By Sonya Ellis





For many high school students, selecting the best exam date for the ACT or SAT can add stress to an already busy schedule. For this reason, one of the biggest considerations is whether to take either test in the summer or fall.

While there are fewer exam dates offered in the summer, most students tend to have a bit more downtime during the summer holiday, which can make such test dates extremely beneficial – especially for overloaded students who take on quite a bit during the academic year.

Ultimately, there is no one right answer to when students should take the ACT or SAT. Instead, students should carefully consider their needs and time commitments. Below are some scenarios and important considerations when contemplating the July 14 ACT or the June 2 or Aug. 25 SAT.

You anticipate retaking either exam. If you plan to sit for the ACT or SAT again, take your first test in the summer. This way, you will have adequate time to plan your next period of revision and to improve before your next exam date.

Retaking the ACT or SAT can be a useful measure for many high school students. For instance, it can reduce anxiety or pressure around a single testing experience. If you do not earn the score you want on your first try, you can view that score as part of the process of improvement.

Students who do not plan to retake the ACT or SAT may have to make unexpected admissions adjustments if they do not reach their target score on their first try.

Students who plan to take either test twice but who exceed their goals in their first session will be able to reward themselves by removing the second test from their calendar – and they will be ahead of schedule.

You plan to apply to college early. Students who anticipate taking advantage of early action or early decision admissions programs should strongly consider taking the ACT or SAT in the summer.

Doing so will help ensure that students have ample time to receive their scores and that schools receive them well before applications are due. Do not add to your admissions stress by placing yourself in a situation where the speed at which your scores are available determines whether you will be able to apply early action or early decision.

Conversely, students who are not interested in applying to college early may be able to comfortably take their chosen test in the fall.

You began a study regimen in the spring. Do not abandon your review momentum by leaving a gap of several months in your studies. Instead, maintain your energy and routine.

Taking a weekend off to relax during a long-term study regimen is fine, but strategies and knowledge must be practiced to be retained. A professional basketball player would not expect to stop exercising for several months and then play a game at peak performance.

If you reach your review peak in late May or early June, take the chosen test in the summer when the information and techniques are still fresh. You can then move on to other application tasks.

You have multiple summer commitments. Do not overburden yourself. For many students, summer studying is optimal because it represents a chance to study for the ACT or SAT without the competing needs of schoolwork.

However, for students who have internships, jobs, summer camps, travel plans or other significant investments of time and energy, adding just one more task can prove to be too much.

The ACT and the SAT are lengthy, challenging tests that require focused preparation. Students should tackle these exams when they are in a position to do their best.

Start preparing for the test when you will not only have ample time to focus but also to keep that focus until you land the score you want.