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SAT and ACT Test Dates: Find Your Best 2020 Testing Schedule

 

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You know that you'll have to take the SAT or ACT and do well on it—but figuring out exactly when to take your exam can sometimes feel like the hardest part of the whole testing process. In this guide, we introduce all upcoming SAT and ACT dates for the 2020-2021 testing year and explain what factors you must consider before committing to a test date.

 

All Upcoming SAT and ACT Dates 2020-2021

Here are all upcoming US and international ACT and SAT dates and deadlines for the 2020-2021 testing year.

 

SAT and ACT Test Dates and Deadlines 2020-2021 (US)

Below are the 2020-2021 SAT and ACT dates for test takers within the US. All dates and deadlines have been confirmed by the College Board and ACT, Inc.

 

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Online Score Release
August 29, 2020 (SAT) July 31, 2020 August 11, 2020 September 21, 2020
September 12, 2020 (ACT) August 31, 2020 N/A September 22, 2020
September 13, 2020 (ACT)  August 31, 2020 N/A September 23, 2020
September 19, 2020 (ACT)  August 31, 2020 N/A September 29, 2020
September 26, 2020 (SAT) August 26, 2020 September 15, 2020 October 9, 2020
October 3, 2020 (SAT) September 4, 2020 September 22, 2020 October 16, 2020
October 10, 2020 (ACT) September 17, 2020 September 25, 2020 October 20, 2020
October 17, 2020 (ACT) September 17, 2020 September 25, 2020 October 27, 2020
October 24, 2020 (ACT)  September 17, 2020 September 25, 2020 November 3, 2020
October 25, 2020 (ACT)  September 17, 2020 September 25, 2020 November 11, 2020
November 7, 2020 (SAT) October 7, 2020 October 20, 2020 November 20, 2020
December 5, 2020 (SAT) November 5, 2020 November 17, 2020 December 18, 2020
December 12, 2020 (ACT) November 6, 2020 November 20, 2020 December 22, 2020
February 6, 2021 (ACT) January 8, 2021 January 15, 2021 February 16, 2021
March 13, 2021 (SAT)* February 12, 2021 February 23, 2021 March 26, 2021
April 17, 2021 (ACT) March 12, 2021 March 26, 2021 April 20, 2021
May 8, 2021 (SAT) April 8, 2021 April 20, 2021 May 21, 20201
June 5, 2021 (SAT) May 6, 2021 May 18, 2021 June 22, 2021
June 12, 2021 (ACT) May 7, 2021 May 21, 2021 July 14, 2021
July 17, 2021 (ACT)** June 18, 2021 June 25, 2021 July 27, 2021

*Regular SAT only (no SAT Subject Tests offered)
**No tests scheduled in New York for this date

 

Registering for the SAT costs $52 for the SAT without Essay and $68 for the SAT with Essay. If you register after the normal deadline but before the late registration deadline, you will be charged an extra late registration fee of $30.

The ACT registration costs are $55 for the ACT without Writing and $70 for the ACT with Writing. If you miss the regular deadline and sign up for a test date before the late registration deadline, you must pay the normal registration fee in addition to a late registration fee of $35.

The online score release date refers to the earliest possible date you can get your multiple-choice scores without your essay score (should you take the SAT with Essay or the ACT with Writing). Most test takers receive their scores online within two weeks after their SAT test or within 10 days after their ACT test date.

With both tests, your essay score will take a bit longer. You'll usually have to wait three to five days more for your SAT Essay score and two weeks more for your ACT Writing score.

 

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SAT and ACT Test Dates and Deadlines 2020-2021 (International)

Here are the 2020-2021 ACT and SAT dates for test takers outside the US and all US territories (this includes those taking the test in Canada). All test dates and deadlines have been confirmed by the College Board and ACT, Inc.

 

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Online Score Release
August 29, 2020 (SAT) July 31, 2020 August 18, 2020 September 21, 2020
September 11-12, 2020 (ACT) September 4, 2020 N/A September 16, 2020
September 26, 2020 (SAT)*  August 26, 2020 September 15, 2020 October 9, 2020
October 3, 2020 (SAT) September 4, 2020 September 22, 2020 October 16, 2020
October 9-10, 2020 (ACT) September 18, 2020 October 2, 2020 October 14, 2020
December 5, 2020 (SAT) November 5, 2020 November 24, 2020 December 18, 2020
March 13, 2021 (SAT)* February 12, 2021 March 2, 2021 March 26, 2021
April 16-17, 2021 (ACT) March 26, 2021 April 9, 2021 April 21, 2021
May 8, 2021 (SAT)  April 8, 2021 April 27, 2021 May 21, 2021
June 11-12, 2021 (ACT) May 21, 2021 June 4, 2021 June 16, 2021
July 16-17, 2021 (ACT) June 25, 2021 July 9, 2021 July 21, 2021

*Regular SAT only (no SAT Subject Tests offered)

 

Both the SAT and ACT registration costs are higher for international students, but while it's a flat $150 fee for the ACT without Writing ($166.50 with Writing), the total cost for the SAT depends on your region. For example, those taking the SAT in Canada must pay the base US testing fee along with a regional fee of $43. These regional fees vary from $43 to $53.

Also note that there is no late registration option for international SAT takers, but there is one for ACT takers. The late registration fee for international ACT test takers is $32—that's $2 higher than the late registration fee for US ACT test dates.

All international ACT test takers must take the computer version of the ACT, which was introduced internationally in September 2018. (Though not yet available nationally, the online ACT will be rolled out across the US beginning in September 2020.)

As a result of this change from paper testing to computer testing, ACT scores are released much faster for international test takers than they are for US test takers: you should generally get your multiple-choice scores just two business days after your test date.

 

Finding the Best SAT and ACT Dates for You: 6 Critical Factors

To find the best SAT and ACT test dates for you, you must consider the following six factors before deciding on a day to take your chosen test.

 

#1: How Many Times You Plan to Take the SAT/ACT

You should try to take the SAT/ACT at least two or three times in total:

  • First in the fall of your junior year
  • Second in the spring of your junior year
  • Third in the summer or fall of your senior year (if needed)

Because juniors have plenty of time before college application deadlines, they can take their SAT or ACT pretty much on any test date that works for them.

If you plan to take your test twice your junior year (which we recommend doing!), then aim to take your first SAT/ACT on any of these test dates:

  • SAT: October, November, December
  • ACT: September, October, December

Next, try to take your second SAT/ACT in the spring or early summer of your junior year on any of these test dates:

  • SAT: March, May, June
  • ACT: February, April, June

If you still haven't hit your SAT or ACT goal score, you can take the test a third time in the summer before or fall of your senior year.

Which test dates will work best for you will depend on several factors, such as how much total time you need to study (see #2), when your college applications are due (see #3), and whether you have any major commitments that take precedence over the exam (see #6).

 

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#2: How Much Study Time You Need

We usually recommend studying for at least three to six months before you take the SAT/ACT. But before you get started on preparing for your chosen test, you will need to figure out how much time you must study in order to reach your goal score—the SAT/ACT score you need to get into the colleges you're applying to.

Check out our step-by-step guides to learn how to set an SAT/ACT goal score.

Once you have your goal score, it's time to find your baseline score. This is the score you start out with before you begin any test prep.

To find your baseline score, take an official SAT/ACT practice test. Make sure to mimic real testing conditions and follow official time limits. Once you finish, score your test to get your baseline.

Then, subtract your baseline score from your goal score to calculate how many points you need to improve by. For example, say my SAT goal score is 1260 and my baseline score is 1120. By doing the math, we get this: 1260−1120 = 140 points.

Finally, refer to the conversions below to see how many approximate hours you'll need to study in order to hit your goal score on test day:

SAT

  • 0-30 point improvement: 10 hours
  • 30-70 point improvement: 20 hours
  • 70-130 point improvement: 40 hours
  • 130-200 point improvement: 80 hours
  • 200-330 point improvement: 150 hours+

ACT

  • 0-1 ACT point improvement: 10 hours
  • 1-2 ACT point improvement: 20 hours
  • 2-4 ACT point improvement: 40 hours
  • 4-6 ACT point improvement: 80 hours
  • 6-9 ACT point improvement: 150 hours+

As you can see, the bigger the point improvement you need to make on the SAT or ACT, the more hours you'll have to study. In our example, I needed to raise my SAT score by 140 points; this translates to about 80 hours of prep.

Knowing how many hours you need to prep for the SAT/ACT can help you pick a good test date. In general, you'll want to prep for up to 10 hours a week. If you had to study for 80 total hours, you could divide this amount of time up over the course of four months, giving you about five hours of prep time per week.

 

#3: Your College Application Deadlines

If you plan to take the SAT/ACT as a senior, you'll need to pay careful attention to your upcoming college application deadlines to ensure your scores get to your schools in time.

Most college application deadlines will be in the fall or early winter of your senior year. The most common application deadline is January 1. But if you're applying early action or early decision, you could have application deadlines in early November, possibly October.

At the same time, some schools have much later-than-normal application deadlines in February, March, April, May, or even the summer. These schools will therefore guarantee you the most flexibility in terms of when you can take the SAT or ACT as a senior.

The following chart shows when the best SAT and ACT test dates are for you depending on when your soonest college application deadline is.

Latest recommended SAT/ACT test dates are dates that guarantee your scores will get to your schools in time before your application deadline, whereas risky SAT/ACT test dates are dates that may or may not get your scores to your schools in time—choose the latter at your own risk!

College App Deadline Latest Recommended SAT/ACT Test Date Risky SAT/ACT Test Date
October SAT: August
ACT: July
SAT: None
ACT: September
November SAT: September
ACT: September
SAT: October
ACT: October
December SAT: October
ACT: October
SAT: November
ACT: None
January SAT: November
ACT: October
SAT: December
ACT: December
February SAT: December
ACT: December
SAT: None
ACT: None
March SAT: December
ACT: December
SAT: None
ACT: February
April SAT: December
ACT: February
SAT: March
ACT: None
May SAT: March
ACT: February
SAT: None
ACT: April
June SAT: March
ACT: April
SAT: May
ACT: None
July* SAT: May
ACT: April
SAT: June
ACT: June
August* SAT: June
ACT: June
SAT: None
ACT: July
September* SAT: June
ACT: July
SAT: August
ACT: None

*These late application deadlines come after you complete your senior year of high school

 

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#4: Your SAT/ACT Scholarship Deadlines

If you're applying for any scholarships that use your SAT or ACT scores, you'll want to make sure the test date(s) you pick will definitely get your scores to your scholarship organization or school in time.

These scholarship deadlines will likely be the same as your college application deadlines, but you should always check ahead of time just in case they're different!

 

#5: AP Tests, IB Tests, and Other Important Exams

Another factor to consider when choosing among available ACT and SAT dates is when your other important exams are.

The key is that you don't want to pick an SAT/ACT test date that's on or right around another important test, such as an AP test, IB test, midterm, or final. Doing this will really overwhelm you and also means that you'd have to study for two totally different tests at the same time (no, thank you). So think hard about your current test schedule before you consider certain SAT and ACT test dates.

Below are the rough time frames during which you'll probably be pretty busy with other tests (and therefore might want to avoid taking the SAT or ACT):

Test Estimated Test Date SAT and ACT Test Dates to Potentially Avoid
AP tests First two weeks of May SAT: May
ACT: None
IB tests End of IB course(s) in May (November for southern hemisphere) SAT: May, November
ACT: October
Midterms Middle of class/semester, usually in October for fall and March for spring SAT: October, March
ACT: October, April
Final exams End of class/semester, usually in December for fall and May/June for spring SAT: December, May, June
ACT: December, June

 

Although it's not impossible to take the SAT or ACT around the same time you have other tests, the only way you're likely to do well on all of them is to totally commit yourself to finding the time to study and organize your prep schedules.

 

#6: Your Extracurriculars and Personal Commitments

The final factor to be aware of is your obligations and extracurriculars. These commitments could be things such as the following:

  • A part-time job
  • An internship
  • A volunteer position
  • A sport or team you play on
  • A club, group, or society you're part of
  • A family member you take care of
  • An event you're helping out with
  • A family vacation or trip

Make sure that you don't schedule any SAT/ACT test dates around times you expect to be busy with non-school-related things. The best way to keep track of your schedule is to write down upcoming events and commitments on a calendar or in a planner.

 

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Conclusion: Finding the Best SAT and ACT Dates for You

In the US, both the SAT and ACT are administered seven times per year. But choosing from among so many SAT and ACT test dates can be tricky because there are numerous factors you will have to think about.

Here are the six most important factors to consider before choosing a test date:

  • How many times you plan to take the SAT/ACT
  • How much study time you need
  • Your college application deadlines
  • Your SAT/ACT scholarship deadlines
  • AP tests, IB tests, and other important exams
  • Your extracurriculars and personal commitments

Remember that even if you don't get the score you want, you can always retake the SAT or ACT and give it another shot!

 

What's Next?

Want more help choosing the best test date for you? Then check out our full guides to choosing SAT test dates and ACT test dates.

Do your colleges require the SAT/ACT essay section? Get the answer here in our detailed guides to which colleges require the SAT with Essay and which require the ACT with Writing.

Looking to impress your colleges with high SAT/ACT scores? Then start by reading these expert tips and tricks in our guides to how to get a perfect SAT score and how to get a perfect ACT score.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

Raise Your ACT Score by 4 Points (Free Download)

 

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Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.



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