Most students start taking their SATs junior year of high school – but others like to get a head start.
Taking the SAT as a high school freshman isn’t a bad idea. For one thing, it allows you to get acquainted with the timetable, format, and scoring of the test. The earlier you take it, the more time you have to improve your test-taking abilities and score further down the road. Practice tests are definitely beneficial as well, but nothing truly gives you valuable tools and experience that a genuine SAT run through does. Essentially, while it’s outside the norm of standardized testing culture, if you have the chance to take the SAT as early as freshman year, do it.
I was actually in eighth grade when I first took the SATs. It was part of a John Hopkins study that invited a few students to participate. I didn’t do half bad either – so here are some tips on how to handle an early SAT experience should you so choose to do so.
The nice thing about taking the test so early in your high school career is that there is no pressure. You don’t have to send the scores to anyone, you have three plus years to improve upon your skills, and unless you had to pay the test-taking fee, it’s largely inconsequential. For these reasons, there is absolutely zero reason to panic or stress out about. Just relax and grab your calculator and number two pencil, and head into the classroom with courage.
2. Review your math.
Depending on the track you’re on and what classes you’re taking in high school, you might actually be at an advantage in taking the test so early. By the time junior and senior year came around, most of my classmates and I were onto Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Statistics. The majority of the SAT math section is concerned with algebra, basic statistics, and geometry – courses primarily taught near the end of middle school and first year or two of high school. With the math fresh in your mind, there’s a chance you might even be better equipped to handle the SAT at this stage in your education. Another beneficial point to note is that studying for your math classes will double count as studying for the SAT – so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
3. Catch up on the news.
There isn’t a specific criteria for the (now optional) essay portion of the SAT so long as you have a solid argument established, but it usually impresses the scorers if you know a thing or two about current events that you can bring into the outline. Reading the newspaper is a great way to both improve your grammar and writing skills – which will also be tested over the few hours – and get a general overview of what exactly is going on in the world. It’s a quick and easy habit to get into that is sure to come in handy when taking the test.
4. Take mental notes.
Like I said, you’re already way ahead of the game. Now don’t let this extra practice go to waste. Try to remember every challenge you come across – whether it’s a specific section, the time constraint, what you wished you brought and what you wished you left at home. As soon as you get out of the testing room, write all of these things down so that you’ll be as prepared as possible for next time.
Other than these specific recommendations, there are of course the various other study and prep methods useful to anyone taking the SAT – from testing guides to the question of the day, dictionaries to your high school math teacher. Utilize all of these resources, but remember to relax, breathe, and be excited for the excellent leg up you’ve already given yourself!