Taking the October SAT? Good Call!

Even though students signed up for the October SAT haven’t taken the exam yet, I’d like to congratulate you! You made an excellent decision to take this administration of the SAT.

The October SAT has always been a popular testing administration among high school seniors. This is likely due to the fact that college applications are usually due at the end of December, so this exam is one of the last chances students have to polish off their academic image.

But taking the October SAT as a high school junior is not a bad idea either. I know what you’re thinking: “My high school counselor told me not to take the SAT until the spring of junior year.”

Well, guess what? There’s no set time you must take the SAT. You have a total of 28 chances to take the SAT (seven administrations a year multiplied by four years of high school). You could take the SAT in October of your freshman year, and your score would count towards your college application!

So why then do high school counselors often recommend that students wait until the spring of junior year to take the SAT? Well, junior year is traditionally when most students take Algebra II, so high school counselors believe that students will benefit from taking this subject, which is listed as a subject that is included on the SAT.

Now let me share a secret with you: the SAT is nothing like your high school math and English classes! For example, have you ever been given a multiple-choice test in your high school algebra class? Probably not because you would just be able to plug in the answer choices into the original question, and avoid having to do any algebra at all. But that’s exactly what the SAT does! It is a multiple-choice test that let’s you plug in answer choices into algebra questions. So I always tell students that there is very little algebra that you need to do on the SAT, and certainly no algebra II.

In addition, if you wait until the spring to take the SAT, it’s likely that you will have AP exams and finals to prepare for. So that May-June time period may become unbelievably busy if you try to squeeze the SAT in at that time too. What usually ends up happening is that students just don’t prepare for the SAT because they don’t have time.

There is nothing worse you can do for your SAT score than not preparing for the exam. The SAT is a test that can be prepared for using SAT-specific strategies. And you’d be crazy not to review things like the 15 grammar rules that are tested on SAT Writing prior to taking the SAT.

So instead of taking the SAT in May or June when you likely won’t have time to prepare for it, I advise students to take SAT subject tests during that time. These are shorter one-hour subject-specific exams that certain colleges require applicants to take (many universities require you to take two). Fortunately, many of the SAT subject tests mimic the content found on AP exams. So if you are taking the Chemistry AP exam this year in May, you should consider taking the SAT Chemistry Subject Test in May or June as well. This way, you won’t have to double-study and can essentially kill two birds with one stone.

Now that I have sufficiently scared you about the craziness of the spring semester, are you beginning to agree with me that signing up for the October SAT was a good call by you? School has only been in session for a little over a month, so your schedule is likely much less busy. And you hopefully have just come back from a relaxing summer so that you have a clear mind. A clear mind is exactly what you need for a high SAT score.

I have seen students post their highest SAT score on the October SAT over and over again. The October administration is also when I scored my perfect 2400 on the SAT. So I have a personal bias towards this exam.

Why students score their highest on the October SAT will remain a mystery. It’s certainly no easier of an exam than any other SAT. Maybe it’s because there isn’t much going on in school, maybe it’s because you did some SAT practice over the summer, or maybe it’s because you have more time to prepare for the SAT in August/September.

Of course, if you didn’t register for the October SAT by the September 7th deadline, there is no reason to worry. There’s nothing magical about taking the October SAT. Whenever you do take the SAT, just try to mimic the attributes that help students score well on the October SAT: free up time in your schedule, prepare for the SAT, and most importantly have a clear mind on test day!

By Scott Shrum