A typical prep cycle for University Select students sees students
begin test prep in the Summer or Fall of their Junior year,
starting with a Boot Camp, and then pivoting to a series of one-on-one tutoring.
This, of course, varies: recruited athletes tend to start in Sophomore Spring, other families choose to start testing midway through Junior year. Regardless, our August & September Boot Camps serves as the most frequent programmatic entry point Juniors. We are happy to work with, and respond to, a variety of inputs from college counselors and family members.
One definite factor to consider is whether your student has completed Algebra II. Precalculus is useful, though not imperative, for success on the SAT & ACT. Algebra II, however, is the heartbeat of both math tests. Typically, if a student is enrolled in Algebra II, we recommend that they wait until the Spring (March/April) of that year to commence prepping for the Math portions. Some students opt to begin prepping for the verbal test sections while they progress through Algebra II.
Generally, we recommend that many of our students begin in our Boot Camp format because it is an efficient means to access our core strategies and to quickly accumulate diagnostic test data. However, this recommendation is not universal. Much depends on a student's previous scores and score goals. Read HERE for specific information regarding the best tutoring track, based on your student's profile.
Unless your daughter or son gets their desired score the first time, they should at least expect to take a test 2 -3 times. It is not unusual for a student to take a test up to 4 - 5 times, particularly if your student starts the test prep cycle as a sophomore, or in the Fall of junior year. Remember that - in the case of the SAT - super scoring is allowed, with a student's best verbal and math scores plucked from different test dates.
There does seem to be an urban legend that taking the test too many times has negative ramifications on one’s college application. Please confirm with your college counselor – but we believe that as long as your scores are moving, and clear work is being done, admissions officers take a positive view on the effort represented by multiple tests. Most students in our program take a particular test 3 - 4 times. We only get concerned when a student takes the same test a number of times – without seeing score increases!
In short, no. There are some anomalies. The June 2018 SAT created controversy because the scaled score curve was so unforgiving - a handful of incorrect responses dropped student scores by great-than-normal margins. But there are no trends favoring some test dates over others. If anything could be said, typically the more popular test dates have more crowded - and therefore more predictable - curves.
We strongly feel that students should plan test dates based on their bandwidth and schedule. We are more interested in making sure students take tests that offer the best feedback. Three times a year, the SAT and the ACT offer students the option to order a copy of the test booklet and a list of their incorrect responses. Test day feedback is invaluable to any further prep cycle.