The long-believed myth that the timing of taking the SAT can help a student outperform their peers is false, and the date of the exam makes no difference.
Most high school students approach the SAT with clammy palms and a rapid heart rate, knowing that this standardized test could hold the key to their future. Although the California State University System has decided to remove the test from its list of requirements for college admission until spring 2025, other states still use it as a way of narrowing applicants down to the best of the best. Students should prepare for the test as much as possible, but is there a way to schedule the exam so that it’s easier to achieve a top score; unfortunately, no, there doesn’t seem to be.
It’s a long-circulated myth that there’s an easy date or time of year to take the SAT or ACT. As the story goes, students should avoid taking the test in the fall alongside most seniors because it creates a more competitive base. They should wait and test during the spring when the seniors have finished their testing and it’s easier to get a top score scaled against younger, less experienced peers.
The only problem with this logic is that it’s simply not true. The SAT scale isn’t like the curve scale used to compare students within one classroom; rather, it’s based on the College Board’s 2014 Scaling Study. Those interested in learning the details about SAT scale scores should read the SAT Suite of Assessments Technical Manual, starting on page 75.
Because students currently taking the SAT are being compared to college-bound students in 2014, their test-day peers make no difference at all in everyone’s final scores. The best way for a student to achieve a high SAT score is to study and prepare as thoroughly as possible. There are many websites, test prep centers, books, and other resources available to those who need help preparing for the SAT.
Of course, it makes sense to check if your desired school still requires the SAT or ACT for admission. Well over 1,000 accredited colleges and universities have dropped standardized testing from their admission process, including New York University, Cornell College, and Montana State University. Many have eliminated the tests because they feel they’re unfair to students who don’t test well, or who don’t have the means or the access to take the exams.
The SAT has evolved with the times, and by 2024, a No. 2 pencil will no longer be required to take it. The standardized college admission test will be fully digital, with students taking the test on their own device or one issued by a testing school. Students will be happy to learn that going digital will result in getting their scores back within days, not weeks.
The College Board is making other changes to the SAT including shortening the test time from three to two hours and having shorter reading passages with just one question each. One of the biggest changes ahead is allowing students to use calculators for the math portion—a big relief for mathematically-challenged students. Overall, the SAT will be easier, reflecting the lower emphasis many colleges and universities are placing on the century-old exam.