In short, it just depends! There are many students who would benefit from early testing which will help keep the stress level down through the all-important junior year into college application season.
Some students should test as early as summer after their 10th-grade year, while others should wait until the winter or spring of 11th grade.
Should You Be An Early Tester?
Yes, if you’ve completed algebra 2 before your junior year.
Emma is the perfect example. She’s a current sophomore, taking algebra 2 honors (accelerated math), and a state qualifier swimmer. Emma’s mom approached me in January of her 10th-grade year thinking she’d wait until junior year to test.
The first thing we discussed was Emma’s heavy swim schedule. Like most sports, it’s really year-round these days leaving little downtime to now add in test prep, testing and college visits during 11th grade. However, for a college-bound student, time must be found for all of it!
Finding the least busy season is key. For a competitive swimmer like Emma, this is really March through September each year; still busy, but less so. Two-a-day practices and competitions have her head barely above water from October through April.
Since Emma will have algebra 2 (the tested curriculum) complete by the end of 10th grade, I encouraged her mom to have her test in June, July or September after 10th grade for a first attempt. This was contrary to what they intended to do.
She incorrectly thought her first test would be her state test in the winter of her junior year. Emma’s required state ACT in the late winter at her school is during the busiest of swim season with zero time for purposeful prep. Nothing can be done about this timing.
Finally, if Emma would find she needs one more try to boost her score before college applications in August of 12th grade, she could take the June or July ACT at the end of 11th grade with time to prep.
Had Emma’s mom not run into me at the doctor office that day, she would have made the mistake of waiting for the state test at a time of year when her daughter couldn’t prep. This would push all of her testing later and crowding into the already busy application season.
For any student who has completed algebra 2 prior to 11th grade, reduce stress by prepping for then taking the first ACT or SAT between June and December 11th grade.
Who Should Wait Until Winter Junior Year?
Any student taking algebra 2 during the junior year, would benefit from waiting until the course is half complete before testing. Encountering on the ACT or SAT a myriad of math they haven’t learned can create test anxiety!
If you think waiting is going to push these students into testing during the college application process, that doesn’t have to be the case. By following our proven timeline, students can take a strategic approach to stay on time with deadlines and thereby reduce stress.
Make Your Testing Timeline NOW….no matter your age!
At LEAP our passion is no student takes ACTs and SATs while completing applications. It’s simply TOO MUCH! Let’s protect sanity, avoid future anxiety and have a plan for maximized test scores. Join us for our next free Test Planning Workshop in-person or online.