At this point, everyone is either done or nearly done with school. With few or no snow days, students are getting an early start to summer. I’m starting with many new students, and they all are pretty chipper: no homework, plenty of sleep, hanging out with friends. Summer life as a high school student looks pretty good.
Summer has always been a popular time to start test preparation programs, whether for SAT, ACT, or SSAT/ISEE. Rising juniors want to get ahead of the game. Rising seniors have consolidated their college lists and updated their goals. And prime SSAT/ISEE testing season is in the Fall, which is sooner than one might think for students who are gone for any portion of the summer. This year, however, the end of the paper-and-pencil SAT looms in December, and this early end date creates even more incentive for some students (SAT students) to start early. So, this year more than ever, the answer to the question of when to start test prep – making a plan, at least – could be “now.”
Test prep programs have been tilting longer in duration over the past few years. With the rise of test-optional, in both private school and college admissions, the scores students submit have been steadily rising. So, test prep programs need to be geared toward helping students achieve high scores. Despite persistent myths about standardized tests being “gameable” by “tips and tricks,” the tests are heavily content-based and require substantial knowledge to achieve excellence. As such, students may need to put in significant work to achieve to the types of high scores currently needed, hence the need for longer programs.
This is often most true with SSAT/ISEE students, many of whom haven’t learned much of the Math on the tests yet, and almost all of whom need to acquire hundreds of new vocabulary words to make a dent in their Verbal scores. When these students go away for part or all of the summer, the timeline can be shorter than it appears.
And, of course, joining the rush this year are paper-and-pencil SAT students, whose final paper-and-pencil test is about 5.5 months away. That is more than enough time to run a full SAT preparation program, but given that most students will want to take the test at least twice, a first test date in November is only 4.5 months away. That will be four months pretty soon once we pass July 4th in the blink of an eye. One can see that these Fall dates will approach pretty suddenly – this summer life goes fast!
Even ACT students have a reason to test early. In previous years, the first “released test” for juniors was in December, which made a logical first test date. This year, however, the released test will occur in September instead. That’s often been a tough test date, right at the end of the first week of school, but released tests are valuable, so there is some appeal.
Just getting the preparation process started usually takes a little time. We can help you figure out when to start so that your process moves along a comfortable and successful timeline.