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When to Start Preparing for the SAT and ACT

By November 4, 2019 November 6th, 2019 ACT, Advanced Placement, For Students, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, Test Prep

Scheduling is usually the largest factor students consider when choosing the right test date. For example, if you’re in the school play that has 2 hour rehearsals 5 days a week and several weekends of performances, you probably want to wait until it’s over to start your prep. But just because your last show is in October doesn’t mean you’ll be ready to test in November.

As a general rule, Compass recommends 3-4 months of regular preparation for a first attempt at an ACT or SAT test and 4-6 weeks of regular preparation for APs and SAT Subject Tests. And all our preparation plans start with a practice test prior to that.

Reference our Best Dates for Juniors and Best Dates for Seniors articles to see our recommendations for when you should take the test, and contact one of our directors to discuss your test preparation plans. Drop down each target test date to see the most ideal timeline leading up to it. Click here to see the calendar of test dates.

February ACT

The February ACT usually takes place on the first or second Saturday of the month. 

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: the previous September or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early October  
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late October

March SAT

The March SAT usually occurs on the first or second Saturday of the month. **Note: there are no Subject Tests offered in March.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: the previous October or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early November 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late November

April ACT

The April ACT is usually on the first or second Saturday of the month. 

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: the previous November or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early December 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late December

May SAT, Subject Tests, and AP Exams

The May SAT usually takes place on the first Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: the previous December or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early January
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late January

The May Subject Tests are held on the same date as the May SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: February or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early March
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late March

AP exams take place during the first two weeks of May. Day of the week and time of day for each exam vary by year. **Note: The College Board has not released any official full-length practice tests for the AP exams, but Compass has sample questions for most tests.

  • Get Your Materials: early March
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late March

June ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests

The June ACT usually takes place on the second Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: January or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early February  
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late February

The June SAT is usually the first Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: January or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early February 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late February

The June Subject Tests are held on the same date as the June SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: March or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early April 
  • Begin Lessons: mid-April

July ACT

The July ACT usually occurs on the second or third Saturday of the month. **Note: the July ACT is not offered in New York.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: February or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early March 
  • Begin Lessons: mid-March or early April

August SAT and Subject Tests

The August SAT usually takes place on the last or second to last Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: March or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early April 
  • Begin Lessons: late April or mid-May

The August Subject Tests are held on the same date as the August SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: May or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: late June 
  • Begin Lessons: early to mid-July

September ACT

The September ACT usually occurs on the second Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: April or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early May 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late May

October ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests

The October ACT is usually the last or second to last Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: May or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early June  
  • Begin Lessons: mid June or early July

The October SAT usually occurs on the first Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: May or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early June 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late June

The October Subject Tests are held on the same date as the October SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: July or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early August 
  • Begin Lessons: mid-August

November SAT and Subject Tests

The November SAT usually takes place on the first Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: June or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early July 
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late July

The November Subject Tests are held on the same date as the November SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: August or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early September 
  • Begin Lessons: mid September

December ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests

The December ACT usually occurs on the second Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: July or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early August  
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late August

The December SAT is usually the first Saturday of the month.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: July or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early August  
  • Begin Lessons: mid to late August

The December Subject Tests are held on the same date as the December SAT. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date.

  • Initial Diagnostic Test: September or earlier
  • Get Your Materials: early October
  • Begin Lessons: mid-October
Margaux Erilane

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