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Is Summer the Best Time to Take the SAT?

For many students, summer is a season to finally relax and enjoy time away from school work. However, dismissing the idea of taking the SAT during the summer may overlook certain advantages worth considering, especially if maximizing one's performance on the SAT is a priority.
Is Summer the Best Time to Take the SAT?
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Key Advantages to taking the Summer SAT

Academic Focus

During the school year, with classes, homework, and extracurricular responsibilities, it can be nearly impossible for many students to find the time to properly prepare for the SAT exam. Even if you manage to find some time to set aside purely to work on preparation, it is not possible to devote your full attention to studying and preparing with everything else on your mind. 

The summer months, in contrast to the school year, are typically a much less hectic time for students. This provides the perfect environment for effective studying and preparation. Although it may not seem appealing at first - having to do school related work during your time off -  it can offer more focused preparation and necessitate less overall time studying with more impactful and focused study time spent.

In a study at Connecticut State University, an experiment was conducted to discover the effect that different levels of interruptions had on students while they were studying. The results showed that although each group scored about the same on the test no matter their distraction level, students who experienced less distractions while studying, completed the test much quicker and reported to experience significantly lower amounts of stress than the students who experienced more distractions. 

So if your summers are less busy than months during the school year, it may be worth looking into taking the SAT during the summer! 

Time for Fall Retakes

Another key advantage of taking the SAT during the summer is the time it allows you for retakes.The testing dates for the SAT during the summer months allow time for you to receive your score and evaluate if you need to retake the exam in the fall before you start sending applications to universities. 

Testing scores are released 13 days after the test date. For example, scores for tests taken on June 1st of this year will be released on the 14th. This gives you ample time to register and prepare for another testing date early in the fall of your senior year. 

Not only does this give you another chance to improve your score, but an idea of what to expect for the second test, and more time to prepare. It also can take some of the stress out of the initial test, giving you more confidence to ace it the first time around! 

Most students take the SAT twice. Once at the end of their junior year of high school, and once at the beginning of their senior year. This summer testing date can provide a more optimal first testing date for those who are very busy in the spring.

Secondary Test Option

A third advantage to taking the SAT in the summer is that it can be a great time to take the SAT a second time. For student’s who took the test in the spring and didn’t quite get the score they were looking for, but don’t want to fall victim to the summer slide and lose all of their study progress, the summer can be the perfect timing for a retake!

It's a Balancing Act

While taking the SAT during the summer offers many advantages, it's essential to balance these academic efforts with personal growth opportunities. Summer breaks are unique periods for high school students to engage in experiences that enrich their personal and academic development, including travel, internships, volunteering, or pursuing hobbies and interests that there might not be time for during the school year. These activities not only provide a well-deserved break from academic pressures but also contribute to a more well-rounded college application. Engaging in diverse experiences can foster personal growth, develop new skills, and provide valuable life experiences that can inform future academic and career decisions.

The Ultimate Choice Is Up to You

Ultimately, there is no perfect time to take the SAT that will guarantee the scores you are hoping for. Success is often a result of hours of preparation and hard work. No matter what time of the year you elect to take the test, thorough preparation is key for achieving success on the SAT. If you are struggling to properly prepare on your own, finding an experienced and qualified tutor can often make an important impact!  Consider exploring summer tutoring programs to find qualified tutors who can help elevate your SAT scores!

Recent SAT Changes

Since the early 2000s, there has been a movement towards test-optional admissions policies in many universities. Test-optional refers to when applicants can choose whether or not to submit their standardized test scores as a part of their admissions process. 

The Covid-19 pandemic greatly accelerated this movement, and as of now there are over 1900 colleges and universities in the United States that have an SAT/ACT optional admissions process. 

This movement and the acceleration by the pandemic has changed the landscape of college admissions drastically in a short amount of time. Yet, this shift to test-optional admissions processes doesn’t mean that test-optional policies are here to stay. In a recent announcement, Yale stated that the university will again require students to include scores with their application (although they will accept AP or IB exam scores in place of SAT scores). 

Yale is not alone, as Dartmouth College also announced that it will reinstate the standardized testing requirement for undergraduate admissions starting with the class of 2029. This issue is proving a true divide for the world of higher education throughout the United States. As more universities commit to policies favoring required tests or test-optional in the years to come, the expectation for students will only become less clear. 

Why Taking the SAT is Still Worth It

This admissions environment, although confusing, presents a great opportunity for students applying to university now and in years soon to come. At this point, taking the SAT is a win-win for several reasons. 

Students often don’t have everything planned out. They usually have an idea of where they would like to attend, but things and feelings change quickly, especially in high school. This allows the SAT to provide a great back-up plan. Maybe the schools that a student wants to attend are test-optional, but they don’t get in. It is good to have at least one SAT score just in case the schools that the student is applying to changes or the schools they want to apply to changes their admissions policy. 

Another reason it is a win-win to take the SAT, is that the SAT is often used to help paint the full picture of a student's abilities. As Yale noted in its announcement,  “A student’s transcript tells our committee much about a candidate’s preparation. But testing can fill in additional parts of the picture. Tests can highlight an applicant’s areas of academic strength, reinforce high school grades, fill in gaps in a transcript stemming from extenuating circumstances, and—most importantly—identify students whose performance stands out in their high school context.” With this viewpoint on the SAT, it is clear that the scores are often used to help a student's case in the admissions process.

The SAT can be a great tool to help a student display their abilities in their application to a school. If a student isn’t happy with their scores, they can simply elect not to send them in with their application. Alternatively, they can prepare and retake the test again to improve their scores. In our current admissions environment, the SAT should be viewed as a helpful option by students rather than a test to avoid.

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About the author:

As a success specialist and content creator for Learner, Evan is dedicated to improving and innovating education opportunities for everyone. He is a recent graduate of Penn State University and has experienced the impact of successful tutoring first hand as a student!

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