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ACT/State SAT Suggested Timeline

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There are 28 states that offer a free ACT or SAT test to their public school juniors only to monitor school progress.

20 states offering a free ACT:

North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina

8 states offering a free SAT:

New Hampshire

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*Ohio and Oklahoma require each public school district to administer a “free” ACT or SAT but allow each district to choose which test they will use. 415 of Oklahoma’s 425 public school districts chose the ACT. Approximately 95 percent of Ohio’s 1,245 public high schools chose the ACT.

If your state offers a free ACT then you are in great shape. If your state offers a free SAT, then you just need to know how to take advantage of it in order to prepare for the national April ACT – which is the most popular college admissions test date nationally and internationally.

If your student attends a private school or is homeschooled, then the suggested timeline still applies. They just skip the state test step.

Suggested Timeline

  1. Take the ACT in either April or June of sophomore year. This allows a student to get a feel for the test and a set of scores, so they – and their parents – know where they currently stand nationally.

  2. Take summer ACT prep class – live or online. Summer before junior year is the best time to train for most students because there is no seven-hour school day to worry about during the week.

  3. Most of my summer students take the September ACT because they want to see how much they have improved.

  4. Take the PSAT in October. This is a practice version of the SAT that is offered at public schools during the school day. Students must pay for it, but it is less than half the cost of the actual SAT. Since it is offered during the school day, it is a great opportunity to get in some extra standardized test practice.

  5. Take the December ACT. At this point the student will have three sets of ACT scores and two test information releases (see ACT/SAT Difference section). This will then give the student a better idea of what to do in the spring regarding preparation.

  6. Student prepares on own or takes additional classes. I rotate the materials in my live classes so returning students will see different drill work. I also have online students decide to do a live class, or I have online students decide they would like to do the live class (assuming they live close to one).

  7. The state SAT tests are usually the same week as the national April ACT. The SAT usually is on Wednesday and the ACT on Saturday. This is perfect! The student is ready to do both and they can use the state SAT as a warm-up for the National April ACT.

    The state April ACT tests are usually two weeks after the national April ACT. In those states, a public school student can use the national April ACT as a warm-up for the state ACT. Ironically, the national April ACT scores are usually online the morning of the state April ACT test date.

  8. At this point, every student needs to decide if they are happy with their score. An ACT composite score of 32 is a magic number (see Parent Guide: Conquering the ACT). I encourage students who score below 32 to strongly consider taking the June ACT test. For most, there is a two week gap between the last day of school and the June ACT test. This is a perfect opportunity to focus on ACT prep without dealing with a seven hour school day, homework, final exams, etc.

Similar to a sport, the more you practice leading up to a competition, the better you become. Through repetition and experience you are able to learn from your mistakes and improve your level of performance.

You can take the ACT up to 12 times. Colleges only care about your highest score. The ACT is offered seven times a year (eight times if your state requires all public school students to take the ACT).

The key is no matter what time of the year it is, you need to start preparing as soon as possible.