My son is in the 10th grade and my daughter is in the 9th grade. When should we begin preparing for the SAT?
Some SAT preparation is long-term and is more an acquisition of basic skills – reading, math, vocabulary, writing, and analysis. Students who fail to develop these will struggle on the SAT. Usually students learn the necessary content in school and you would only seek extra help if your child struggles in a particular subject.
True SAT preparation is best done right before taking the test, for most students that will be sometime junior year. Complete test prep is like training for a marathon. You have a particular date. You have a particular goal in mind and you’re going to have a singular focus on that for a period of time.
I’ve found that students don’t do well prepping over long periods, which is why I don’t recommend you begin before junior year. Students lose interest. They burn out. They lose momentum before it really counts.
High-scoring juniors who seek to qualify for National Merit Scholarships will want to prepare before the October PSAT. Everyone else can prepare when a class best fits into his or her schedule. Look for a time during the school year with the fewest conflicts with activities, sports, or other academic obligations. All juniors should take the SAT by the end of the year; you find the test date that works best for your student.
If you want to give your 9th and 10th grader an advantage before you begin an SAT prep class, there are a few things you can do.
50% of a student’s SAT Reading score is based on knowledge of college-bound vocabulary, something students can’t cram in a 5-8 week prep class. I offer the My Vocabulary Success Coach program, which for $10 a month provides weekly vocabulary words, audio files, study activities, and tips. I developed this program because I consistently found students in my SAT class lacking vocabulary necessary to succeed on the SAT. Even my best students who attend highly competitive high schools could use some extra work in this area. I’d recommend all students begin a program of vocabulary development as early as 7th or 8th grade. For more on my vocabulary program visit: My Vocabulary Success Coach
2. SAT Question of the Day
You can receive an official College Board question in your email inbox everyday if you subscribe to the SAT Question of the Day. Even if students save the questions during the week and do them all on Saturday, seeing the types of questions on the test offers long-term benefits. Subscribe for free at SAT Question of the Day.
So I recommend early preparation for 9th and 10th grade students and complete SAT prep for juniors. Waiting until senior year to prepare for the SAT may be too late.