Preparing for Standardized Tests: A High School Timeline

Help your child stay on track amongst all the standardized testing dates with this timeline.

Plotting a course through the college admissions process can be difficult, especially when there are so many standardized tests.

Planning early — I mean, as learn as freshman year of high school — can put your child on the road to better test-taking success.

Understand what do standardized tests (PSAT, PLAN, SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP exams) require from your child to gain a high score, talk about it with your college counselor, and plot a timeline as early as freshman year timeline early for how you should prepare for the test and you'll be on your way to success.

Freshman Year

No need to start studying for standardized tests. Your teen should focus on getting good grades and making improvements where necessary.

Find the right tutor to help your child improve her grades here.

Sophomore Year

October

It's a good idea to take the PSAT, and most schools will offer it. The PSAT is a practice SAT. The questions are similar to the SAT, but the PSAT is shorter, easier, and doesn't include an essay. It's a good idea to take the PSAT as a sophomore to get an early read on how you would do on the official SAT next year.

Learn more about how to prepare for the PSAT.

Fall

Some schools offer the PLAN. The PLAN is a preliminary ACT. Similar to the PSAT, the PLAN is a shorter, easier, essay-less version of the test to give you a little practice before you do the real thing. It's good practice for the ACT, and a PLAN score will show you which area(s) of the test you need to improve on.

Junior Year

October

Take the PSAT.

Spring

Take the SAT/ACT: By now, you will likely take one or both of these (technically, you can take these tests earlier, but it's almost always beneficial to wait until you've studied the content of the test, especially the math). Each test is offered only three times during the spring, but the dates are staggered so that the SAT and the ACT are never given on the same weekend.

Learn more about how to prepare for the SAT and ACT.

AP Exams: If you're taking any AP courses, you will be taking their corresponding AP exams in May. Doing well on AP exams is helpful because you can earn placement out of introductory-level college courses and may even gain college credit.

SAT Subject Tests: These are one-hour, multiple-choice tests in specific subjects (e.g., Spanish, U.S History, Biology). Subject Tests are given on the same dates as the SAT, so you should plan ahead; you cannot take both the SAT and a Subject Test on the same date, but you can take up to three Subject Tests on a date when you are not taking the SAT. Not all colleges require Subject Tests, but they're a good way to show off your strengths. And there's a lot of material overlap between AP Exams and Subject Tests, so it makes sense to take them around the same time. Remember that students opt into the Subject Tests, so take the ones in areas where you know you'll excel.

Read more advice about SAT Subject Tests here.

Senior Year

Fall

Hopefully you've taken the SAT and/or the ACT and/or Subject Tests by now, but if you want to improve your scores, you'll have a few more opportunities (many seniors take a test in October or November, though some colleges may not accept scores from November test dates. Check with your college counselor to be absolutely sure!).

Spring

Enjoy life! Get accepted to college! All your dreams are coming true! And that's due in large part to the fact that you planned out early on which tests you would take when.

For more helpful SAT/ACT/AP information and FAQ's, visit: www.revolutionprep.com

Ramit Varma is co-Founder and President of Revolution Prep. Mr. Varma and his business partner, Jake Neuberg, founded Revolution Prep in 2002. The company started by holding SAT preparation classes at a local high school in Santa Monica and is now the nation's largest provider of on-campus SAT and ACT prep. Recognizing a similar market need for top quality test prep and academic tutoring, Revolution built a one-on-one tutoring business that now maintains a staff of more than 1,000 elite tutors and services more than 75,000 students per year in traditional and online classes and private tutoring. Learn more at revolutionprep.com

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