In the spring of sophomore year, many high students begin the process of determining their college application test calendar. Sophomore test prep is a big part of this. Sophomores have to decide when to take the SAT for the first time. Do they wait (like many others) until March of their junior year to take the SAT for the first time? Or do they take the SAT for the first time earlier in the school year? A small but growing number of sophomores end up taking the SAT for the first time in December or even October of their junior year.
This year the current sophomores watched their 11th-grade peers panic. The College Board cancelled the March, May, and June test dates due to coronavirus pandemic crisis. As such, more sophomores than ever before are contemplating taking the SAT early. With the registration deadline for a Fall 2020 test date looming, many sophomores are unsure of which SAT dates will work best for them.
Full Steam Ahead This Fall
The College Board guarantees that the August, October, November, and December 2020 test dates will not be cancelled. They promise they will administer the test remotely, should the pandemic continue into the Fall. This means that students will be able to take the SAT as a computer-based exam from home. Additionally, the College Board has added a September test date, which they have also guaranteed will not be cancelled.
When the registration opens the week of May 26th, it is almost certain that juniors who had their March, May, or June registrations cancelled will have first priority. The majority of those students will likely select the August and September test dates. This is especially true if they plan to take the SAT again later in the Fall.
Play the Sophomore Test Prep Long Game
Sophomores have an entire extra year in which to take the SAT. I recommend leaving the August and September dates to the frustrated juniors who have lost three popular opportunities this spring. By next Fall, those frustrated juniors will be panicked and overwhelmed seniors.
Instead, current sophomores should target the October or November test dates this Fall. As always, most juniors take the PSAT in mid-October. The current crop of sophomores will likely be taking the PSAT this October. Taking the SAT in the two weeks either before or after the PSAT allows students to prepare for both simultaneously. This is because the PSAT and the SAT are almost identical in structure, format, and content.
I don’t think it is likely that the College Board or local high schools will cancel or postpone the PSAT. Too much of the college application process depends on the PSAT. For one thing, it is the test the entrance exam into the National Merit Scholarship program. Also, many universities and other outside organizations use PSAT scores in their scholarship award deliberations. Furthermore, colleges and universities across the country utilize PSAT results to direct their marketing efforts. This is why students begin to receive advertising materials from colleges in the months following the PSAT.
It is my firm belief that the spring 2021 SAT test dates will not be cancelled. However, many current sophomores will be wise to take the SAT earlier than they would otherwise choose. Taking the SAT in October or November of junior year gets the first-test jitters out of the way. More importantly, students will have an initial real SAT score upon which they can base their improvement plans. It is much easier to know what and how you want to improve if you have a real SAT score.
Post-Coronavirus Timeline Plans
Taking the SAT for the first time in October or November allows current sophomores enough time to prepare appropriately. Most test prep programs require between two and four months. Students take a pre-program practice test, fit in all of the lessons, and finish with a post-program practice test. If current students start their sophomore test prep process at the beginning of summer, they can complete a test prep program and begin the SAT in October or November feeling confident and prepared.
Once students have their test experience under their metaphorical belts, they can then move forward in the testing process with more knowledge and experience. Current sophomores will have replaced anxiety with confidence as they approach the spring 2021 test dates.