The old paradigm dictated that juniors should try the SAT or ACT at the end of junior year, then prep and test again in senior year if needed. However, experience has revealed the many flaws in that approach. Modern high schoolers, particularly the most competitive and engaged students, find more value in taking the tests as early in junior year as makes sense based on their goals and extracurricular schedule.
May, you may have noticed, is not early in junior year.
Due to the abundant priorities and commitments May dumps on the collective 11th grade doorstep–everything from AP exams and SAT Subject Tests to prom and spring activities–this month is less than optimal for students looking for their best SAT scores. Then again, May does offer two big benefits:
1. Students who took Algebra 2 in 11th grade have learned more or all of what the SAT tests.
2. May will be better than June for many students taking the SAT in the spring.
Who, then, should consider sitting for the May SAT? We can narrow the pool down to 11th graders, as this date far exceeds the deadlines for most seniors. Sophomores who are academically advanced enough to test in the spring usually have APs to contend with and should look to the June SAT & ACT instead.
Not all juniors should go for the May SAT, however. This date is best suited to juniors not scheduled for AP exams.
So many 11th graders with access to Advanced Placement courses take full advantage of these rich programs, which turns the middle weeks of May into an absolute gauntlet of challenging, content-heavy standardized tests. Success on AP exams requires intense study in the weeks leading up to the exam, which leaves no time for SAT prep. For this reason, AP students should use the May SAT date for SAT Subject Tests instead. Students unburdened by AP commitments, on the other hand, would do well to get the SAT out of the way before final exams and the most important games of most spring sports seasons.
Optimally, teens taking the May SAT will have lots of time to prep leading up to the exam. However, even students juggling lots of extracurriculars might consider testing even on limited prep for a shot at reaching their target scores before the school year ends. Summer going into senior year can be that much sweeter when students know they’ve nailed down at least one essential aspect of their college applications. That potential benefit provides the best case for taking the SAT in May.