the test is to have to drive over an hour to your test site, which means getting up even earlier. So be sure to avoid that fate by registering soon, if you haven’t already!
Any more questions? Feel free to comment below, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck with your test prep!