The Showcase Magazine - Articles

What’s ahead: ACT and SAT summer options, and a look at the PSAT

by Erik R. Slagle

Graduation is right around the corner, and I’d like to congratulate all of this year’s grads, and their parents, on their accomplishments! Best of luck to each one of you, whether your path ahead is leading you to college, career school, the military, the workplace, or anywhere else you may have set your sights. It’s an exciting time in your lives and be sure to pause to soak as much of it in as you can.

Students in the Classes of 2019, 2020, and even 2021 might be looking to the upcoming summer and fall SAT, ACT and PSAT dates and wondering what’s their best plan of attack. If that’s a conversation you expect to have in your house soon, or if you’re already having it, then this installment of College Bound is for you!

July 14th ACT: This will be the first summer that the ACT is offered. It may fall close enough to the end of the academic year that some of the math and science will still be fresh for test-takers. But if you’re looking at it as “one last option” before senior year, you may be better served using the summer to practice and then test in September.

ALSO OFFERED ON: September 8th. (Although at this time the official date hasn’t been released, the ACT is typically offered on the second Saturday in September.)

THE JULY DATE IS BEST FOR: Rising seniors who might still try again in September; rising juniors who want a head start with a test they may choose not to report to colleges later. The enhanced Science section and math that’s slightly more advanced than the SAT make the ACT a better option for some students than others. Its increased difficulty over the last year or so may mean it’s no longer the preferred option for students with accommodations such as extended time.

August 25th SAT: Most students who last year took advantage of the College Board’s first-ever summer offering had positive experiences despite it cutting into summer vacation. If you’re able to commit 6-8 weeks to practice after the Fourth of July (and we’re not talking about all-day, every-day prep – just consistent, focused review) it can be beneficial to do it in August rather than October when college application deadlines are looming.

ALSO OFFERED ON: October 6th, November 3rd.

THE AUGUST DATE IS BEST FOR: Rising seniors who don’t have heavy sports or travel schedules in the summer; rising juniors ready to put some practice in before the school year starts.

October 10th PSAT: Check with your school to see if they offer the PSAT on Wednesday (standard) or the following Saturday (optional). Either way, the PSAT shouldn’t call for a lot of intensive practice unless you think you could be in contention for a National Merit Scholarship or financial awards that are based on your PSAT scores. Aside from that, at most plan for some light review to get familiar with the question types and content you’ll face on Test Day and think of it as a starting point for your SAT or ACT practice down the road.

ALSO OFFERED ON: no other dates throughout the year.

IT’S BEST FOR: Juniors are required to sit for it, and many school districts also strongly encourage sophomores to try it as a practice run.

If you’d like more information about test-taking strategies, ACT vs. SAT assessments, timelines or personal college admission plans – and about the problems with over testing – please see my ad in this issue for JPM Test Prep. Don’t hesitate to reach out for free guidance and resources!