The SAT is offered seven times per year, in October, November, December, January, March, May, and June. Students typically take the SAT in the winter and spring of their junior year and/or the fall of their senior year. Deciding when you should take the SAT involves a number of factors.
Take the SAT when you are ready.
The most important consideration is to take the SAT when you are ready. In other words, take the test when you feel that you have prepared sufficiently and are capable of getting the score you need to get into the schools you will be applying to. It is typically not worth taking the test “just for practice” if you are not truly ready, as such practice could just as easily be gained by taking practice tests under strictly timed conditions.
Give yourself the opportunity to take the test multiple times.
Many students take the SAT two, three, or even more times. Taking the test multiple times can be a great idea, as it gives you a chance work on your weaknesses and improve your score. If you hope to take the test more than once, it is definitely a good idea to take the test for the first time during your junior year.
Take the test earlier if you hope to apply early action or early decision to one or more colleges.
Most early action and early decision deadlines are in November, so the October SAT is the last SAT that will be considered for early action and early decision. If you hope to apply early, be sure to have your testing done early as well.
Leave some test dates open for the Subject Tests.
If any of the schools you intend to apply to requires SAT Subject Tests, you will need to get started with your testing a bit earlier. Subject Tests are offered on the same dates as the regular SAT, so you can only take one or the other on a given test date. It is often wise to reserve two test dates for Subject Tests in case you don’t do as well as you would like on your first attempt. If you hope to take the SAT three times and the Subject Tests two times, it makes sense to begin your testing no later than January of your junior year. That way, you can take the regular SAT in January, March, and May, leaving June and October for the Subject Tests.
Take the test when the Question and Answer Service (QAS) is offered.
The Question and Answer Service (QAS) allows students to purchase from the College Board a copy of their test booklet along with a list of their answers and the correct answers. The QAS is offered three times per year on standard Saturday administrations of the test, in January, May, and June. The QAS is an invaluable tool in preparing for future tests, so it can be a good reason to take the SAT in January, May, or June. Once you get your QAS back, visit AnswerExplanations.com for answer explanations to every single question. Use our explanations to master the concepts that gave you trouble, and be ready to do even better next time.