Question from Middle-Schoolers: How soon should you start prepping for the SATs?

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Joy Han, Staff Writer

The question of how and when to prepare for the SATs grows more relevant as students get older. While preparation for the test may start as early as middle school, many people choose to wait until high school to start studying. 

“You don’t really need to start assessing your abilities before tenth grade,” advised Henry Moon, a WHS English teacher who has also tutored SAT prep. “Sit for a practice test in tenth grade to see where you are and make choices from there.”

Moon suggested that students schedule a practice test to assess their abilities before anything else. 

“Practice tests are useful to get an early diagnostic. That is, to see where you are at in terms of a starting score,” Moon said. “Lots of places offer free diagnostics.”

Additionally, by taking practice tests, students can familiarize themselves with the test-taking process.

“You get a sense for what some of the questions are like,” shared junior Alex Muzila. “There’s typically a few iconic questions that you will always get on every version of the test.”

After taking a practice test, students can begin studying during their sophomore or junior year to improve their scores. 

“I think as long as you’re [studying] at some point during your junior year, like within your junior winter, then you should be okay,” said Muzila. 

Online resources like Khan Academy can be a cost-effective way to study, gauge progress, and take more practice tests. 

“In order to prepare, I went on Khan Academy and took lots of their full-length practice tests,” said junior Tally Zeller. “Once I got the results, I went through and redid all of the questions I got wrong. This let me know what skills I had to work on.”

Nevertheless, navigating the world of test prep might turn out to be difficult, so students can choose a method of studying that works for their learning style.

“If you’re very self-disciplined and directed, go out and get a prep book and power through it. If you need a lot of help, find a class or a tutor but be aware that it can get very expensive,” Moon explained. 

Most high school classes don’t do much work with SATs, so finding the time to study can become a challenge.

“It’s hard to balance school work with SATs, so I recommend taking time over breaks and when school work is lighter,” advised Zeller. 

Another important item to keep in mind is that for fall 2021 college admissions, many schools are no longer requiring an SAT (or ACT) score. FairTest published a master list of colleges that have gone test-optional. 

“So many colleges are test-optional that [SATs] really won’t make or break your application either way,” said Muzila. “All you need is one good score or even one okay score that you can submit. Colleges will like just the fact that you’ve taken the tests.”

Regardless, putting time, effort, or sometimes money into studying for the SATs will help to produce the desired results. 

“You do have to try,” said Moon. “It’s easy to learn how to take these tests if you’re truly invested.”