How to know if you should consider more SAT/ACT testing in the Fall

Fall semester senior year is a space to tie up testing before your college applications. It can be difficult to know how to best finalize your testing. Do I take subject exams? Should I take the ACT one more time? When is the last test date I can take my exams in time for my application deadlines? In this post you will get a better understanding of how to approach testing and being mindful of application dates in Fall semester of your senior year.

If you’re a younger student and want more context to testing in general check out the following posts:

Remember, testing is one component of a larger picture in your application. It provides another data point for admission counselors to get a sense of you academic profile. It is not THE data point, but it is a piece to the application. Also be mindful of test-optional colleges and policies where scores are not considered or an optional consideration as a part of an application.

Testing is specific and unique to each student. So the question “what is a good score?” varies heavily. You need to look inward. At your own performance, timeline and college goals. Reflecting on what you’ve already done and setting a realistic goal for moving forward. Knowing when enough is enough and prioritizing your time in a way that gears you up for presenting the strongest application you can. Which again, varies. Fun, right? Right.

Should I take another SAT/ACT ?

If you have already taken an SAT or ACT this past year and you are debating whether or not to take it again it can be helpful to reflect on your time and priorities. Do you feel you studied consistently for your previous exam and your score is a true reflection of where you are? Do you have time to devote test prep to fine tune your skills in preparation for a Fall exam?

The closer you get to a perfect score, the more your scores come down to a handful if not a few questions. So if you’re looking to just try it again for the sake of seeing because you REALLY want to try AND it won’t cause as much angst and time to study in the midst of everything else, maybe you try it again. If you took it in the past and really feel your scores do not reflect where you are, consider taking it again and giving yourself a consistent timeline to study. For example, I will devote 1 hour every Tuesday and Thursday to studying and take 1-2 practice exams prior to the test.

Time and priorities. That’s the key to seeing if you should take another one or not.

I’m considering SAT Subject Tests. How do I know if I should take them, what to take and how many?

There are very few colleges, a small handful, that will recommend or require subject tests. Check individually with your colleges website for the most accurate up-to-date information on test policies.

Subject tests can be a way to show strength in a specific subject area. If you’re considering subject tests, take a look at the tests, talk to your teacher within that subject and get a sense of where you might score.

I’m a fan of reverting to the experts, so also check out this post by Compass that will help answer your subject test questions: SAT Subject Tests FAQ.

I haven’t tested at all and I’m applying to college this Fall and freaking out about it. What do I do?

That is OKAY. You do have time, but you want to be mindful of registration deadlines for upcoming tests and timing on when to complete them for your college applications. The University of California institutions will accept exams up until December of your Senior year. If you are applying Regular Decision, it can give you time to take exams throughout November and submit scores on time. Give yourself time, consider Regular Decision and giving yourself time to test throughout the Fall.

Check out the dates for the ACT and SAT below, register (on time!) and map out a studying timeline.

SAT Exam Dates

ACT Exam Dates

When do I need to send my scores and how do I send my scores to colleges?

You will send your scores officially through either your CollegeBoard (SAT) or ACT account online. TIP: Check if the colleges you are applying to allow you to self-report your scores. It’s worth noting, because you may save some money by self-reporting scores and officially sending later if you need.

Sending your scores depends on your application policies. If you are applying under an early application deadline, you will want your scores to be in when you submit your application. Check individually with the colleges you are applying to. Some early decision, action, etc. will want the scores in by their application deadline, so you would want to tie up testing by October. Others may be okay with a November test date, but again you want to ensure your application is not incomplete, so check individually with each college.

Keep in mind

  • No one size testing plan fits all, reflect on your own goals and timeline
  • Always check directly with each college to ensure your scores are in on time by their preferred deadline
  • You may be able to self-report your scores and save money
  • Check for test-optional schools and policies
  • Testing is one component of your application, give yourself time to dive into your essays, activities sheets and researching where you want to apply

Finally, take a breath, really, take one…because college is coming and you’re going to crush it.

Front steps to USF Admissions

Published by Casey Barneson

Author of The College Wellness Guide. Beverly Hills High School College Counselor.

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