It’s a common scenario: Johnny Junior signs up for the SAT in the spring of his junior year,
thinking he’s getting a head start on college admissions. And then he takes a closer look at the calendar and realizes he’s registered for the June SAT, perilously close to his impending high school exams. What’s a stressed-out teenager to do?
If you find yourself in this situation, the first step is to relax. Panic will not help, and is likely to make the situation more intense. When I was in high school, my mom had a quotation hanging on the refrigerator: “Worry serves no useful purpose and doesn’t change a thing.” It’s a mantra I have found useful in more situations than I can count throughout my life, and it certainly holds true when your SAT test and your Algebra II final are on a collision course. You cannot change said course, but you can certainly change how you’re going to navigate it.
START STUDYING NOW
The best defense against test anxiety is preparedness. If you’ve been studying the SAT for a year, the timing of your high school exams is probably not stressing you out. One week away from SAT prep in a 52-week year? Big deal. But let’s be honest: besides me and other nerdy tutors like me, who dedicates a whole year of study to test prep? Right? Wise test takers should, however, commit to at least two months of test prep (c’mon, Vicki, where were you LAST month when I still had two months to study?). I know, I know, I know. You only have 5 weeks left, and less if you’re discovering this blog long after it’s published. But it’s not too late to start studying. First off, consider a Weekend SAT Course. At this stage in the game, you probably do not have much time available to fit a full SAT prep course into your schedule, but can you spare a weekend? If so, our 16 hour courses are a great way to boost your score in a short amount of time.
TAKE A WEEK OFF
If your finals occur before the SAT, by all means take a week off of SAT study to focus on your exams. High school (and life) are all about prioritizing, and it’s important to focus on the test that’s most imminent. The SAT will still be there once you ace your Chem final (insert sigh here).
POSTPONE THE SAT
If all else fails, and you just cannot fathom taking the SAT in June, postpone it until October. I am hesitant to recommend this solution, though, because there are consequences. First, a “change fee” ($26. It might not seem like much now when your parents are supporting you, but $26 in college can cover a whole weekend of fun). Second, your second chance becomes your first chance. If you take the test in June and are unhappy with your score, you have an entire summer to get serious about studying before knocking it out of the park in October. But if you postpone the test and take it for the first time in October, your second chance is the November test, leaving you 4 weeks to study between tests and only one week between learning your score from the October administration and tackling the November administration. In my experience, most of you need a fire lit under you (I got a 450 in math? What???) before you’ll truly dedicate yourself to studying for the SAT. Students who receive their June score and decide to retest have over three months to prepare and typically turn in a better second chance score than their first-time October counterparts.
So before making the decision to postpone, consider the consequences. If you are contemplating this decision, I recommend taking a full practice test under timed conditions. Your subsequent score will reveal if you truly need more time to study.
Whatever you decide, remember that both the SAT and your final exams are integral parts of your college application and that each deserves your attention and your respect. It may seem like the perfect storm when the all-important tests slam into each other in June, but the wisest students will avoid the squall by remaining calm and being prepared. Plus, they’ll likely have an extra $26 to fork over for a good umbrella.