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David Recine

Taking the SAT in Middle School


If you’re an ambitious student, you may want to take the SAT as early as middle school. Here are a few things to consider about early SAT testing.

The College Board’s special rules for taking the SAT in middle school

The College Board has some special requirements for younger test takers. Students under the age of 13 cannot register for the exam online, and instead must sign up for the SAT by mail. Students who are in or below the eighth grade won’t need to submit a copy of their photo ID to register for the test… but they will need to present a valid photo ID on exam day.

If you’re taking the SAT in middle school, be sure you have enough time to deal with any mailing and photo ID requirements. Registering by mail takes more time than electronic test registration. And in order to get a valid photo ID, you’ll need to take go to an ID issuing office (probably with a parent). Moreover, in some states you aren’t given your ID on the spot when you apply for it, and instead need to wait for your valid ID to be sent to you in the mail.

Advantages of taking the SAT in middle school

There are many reasons that bright, hard working junior high students may want to take the SAT. This very high-stakes test can determine a student’s future education and adult career. So it’s a good idea to get comfortable with the test early on.

Additionally, the SAT embodies the learning expectations of modern high school and college education. So when a middle school student prepares for the SAT and takes it, they are also getting in some good early practice for their post-middle-school studies.

Possible downsides to taking the SAT in middle school

There are some disadvantages to taking the SAT before high school. For one thing, if a middle school student scores really well on the SAT (and this certainly can happen), he or she will probably not be able to use this early score for college entrance. This is because the College Board considers SAT scores to be expired after five years. You can still order an old middle school SAT score report and have it sent to a university. But if the report is older, it will include a disclaimer saying that the numbers might not accurately reflect your academics ability.

Moreover, the SAT regularly redesigns and refines its test format. If a student who is in middle school right now takes the SAT, the official exam could look very different by the time they finish high school. This would make both the test that was taken and the scores less legitimate in the eyes of university admissions offices.

Most obviously, the SAT is not truly designed for junior high students. It’s actually meant to test the cumulative knowledge of high school learners, especially third and fourth year students. Middle school takers of this test may feel overwhelmed and disappointed by their score.

The Takeaway

Taking the SAT can be a good option for middle school students. It’s great to get in some early exposure to this important college preparatory exam. It’s equally important for younger students to understand that their score measures what they know right now, not what they will know when they take the exam again to actually apply for college.

Any SAT score a student earns in junior high should be treated as something to improve on in the coming years. This is true even if the student gets a great score. Your academic development in junior high should never be the end of the story.

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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