SAT and ACT Dates and Calendar
High SAT, ACT, and Subject Test scores are essential if you want to get into a great college – and if you want high test scores, you need to plan ahead!
Fortunately, the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests are all delivered on a relatively consistent, predictable schedule.
If you take the time to figure out when you’ll be taking these tests, the how becomes much easier. Use this quick how-to guide to figure out your study timeline and you’ll be in your way toward much higher test scores.
STEP 1: Figure Out Which Tests You’re Taking
Before you ever start studying, you need to figure out which tests you should study. Wasting your time on the wrong “primary test” (the SAT 1 or the ACT) or on the wrong SAT Subject Tests can lead to sub-par results.
Students are practically made to take either the SAT 1 or the ACT, but very rarely both. If you want the best scores possible, you’ll want to take the best test possible for you.
First, figure out whether you should take the SAT or the ACT using our guide: The SAT vs. the ACT
Quick Note: my online test prep system, Green Test Prep, includes systems for BOTH the SAT and the ACT, so no matter which test you decide to study for (or if you want to study for both), we have you covered.
Next, figure out which SAT Subject Tests you should take: Our Guide on the SAT Subject Tests
Finally, if you’re worried about the New SAT, check out our full, free guide here: Our Guide to the New SAT
Once you’ve figured out which tests you’re going to take, you’ll be able to figure out the when much more easily.
STEP 2: Know Your Test Dates
The SAT 1 is usually offered in January, March, May, June, October, November, and December.
The ACT is usually offered in February, April, June, September, October, and December.
The College Board publishes exact dates for the SAT 1 on their website a few months in advance of each test. You can find their official date page (where you’re also able to register for these exams) here:
( Also helpful: SAT Subject Test Dates )
The ACT publishes exact dates for the ACT on their website a few months in advance of each test. You can find their official date page (where you’re also able to register for these exams) here:
Be aware that the College Board does not offer Subject Tests every time that they offer their primary exam, and you cannot take Subject Tests on the same day(s) that you take the SAT.
You can take up to three Subject Tests at a time, and I recommend taking them at the end of relevant coursework (for instance, if you’re finishing your AP chemistry class in June, it’s wise to take the Chemistry Subject Test in June as well – why not kill two birds with one stone?).
Plan to knock out your Subject Tests at the end of your terms and you’ll have them finished far further in advance than you even realize!
Before you pick a date for your SAT, ACT, or Subject Tests, you’ll need to prepare (and remember – you should never take these exams cold – you can use self-administered diagnostic tests to get a realistic idea of your scores without ever walking into a testing center).
This leads us to #3:
STEP 3: Plan Your Prep Schedule
I recommend starting to study for the SAT 1 / ACT and SAT Subject Tests as soon as you possibly can. There’s no good reason to wait, and plenty of reasons to get these tests out of the way. In fact, I recommend starting after your freshman year of high school. Once you hit that point, it’s time to get going. If you’re already a sophomore or junior, then now is the time to begin studying. Use the links above to find test dates a few months out, find a proper test prep system, and get to work!
Ideally, you’ll give yourself at least three months to prepare for the SAT 1 and ACT. You can master these tests in less time, but it’s going to be much more stressful if you try to condense your prep. By spreading things out, you can put in a small daily effort and still get big results.
As I consistently point out in my online program, Green Test Prep, consistency trumps bulk effort. In other words, it’s far better to study for 30 minutes a day for a few months than to study for 10 hours a day for a few weeks. The SAT 1 and ACT examine your long term memories and your ability to complete processes – neither of these benefit from “cramming.” The sooner you get started, the more consistently you’ll be able to study.
I am far from a “tiger mom” – it might seem like starting early and studying for a while is the “crazy” thing to do, but in reality, the least stressed out students are the ones who budget enough time to prepare for the ACT and SAT without making big daily sacrifices.
No matter when you decide to take your SAT 1 or your ACT, it’s essential that you give yourself plenty of time! Three months is enough runway to make significant alterations to your strategic and material knowledge without burning yourself out or taking away too much time from your other obligations.
SAT Subject Tests are completely unlike the SAT 1 – they require zero strategy, and simply ask: “what do you know about this subject?” They require anywhere from one week to three months to prepare for, depending on your current existing knowledge of the subject.
If you’re already fluent in French, you might only need a day to study for the French Subject Test. If you’re a US History buff, then the US History Subject Test might be a walk in the park. If you’re taking the Math Subject Test, and you’re rusty on math, it’ll take more time. Basically – you’re ready to take these tests when you know all the knowledge they require, which is publicly available and easy to find (again, check my Guide on the SAT Subject Tests if you want more information).
Once you know which tests you want to take, and how long it’ll take to prepare, you can pick the proper test dates. In a perfect world, you’d give yourself at least three months for the SAT 1 and ACT. You can prepare in less time, but if you don’t have to, there’s no point in rushing things.
Be sure to plan ahead, pick test dates at least three months out (if you can), register in advance, and then get to work! You can never start too early, and the more time you give yourself, the easier this process becomes, the fewer surprises you’ll deal with, and the higher your chances of success!
STEP 4: Plan a Backup Test for your SAT 1 and ACT!
No matter how prepared for the SAT or ACT you happen to be, it’s always a good idea to plan at least one backup test. This is why taking your first and only SAT in June is usually a bad idea – if you don’t do as well as you want to, you’ll need to wait until October to take the thing again – yikes! That’s a lot of time to keep reviewing (or to forget everything you learned). If you only schedule an ACT in June, you’ll need to wait until September – still a very long wait!
Take another look at these links:
SAT Test Dates:
ACT Test Dates:
Figure out when you want to take your first crack at the SAT or ACT, then make sure that you register for two exams – your target exam, and your backup test. If you’re taking your tests at the end of the school year, I’d recommend an April/June ACT, or a May/June SAT strategy.
If you get the score you’re looking for on your first attempt, awesome! You can just cancel the backup test date – no harm, no foul.
However, having a backup exam in place has three key benefits:
- It’s great insurance. You never know what might happen leading up to your test. You might get sick, or bump your head, or break up with your boyfriend, or not get enough sleep, or just have a bad day. Lots of things can happen that can prevent you from getting the best scores possible. If you schedule a backup test, it’s no big deal! If you don’t, and something bad happens, then you’re hamstringing yourself for no reason!
- You get the benefits of statistic variance. In other words – one of your two tests is always going to be easier or harder for you. One might have tons of algebra and very little geometry, and the other might be the opposite. Therefore, depending on what you’re better at, you’re going to score better on one of the two tests than the other. You might as well expose yourself to both tests! Also – you can superscore your different sections to get even higher scores!
- The pressure comes off. Suddenly, it’s not the test – it’s a test. Huge difference. If you have a backup, the pressure comes off – and you’ll have a much more relaxing testing experience. Being relaxed is important for mental performance, and nothing is more soothing than knowing that you have a backup plan!
That’s all there is to it!
- Make sure to start as early as possible. In-the-know test prepper get started as early as they can – the advantages are huge!
- Spread out your prep. Consistency beats intensity every single time.
- Make sure to schedule your Subject Tests apart from your SAT 1s (this isn’t as much of an issue if you’re taking the ACT). End-of-term timing is usually best.
- Always schedule at least one backup test. You’ll be more relaxed, get statistics on your side, and hedge against any possible calamities.
- Take care of your SAT 1 / ACT before you tackle your Subject Tests – they’re higher priority.