How to Choose Between Testing as a High School Junior or Senior

There is no shortage of advice available to students who plan to take either the ACT or the SAT. From analysis of test content to guessing strategies, a whole world of tips and practice material is easily accessed online.

One aspect that is less often discussed but which may influence one’s scores is when students sit for these assessments. Before you choose to test as a high school junior or as a high school senior, take the following factors into account.

[Read: Understand What’s a Good SAT Score.]

Consider your course load. Students should consider when they will finish those courses that cover the content tested on the ACT or SAT. For example, if in your sophomore year you take a math class that discusses trigonometry, you might decide to sit for the ACT or SAT in your junior year. However, if you will not see in-depth trigonometry material until late in your junior year, it might be better to take the ACT or SAT as a senior.

Waiting for the right time to test is especially crucial to your performance on math sections. However, your score in reading and writing can also be affected. If you complete a rigorous English class, like AP English Language and Composition or AP English Literature and Composition, your reading and writing skills may improve significantly enough to raise your ACT or SAT score. In such a situation, consider waiting until the completion of a demanding English course to take your standardized assessment.

Think about your schedule. Bear in mind when your schedule will permit you to prepare for the assessment and take it. Many high school students find that junior year is their most academically demanding school year. So think about whether you can devote enough time to your regular classes and to ACT or SAT prep simultaneously.

[Read: How High School Juniors Can Set ACT, SAT Goals.]

Furthermore, consider the timing of all of your scheduled assessments. Some juniors sign up for a spring ACT or SAT, but since AP and IB exams are also slated for the spring, students may become overwhelmed by committing to too many tests.

It is not just academic obligations that can create a schedule conflict. Athletics, clubs, college tours, hobbies and other pursuits consume time too, but they rightly deserve a place in your routine. Rather than basing your schedule on ACT or SAT prep, base college test prep on your schedule. Keeping a well-rounded schedule is healthy, so find a way to study while continuing to do the activities you love.

Make sure you are comfortable. Test performance hinges on various non-academic factors, like exam anxiety, and emotional and physical state, for instance. Most of the time, these factors are manageable. For example, physical state can be controlled by eating and sleeping properly before the ACT or SAT.

The academic factors that influence testing performance are preparation and skills, which, of course, are honed through methodical study. To excel on any exam, you must have knowledge of test content and be in the right state of mind. Lack of confidence can negatively affect the performance of even the most prepared student.

So, when would you be most comfortable with taking the ACT or the SAT? Will waiting until senior year cause too much pressure for you? Or, on the contrary, will you feel more familiar with the test after another year of practice? These are questions which only you can answer and whose responses vary tremendously from one student to the next.

[Read: Juniors: Use the Holidays to Make an SAT, ACT Prep Plan.]

When choosing to test as a high school junior or senior, students must evaluate their coursework, their schedules and their comfort levels. It is necessary for students to consider not just one or two, but all three of these factors to test at the most opportune moment.

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How to Choose Between Testing as a High School Junior or Senior originally appeared on usnews.com