When should you start SAT prep?
Here’s another common question from the parents we work with: “When should we start SAT prep our kids?”
Well, like building a railway track it takes time. You can’t rush it or cut corners. (see the picture above)
The answer is fairly simple - judge when to start SAT prep by your age, your goals and always assume that more time to prepare is better.
By starting earlier rather than later, you can avoid any sort of trainwreck that might otherwise occur by attempting to delay the inevitable.
The worst that could happen is your kid finishes SAT prep early with a great score and can go on to more interesting projects such as winning college scholarships!
Let’s use a student’s current grade in school to demonstrate the urgency of their SAT prep:
Rating of 100 = Most Urgent
Current Senior: Highest Urgency! Start Today!
Current senior in high school: It’s Urgent.
To tell you the truth, SAT prep is urgent if you’re currently a senior. If you’re planning to go to college, you want to go to the BEST college you can, right? It’s expensive so you want to win a few scholarships, don’t you? Did you know that your SAT scores can hold you back from winning free money or getting into your favorite schools (even if you know you belong there?)
Imagine prepping for a giant SAT test in the middle of giant projects, college applications, essays for school, and all topped off with the fact that this is your LAST CHANCE to score well. You’re going to need to work with an expert and it would probably be better if it was someone FUN, so you can help reduce burnout and overload.
If you’re currently a senior (or the parent of a senior), don’t just ask “when should I start SAT prep” - please book a seat in SAT prep class, SAT tutoring, or contact us immediately so we can prioritize your situation.
Summer before Senior Year: No Time To Waste
The summer before Senior year is the last-ditch chance to study before the SAT becomes a giant, stressful cram session.
Using the summer is one of the SECRETS of the most-successful SAT prep tutors, and if this is your last summer to prepare, you can still use the amazing gift of summer freedom to prepare for the SAT. An investment in summer study and scholarship hunting could lead to a lifetime of greater success, wealth and happiness.
Maximize your downtime for the sake of your education! If it’s summer and you’re a rising senior, please start urgently (contact us if you need advice). There’s still so much we can do to help you and we will prioritize you if you let us know your situation.
Summer Before Senior Year: High Urgency
Junior, Spring Semester: Cutting it close
Spring Semester of Junior Year: We Had Better Hustle
Juniors in Spring semester have several advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole, it’s MUCH better to start now, than to wait any longer to begin test prep.
Although this is a very busy semester for most students, it’s still early enough to make the most of SAT prep. A good tutor will help make sure your son or daughter isn’t being crushed by oppressive amounts of test prep homework, but the longer you wait, the more “catching-up” the kids will need to do.
It might seem like the test is far away, but surprisingly, most families who start in Spring semester of Junior year end up saying - “We wish we’d started sooner!”
Don’t forget that you may want time to explore and apply for scholarships and other financial aid options, which is a valuable use of your time as well, but which will eat into your available time for test prep.
Important: If you’re just starting SAT prep in Spring of Junior Year, don’t expect to take the test only one time and get your highest score. Since you’re starting late in the year, you really will want to use Spring AND Summer to study enough to feel comfortable.
If this is you, contact us for more advice about your specific family situation.
Winter of Junior Year: Good Timing
Now we’re getting early enough to make a perfect-2400 SAT tutor happy. Starting in this season will provide us an ample 8-9 months to prepare at a moderate pace, avoiding burnout and maximizing the return on educational investment. You should have time to get your scores up and comfortably handle some organized efforts to win scholarships, as well.
In this scenario we have the option of starting with either group class or private SAT tutoring. You might even have some pre-existing SAT or PSAT scores, which will help make your decisions easier. Look at the class vs. tutoring flow chart or contact us if its Winter semester of your Junior year if you’d like some free personalized advising.
You will be “on time” as long as the SAT test is a major student focus for the next three seasons - and this might require some sacrifice of other activities, or a little extra work - but the reward lies in the points gained, and the lack of PANIC that hits so many other families.
Junior Year, Winter: Good timing, but don't wait.
Junior, Fall Semester: A perfect time to start.
Fall of Junior Year: Great time to start!
A high school Junior starting SAT prep in Fall (at the beginning of the school year) can expect to be very well-prepared by the time they take the final SAT a year later.
Get started now with a group class - you are in a great place to be. It’s super-easy to take some time off if your kid is feeling good about the test after a few sessions of prep. And, for students who need more time, they can avoid the panicked feeling of CRAMMING for a huge test that everyone else has already studied for.
An urgency level of 6 out of 10 is perfect - enough fire to add some hustle to the effort, but early enough to avoid any panic. This is one of the best times to start! Please contact us today so we can help!
Summer before Junior Year: Avoid cramming
Nice! You’re thinking about your future in a way that most parents and students don’t. We know that this foresight will serve you well!
Summer before Junior year is a great time to start for the very nervous or very ambitious student or family. It’s another one of my absolute-favorite times to meet a student because I know we will have nothing to worry about since any issues we have can be prepped and reviewed.
Here’s what benefits most from long-term study: reading and SAT vocab. It’s SO hard to “cram” for these subjects so you’re a lucky one if you can start early and get your student working on these each week. 52 weeks of mellow work can result in one HECK of a reading and vocab score improvement on the SAT.
The longest-term planner usually has the last laugh - isn’t it true? Test prep is no different. Start with an SAT prep class and then continue on to 1-on-1 tutoring. Or, contact us for more free personalized advising.
This summer is also prime time to start thinking seriously about colleges and majors and to get a head start on your scholarship search, resume, and essay drafts.
Summer Before Junior Year: Nice and Early
Sophomore Year: Get a jump on the SAT
Sophomores: Be Really Ready
Starting as a sophomore is a great time for two types of students and families: the very ambitious AND the very frustrated (you can be both at once, too!)
You would be right to guess that SAT prep is very helpful for school benefits at this point, since it is an intensive study of reading, vocabulary, essay-writing, proper grammar, and advanced math problem-solving.
This has additional benefits - study skills, reading skills, problem-solving and focus, that will help throughout high school and college.
This is also a great year to set yourself up for big scholarship wins in Junior and Senior years.
Freshman – Early to the SAT party
Starting as a freshman or younger is pretty early. Typically we do not start SAT prep for students as early as Freshman year, preferring instead to wait until they’ve gotten a little further in school. We do occasionally make exceptions for gifted and ambitious students.
However, you as a parent should definitely be a part of our free SAT mailing list for a 30-day readiness course and a ton of ideas about how to improve and help your kid since you’re in this for the long haul.
It would also be smart to take our “Winning College Scholarships for High Schoolers” video course this year so that everything you do in high school can be partially designed to win you more scholarship money later on.
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Freshman: Early, But Not Too Early
Starting before high school: Not Urgent
Middle School: Probably too soon but…
In all fairness to brilliant young students and ambitious families, we feel that starting before high school is too early to begin dedicated SAT test prep.
In almost all cases, it’s not worth it to begin test prep so early. Keep in mind it will be 3-5 years before a middle school student is “supposed” to know the material to be ready for this stuff (check out the SAT prep curriculum and you’ll probably agree that it’s a little too advanced for most younger students).
In addition, students can get rusty with all that time in-between study and testing. So it’s probably better just to focus on school and activities, and think about starting SAT prep in 9th or 10th grade. You’ll still be really early at that point, so don’t worry.
However there are a few benefits to starting in 7th or 8th grade: students will be more relaxed about the SAT, and it never hurts to find a great test prep tutor early. Our tutoring sessions can also contribute a great deal towards strong reading skills later in life.
If you take our “Winning College Scholarships” course as a parent in middle school, you will feel much more sure-footed in the field of scholarship money and alternative financial aid ideas.
Check out our testimonials if you want to hear from our previous students and parents!
If you’re paralyzed by options or questions, just contact us. It’s the easiest way to get your kid started.
Want an alternate perspective on when to start to prepare? This article offers an additional perspective from our tutors!
Conquer SAT Vocabulary Video Course
Top 30 Examples to Use as SAT Essay Evidence
SAT Grammar Crammer: Top 12 SAT Writing Rules
“Winning College Scholarships for High Schoolers” Video Course