When Is the Latest You Can Take the SAT?
There are some questions we at CollegeVine receive more often than others. What SAT score do I need to get into the Ivy League? Which classes should I register for junior year? When should I take the SAT? And of course, the one we hear with a bit of panic in the voice—when is the latest I can take the SAT?
Luckily for us and our students, the SAT schedule and score release dates are determined far in advance. In fact, the SAT calendar includes tentative SAT dates that are literally years in the future. For this reason, it’s easy to discuss when the latest possible SAT date is, as long as you consider your unique college application timeline. In this post, we’ll answer this question from multiple angles.
Why Are You Taking the SAT?
Nearly everyone is taking the SAT to get into college, but this isn’t the only reason people take the SAT. Some students also take the SAT to apply for scholarships, internships, or summer programs. No matter why you’re taking the SAT, the most important information you’ll need to have in order to determine your last possible test date will be your application deadline.
To calculate the last possible test date, you’ll need to count backwards from your application deadline six weeks for colleges or programs that you can request score reports for on your test date and then find the test date directly before those six weeks.
If you can’t request a score report to be sent directly to the scholarship or program on your test date, you’ll need to allow up to eight weeks for your scores to arrive and be processed.
When Are the Official SAT Deadlines?
It isn’t simply luck that determines SAT dates and deadlines. In fact, the fact that most SAT dates are clustered in the summer and fall is a conscious decision to maximize your chances of squeezing in one last high score before college application deadlines.
To really think about SAT deadlines in relation to college applications, though, you’ll need to consider college application deadlines. In the United States, these are typically November 1 or 15 for early decision or early action, and January 1 for regular decision. Ideally, you should aim for your SAT scores to arrive before your application deadline, or at least not long after it.
SAT score reports that you request on your test day (using the form for four free score reports) typically arrive to colleges the day before they are released online. This means these scores are usually sent three to five weeks after your test date. Just because a college has received your score, though, that doesn’t mean it’s been reviewed and connected to the remainder of your application. This process can sometimes take an additional week.
For this reason, we recommend taking the SAT at least six weeks before your application deadlines. For score reports requested on your test date, these are the latest test dates that will result in scores delivered on time:
- If you are applying early decision or early action with a November 1 or 15 deadline, you should plan on the October SAT administration as your last chance.
- If you are applying for a January or later deadline, the early December SAT test date will be your absolute last shot.
Is It Too Late To Take the SAT In 12th Grade?
If you’re in 12th grade and you’ve been procrastinating or have had a change of plans, you might be panicking that you’re too late. Don’t worry. There are plenty of SAT test dates in the fall that should allow enough time to get your scores to scholarships and colleges alike.
The issue that you are more likely to run into is whether or not a single test will be enough for you to get the score you want. If you intend to apply early decision and you haven’t taken an SAT yet, you should take the soonest possible test. This will probably be the test date in late August. If you can take this test, you’ll have a good shot at getting your score back and still having time to register for the October test date too, if needed.
If you’re planning to apply regular decision and you’re starting 12th grade without having taken the SAT, we still recommend that you take the test as soon as possible. This will again probably be the August test date. If you get your scores back and want to take the test again, you can do so in November or December with plenty of extra prep time in between.
When Is the Best Time to Take the SAT?
We generally recommend that students take the SAT for the first time during the second semester of 11th grade. This usually gives enough time to prepare during the school year while still offering plenty of options and time to schedule retakes as necessary. If you want to take the test again, you can do so in August or September of 12th grade, still leaving time for yet another test date if you’re applying regular decision and feel you need to do so.
Keep in mind that preparing for college application should be a proactive process, not a reactive one. Plan ahead and anticipate deadlines and obstacles to ensure that you’re able to put your absolute best foot forward.
To learn more about our ideal SAT timeline, check out these posts:
What If I Miss All the SAT Deadlines?
There’s good news and there’s bad news. Your immediate response might be to run to the Internet to find an alternative testing date or to register for the ACT instead. The bad news is, neither of these options are feasible.
While the ACT does have a single test in December that is typically a week or so later than the SAT test date, the ACT takes slightly longer to process scores and their website states that scores for tests taken in December might not be available until February. In addition, there are no additional SAT dates or make-up tests, so to speak. In this sense, you really have missed a hard and fast deadline for regular decision college applications.
That being said, many schools don’t require SAT score anymore. To find out more about test optional schools, check out our post What Test-Optional Means for College Admissions.
In addition, there are schools with deadlines that fall much later than the typical January 1st regular decision deadline. To learn more about these schools see our post Is It Too Late? Starting Your College Apps in November.
For more tips on SAT prep and performance, don’t miss these posts:
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