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
Test Dates and Deadlines for Seniors
PrepScholar uses analysis of historical data and date selection principles to project these registration deadlines. The official registration deadlines for the 2019-20 school year haven't been released by the College Board and the ACT yet, but the test dates themselves are definitively based on official predicted schedules.
SAT Test Dates
Regular registration deadline: July 26
Late registration deadline: August 14
Regular registration deadline: September 6
Late registration deadline: September 25
Regular registration deadline: October 4
Late registration deadline: October 23
Regular registration deadline: November 8
Late registration deadline: November 26
ACT Test Dates
Regular registration deadline: June 14
Late registration deadline: June 24
Regular registration deadline: August 9
Late registration deadline: August 25
Regular registration deadline: September 27
Late registration deadline: October 13
Regular registration deadline: November 1
Late registration deadline: November 18
February 8, 2020
Regular registration deadline: January 10
Late registration deadline: January 17
These are just dates that are most relevant to seniors--check out our full list of 2018-2019 test dates here.
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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!
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 5, and the latest you should take the ACT is October 22. If you are applying regular decision, the latest you should take the SAT is January 28, and the latest you should take the ACT is February 11.
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. 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. $11.25), 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.
How 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 the first fall test date. That's October 1 for the SAT and September 10 for the ACT. Then, you can formulate a game plan for the rest of the year based on your performance.
I Took the 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 5, 2019||Sep 6, 2019||Sep 25, 2019||Oct 25, 2019|
|SAT||Nov 2, 2019||Oct 4, 2019||Oct 23, 2019||Nov 22, 2019|
|SAT||Dec 7, 2019||Nov 8, 2019||Nov 22, 2019||Dec 27, 2019|
For example: October's test date is October 5, and test scores should come out around October 25. November's normal registration deadline is October 4, and its late registration deadline is October 23. 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 on October 1 to avoid late fees.
- If you take the October test and have not registered for the November test, wait for your scores to arrive. If they're not good, register for the November test immediately so you don't miss the late registration deadline.
November and December are even tighter:
- If you're sure you want to take both November and December test dates, register for the December test before you take the November test on November 3 to avoid late fees.
- November scores should come out November 22. The late registration deadline for December is November 22. Thus, you cannot wait to receive your November scores before registering for the December test.
- 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 the September ACT, Now What?
Let's go through the same logic for ACT test dates in 2018-19 here.
|Which Test?||Test Date||Deadline||Late Deadline||Score Release|
|ACT||Sept 7, 2019||Aug 9, 2019||Aug 25, 2019||Sept 17, 2019|
|ACT||Oct 26, 2019||Sept 27, 2019||Oct 13, 2019||Nov 12, 2019|
|ACT||Dec 7, 2019||Nov 1, 2019||Nov 18, 2019||Dec 17, 2019|
If you take the September test:
- the normal registration deadline for the October test is September 27. This is after the September test date of September 8, 2018. Therefore, if you take the September test and don't feel good about it, before you get your scores back, register for the October test to avoid late fees.
- when you get your September scores back on September 17, if you need to retake, quickly register for the October test to avoid a late fee.
If you take the October test:
- the normal registration deadline for the December test is November 1. This is after the October test date of October 27, 2018. Therefore, if you take the October test and don't feel good about it, before you get your scores back, register for the December test to avoid late fees.
- when you get your October scores back on November 12, if you need to retake, quickly register for the December test with 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!
Make 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.
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!
Find out which exact dates you want to choose with our Table of 2016-2017 SAT Test Dates.
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:
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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.