SAT Test Timeline: When and How to Prepare

If you’re in high school, you know that you’ll probably have to deal with standardized testing at some point. Perhaps you’re thinking of taking the SAT. But when should you start preparing?

The whole process can be pretty stressful and complicated. But I’ve been through it, and I survived. I’ll go through an SAT test timeline, from freshman to senior year, which will allow you to get the highest score you possibly can. You never know what you can achieve if you have enough time to study.

Freshman year

Don’t worry about standardized testing at all. Instead, focus on your grades. You have quite a while before you need to start thinking about the SAT.

Sophomore year

Take the PSAT

Most high schools provide the PSAT to sophomores. This allows you to practice for the junior year PSAT and the SAT itself. If you’ve never taken a standardized test, you can familiarize yourself with the format. You’ll know what to expect and feel a lot more confident. Don’t worry about the PSAT too much because it’s shorter and easier than the real SAT.

Junior year

Take the PSAT

In the fall, juniors take the PSAT a second time. Again, this is good practice for the SAT test, which most juniors take in the spring. High scores can also earn you National Merit recognition and potential scholarships.

Research schools

In the spring, most juniors have begun researching colleges. Start creating your college list. Find out the average scores of accepted students at these schools. You should know what score range you’re aiming towards. Be realistic when choosing schools. If the average scores are way higher than what you think you can get, that college may not be a good fit for you.

Pick a SAT test date

Most juniors take the SAT in March, May or June. Pick an SAT test date that will give you plenty of time to study, but will also allow you to retake the test if needed. Taking the test in the spring of junior year is usually less stressful than taking it in the fall of senior year, because in the fall, you’ll be busy writing college applications.

Study for the SAT

Now that you’ve picked a date, you can begin preparing for the test. Plan your studying wisely depending on the amount of time you have. Make sure that you focus on your problem areas, rather than studying all of the sections equally.

Take the SAT

If you choose to take the SAT in the spring of your junior year, you’ll be left with plenty of time to take the test as many times as you want.

Senior year

You can also take the SAT in the fall of your senior year if you are unhappy with junior year scores. The October, November, and December test dates all allow you to meet regular decision deadlines. Once you’ve sent in your scores to all of the colleges on your list, you’ll be done with the SAT testing process!


  • Nadira Berman

    As a Summer Marketing Intern, Nadira is excited to help high schoolers prepare for the SAT and ACT. As a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, she is considering studying economics. In her free time, she reports for the school newspaper and styles photo shoots for the school's fashion magazine. Besides fashion and journalism, her passions include bagels, smoothies and Netflix.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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