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Junior Year Testing: Setting a Game Plan for Sophomores

Planning for Junior Year Exams

While more schools are announcing test optional admissions policies in response to COVID-19, students should still prepare for and take standardized tests during junior year. Test optional policies do not mean test blind, and proper preparation for testing enables your child to optimize standardized test scores and maximize opportunities for college admission and financing. More information on test optional policies can be found here.

There isn’t a cut-and-dry formula that determines when all students should begin testing, but we do recommend you consider the following factors that may affect your student's testing timeline during junior year: 

Extracurricular Activities

Many students take the SAT or ACT for the first time during the spring of junior year. However, if your child has serious extracurricular commitments in the spring, this timeline may not work. Students involved in multiple organizations, sports, and clubs need to be especially mindful when planning a time to take admissions exams.
  • Athletes that may be scouted during spring sports should consider doing the bulk of their testing during the winter and early spring dates.
  • Students seeking to play college sports should also review NCAA course requirements.
Though it may seem like an appealing option to wait until senior year to test, this leaves a very limited number of test dates if something unpredictable should arise such as an illness or distracting test environment.
Early Admissions
Most early admission deadlines are in October or November, so students applying in this manner have virtually no opportunities to test during senior year. Though colleges will occasionally let applicants send in updated scores if they continue to test throughout the fall, these scores may not be taken into consideration for those students applying early. Therefore, students who are set on a school that offers early admission should use that to their advantage and plan to test several times by the end of their junior year.
Test Anxiety
If your child is a nervous tester, getting mentally prepared for a standardized test will be a challenge. Not only does success on the SAT or ACT impact college admission chances, the structure of the exam is entirely different from what your child deals with in day-to-day class assessments. To alleviate anxiety:
  • Anxious testers should familiarize themselves with the exam as much as possible by ensuring they understand the format and content of the test. Taking the test "cold" without preparation is a bad idea for all students, but it is an especially bad idea for nervous testers.
  • Take a full-length, fully-proctored in a simulated testing environment. StudyPoint now offers free virtual practice tests. You can learn more and register here.
  • Start easing into testing with SAT question of the day on the College Board website.
Skill Level
On both the SAT and the ACT, math is a significant component. Though English courses introduce some new concepts in junior year, being behind in math will be a bigger struggle for students on a standardized test. If your child has completed Algebra II, he or she may consider testing as early as Fall of 2020. 

Also, advanced students who are beyond Algebra II at the start of junior year may over think simpler math questions, so it’s important for them to spend time reviewing older concepts. 

Score Goals & School Goals
More practice is essential for students with ambitious score goals. Though score choice gives students the option to send only their best scores to colleges, taking the test four or five times isn’t going to be in your child’s best interest. Taking a practice test is essential, because it will give your child a baseline to work with toward his or her score goal. StudyPoint is offering free practice tests to ensure all students can take live, proctored, full-length tests in the preparation process - your child can register for an upcoming test here.

Note: If your child already has a baseline score and knows there is a long way to go to reach his or her goal, then the earlier your child starts preparing, the better. 


Students unsure of which test they should concentrate on may want to consider taking practice tests early-on to determine which exam might be more appropriate for their personal testing style (you can find more background information on the differences between the tests here). Ask your child the following questions immediately after the test to add insight into which test might be a better fit: 
  • Did you struggle with timing and if so, did you struggle within a particular section or on the whole test? 
  • Were there any distractions in your testing environment that you think may have impacted your concentration?
  • How did you like the format?
If, after practicing, your child still isn’t sure which test he or she wants to take, it will be important to sit down with your calendar and schedule enough time to study adequately for each test. Studying for both tests at the same time is not recommended because each has its own unique set of strategies. You can view current dates for the SAT here and ACT here, though dates and testing environments are subject to change given the ongoing pandemic.

As always, StudyPoint is here to help! We are here as a resource and to offer advice as  your family 
enters the college admissions process during this uncertain time. If you have any questions, please contact us at 1-87STUDYPOINT (1-877-883-9764). Page last updated May 4th, 2020.

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