SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

The Best SAT and ACT Test Dates for Senior Fall

Posted by Samantha Lindsay | Aug 29, 2020 9:00:00 AM

ACT General Info, SAT General Info

 

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Senior year is coming up, and you're ready to take a last shot at the SAT or ACT before applying to college. But when should you take the test? And how can you ensure that your scores make it to colleges on time?

Read on to see a list of the fall and winter test dates as well as a detailed guide on how to choose the best date for your situation.

 

First Up: Make Sure You Have the Right Target Score

Make sure that you know what score you need for the schools you're applying to. Read our guide on figuring out what score you need for the SAT and for the ACT.

 

Test Dates and Deadlines for Seniors

PrepScholar uses analysis of historical data and date selection principles to project these registration deadlines. The official registration dates and deadlines for the 2020-21 school year have all been confirmed the College Board and the ACT. You may notice that there are additional September and October test dates. The SAT and ACT added these test dates to compensate for spring test dates cancelled as a result of the coronavirus.

 

SAT Test Dates

September 26

Regular registration deadline: August 26
Late registration deadline: September 15

October 3

Regular registration deadline: September 4
Late registration deadline: September 22

November 7

Regular registration deadline: October 7
Late registration deadline: October 27

December 5

Regular registration deadline: November 5
Late registration deadline: November 24


 

ACT Test Dates

September 12

Regular registration deadline: August 31
Late registration deadline: None

September 13

Regular registration deadline: August 31
Late registration deadline: None

September 19

Regular registration deadline: August 31
Late registration deadline: None

October 10

Regular registration deadline: September 25
Late registration deadline: None

October 17

Regular registration deadline: September 25
Late registration deadline: None

October 24

Regular registration deadline: September 25
Late registration deadline: None

October 25

Regular registration deadline: September 25
Late registration deadline: None

December 12

Regular registration deadline: November 6
Late registration deadline: November 20

February 6, 2021

Regular registration deadline: January 8
Late registration deadline: January 15

 

These are just dates that are most relevant to seniors--check out our complete lists of upcoming SAT and ACT test dates.

 

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Which Test Dates Should I Pick?

Your decision should be based on a few different factors; college application deadlines and score goals are the most important. In general, try and go for the earlier dates to reduce stress!

NOTE: Many schools have become test optional for the 2020/2021 application year as a result of the coronavirus. This means that you don't need to submit test scores to them. However, if you still choose to submit test scores, you'll need to submit them by the required deadline, or they won't be considered.

 

Choosing the Best Test Date for Your College Applications

Before you settle on a testing date, make sure you know the application deadlines for your schools. If you are applying Early Decision or Early Action, most colleges have November application deadlines. If you are applying regular decision, applications are usually due in early January. Schools often accept SAT and ACT scores after application deadlines, but to verify this you should look up policies at the specific schools where you are planning on submitting scores.

Harvard, for example, advises you to submit at least one component of its testing requirements (SAT, ACT, or two SAT subject tests) by October for Early Action and November for regular decision. However, they will continue to accept results from test dates as late as November for Early Action and as late as January for regular decision. There are some schools, including Yale, that will even accept scores from regular decision applicants on tests taken as late as February (for the ACT).

As a general rule, if you are applying Early Action or Early Decision, the latest you should take the SAT is November 7, and the latest you should take the ACT is October 25. If you are applying regular decision, the latest you should take the SAT is December 5, and the latest you should take the ACT is February 6.

Again, these are the LATEST dates you might take the tests - they may not be the best dates for your situation.

If you wait for your results before sending scores to colleges rather than choosing to send scores the day of the test, you will end up with about a month between when you take the test and when colleges receive your scores. The ACT takes around two weeks to give you your scores, and the SAT takes around three weeks. Then it's another two weeks or so to send the scores to your schools unless you use Rush Reporting for the SAT. Rush Reporting sends your scores to colleges within two business days, but it will cost you almost three times the fee associated with a regular score report ($31 vs. $12), and some schools don't accept it.

Make sure you're aware of how late your schools will accept SAT and ACT scores if your scores won't make it there by the application deadline.

 

body_ponyexpress.jpgHow the College Board apparently sends your scores, am I right?

 

Choosing the Best Test Date for Your Score Goals

Whether or not you're planning on taking the SAT or ACT more than once this year, my advice is to aim for an early fall test date, like one in September. Then, you can formulate a game plan for the rest of the year based on your performance.

 

I Took an October SAT, Now What?

The most important considerations for you to plan your testing strategy are: 1) whether you can even register for the next test date, and 2) whether you can avoid late fees. Generally speaking, the registration deadlines are packed so tightly that if you don't register for the next test right before you get your scores back, you're going to run into late fees.

Here's a chart that shows how this will play out:

Which Test? Test Date Deadline Late Deadline Score Release
SAT Oct 3, 2020 Sep 4, 2020 Sep 22, 2020 Oct 16, 2020
SAT Nov 7, 2020 Oct 7, 2020 Oct 27, 2020 Nov 20, 2020
SAT Dec 5, 2020 Nov 5, 2020 Nov 24, 2020 Dec 18, 2020

 

For example: October's test date is October 3, and test scores should come out around October 16. November's normal registration deadline is October 7, and its late registration deadline is October 27. Therefore:

  • If you're sure you want to take both October and November tests, register for the November test before you take the October test to avoid late fees.
  • If you take the October test and have not registered for the November test, you might wait for your October scores to arrive. If they're not good, register for the November test immediately (you'll have to pay a late fee).

November and December are tight as well:

  • If you're sure you want to take both November and December test dates, register for the December test before you receive your November scores to make the deadline.
  • November scores should come out November 20. The regular registration deadline for December is November 5, two days before the actual November test date. The late deadline is November 24. Thus, if you wait until you receive your November scores, you'll be cutting it very close to take the December test at all, and you'll need to pay the late fee.
  • If you take the November test and feel like you did poorly, immediately register for the December test for your last chance.

If the extra fees are not significant to you, and you feel like you need many chances to take the test, err on the side of caution and register for all the test dates. You can cancel your test dates without any issue--it won't go on your record and the College Board will gladly just take your money.

 

I Took a September ACT, Now What?

Let's go through the same logic for ACT test dates in 2020-21 here. The score release dates haven't been confirmed by ACT, Inc, so they are estimates. They've also eliminated late fees for September and October test registrations.

Which Test? Test Date Deadline Late Deadline Score Release
ACT Sept 12, 2020 Aug 31, 2020 -- ~Sept 22, 2020
ACT Oct 24, 2020 Sept 25, 2020 -- ~Nov 3, 2020
ACT Dec 12, 2020 Nov 6, 2020 Nov 20, 2020 ~Dec 22, 2020

 

If you take the September test:

  • The registration deadline for the October test is September 25. This is after the September 12 test date and around the same time you should get your scores back.
  • When you get your September scores back, if you need to retake, quickly register for the October test to make the deadline. You may also want to register for the October test before you receive your September scores, just to be sure you get a spot at a test center.

If you take the October test:

  • The normal registration deadline for the December test is November 6. This is after the estimated October score release date, so you should be able to wait until you receive your scores before deciding whether to take the December ACT.
  • When you get your October scores back, if you need to retake, quickly register for the December test to (hopefully) avoid a late fee.

Hopefully all of this helps you plan out the step by step testing plan for senior year.

 

Choosing the Best Test Date for Your Study Plan

By the end of your junior year, you probably know how much you are looking to improve on standardized tests before you send scores to colleges. The summer between junior and senior year is a great studying opportunity.

If you are hoping to dramatically change your scores, putting in 5 hours a week for those three months is likely to give you a 150-200 point boost on the SAT or a 4-6 point boost on the ACT. For more advice on creating a study plan, check out our Complete Plans for both the SAT and ACT.

You should register for the first fall test date even if you think you still need to study more. Every test session presents a unique opportunity to assess your strengths and weaknesses in a controlled environment. You can always sign up for the next date right away if the first test doesn't go as well as you hoped!

 

body_painting.jpgMake sure you save time outside of studying to engage in fun summer activities, which apparently at some point in history included walking along depressing beaches in wildly impractical dresses.

 

Overview

Be aware of your application deadlines.

Check with your schools to see when they accept test scores.

Be prepared to sign up for the test again if you aren't satisfied the first time.

The earlier test date is the better test date because you will have more opportunities later on to improve your scores!

 

What's Next?

Find out which exact dates you want to choose with our up-to-date tables of SAT and ACT test dates.

Check out this article if you're wondering how many times you should take the SAT overall. Or, take a look at this advice if you're just debating whether you should retake the ACT or SAT.

Still need to take your SAT subject tests? Here are some upcoming dates and advice on which ones you should choose.

 

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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Samantha Lindsay
About the Author

Samantha is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5's on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.



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