When Should You Take the SAT?
The SAT is offered nationally seven times each year, in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December, usually on a Saturday. See the current SAT test date schedule for the exact dates.
We recommend taking the SAT for the first time in the spring of your junior year and again in the Fall before college application deadlines. Most students who retake the SAT raise their score, and some students even take it more than twice.
How to Choose the Right SAT Test Date for You
The best strategy always involves planning. Select your first test date in March, May or June. Key factors to consider are:
- Test center location availability
- Personal schedule
- Practice time needed
- Chance/desire to retest
- College application deadlines
Let’s look at these one at a time.
SAT Test Center Location Availability
The SAT is administered at thousands of testing centers across the country, often in high schools or colleges. However, not every test center is open for every test date, and they don’t offer the same number of seats.
Students often feel most comfortable taking the SAT in a familiar location near them. Check to see if your school is a test center and if so, which SAT dates it offers. If your school isn’t a test center, choose the location closest to you that offers the SAT on your desired date. Find SAT test centers using our online search tool.
You’ll have a lot going on in your junior and senior years of high school. You may need to eliminate some SAT dates based on prior commitments like a family wedding, vacation, or sporting activity.
By the way, don't worry about whether taking the SAT will interfere with your choice to also take the ACT®. The College Board coordinates with the ACT® every year to make sure it’s never offered on the same day (so that’s one conflict you won’t have to worry about).
SAT Prep and Practice
To do your best on the SAT, you’ll need to set aside some time to practice. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel each time you take the test.
Setting aside time to practice is an important fact to consider when selecting your test dates. If you took the PSAT/NMSQT or PSAT 10 you can use your scores to guide your customized SAT study plan and inform your schedule. Most students study during the 2-3 months leading up to their SAT. You can set up a practice schedule that works for you on Official SAT Practice and opt in to practice reminder emails to help you stay on track.
Here are a few quick links to get you started with your SAT prep:
- Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy®: Free and personalized study for everyone. Take official full-length practice tests, use interactive practice, and get a tailored practice plan based on your PSAT/NMSQT results.
- SAT Practice Tests: Simulate test day with official full-length SAT practice tests.
- Sample Questions: Check out these questions so you’ll know what to expect on test day
Retaking the SAT
Many students take the SAT for the first time March, May or June of their junior year. At that point, you’ve got nearly three years of high school coursework under your belt so you’re well prepared, and you still have plenty of chances to retake the SAT (and raise your score) a second time if you'd like.
By taking the SAT a second time, you get to customize your preparation by focusing on specific areas you need to work on most, and you’ve got the added advantage of knowing what to expect on test day. The dates in August, October, and November are popular for retaking the SAT before your college application deadlines.
Ultimately, you’ll send your SAT score to the colleges you’re applying to. This means you need to know their admission deadlines and make sure there’s enough time to test and send your score before their cutoff date. Typically for high school seniors, regular decision deadlines are in December or January and the most common early action or early admission deadline is in November. Scores are often available a few weeks after the test date and some time is required to send them to schools. When selecting your SAT test date be sure to note the score release date for that test.
When Should You Register for the SAT?
Once you’ve selected your ideal date, the next step is registering online. Our test dates are grouped to match the academic school year, so Fall 2021—Spring 2022 dates cover tests from August 2021 to June 2022. New registration dates open by Summer, so once you've taken your Spring test you'll receive an email when registration for the new academic year is released.
If you have your heart set on a specific test center and day, it makes sense to register early and guarantee your seat—some test centers fill up and that could force you to choose a different date and location. This particularly applies to international SAT test takers, as certain countries have a limited number of test centers and seats.
Some students don’t want to commit to a test date until it’s much closer to test time. Every SAT administration has a regular registration deadline and a late registration deadline. The regular deadline is roughly four weeks before the test date and the late deadline is about two weeks before the test date. There’s an extra fee for late registrations (unless you're using an SAT fee waiver) so we recommend that you register as early as possible to avoid fees. Also, the later you register, the less choices you'll have for your testing location and/or date combination.
Changing Your SAT Test Date or Location
If you change your mind about your SAT test date or location after you’ve registered, you can change them (there is a change fee). Changing your registration date may require you to change your test center, and changing your testing center may require a change to your date as well.
SAT School Day
Many states, districts, and schools participate in SAT School Day, which lets you test at your school during school hours on dates in October, March, and April. Ask your counselor if your school plans to administer the SAT on a school day.
If you've already taken the SAT on a Saturday, you can retake it on an SAT School Day. If you’ll be taking it on an SAT School Day, you can still take it a second time during one of the national Saturday test dates. The choice is yours!
As you can see, taking the SAT is an important decision that takes some planning. Now that you have the information you need to decide, choose the upcoming SAT test date that’s best for you today to secure your seat.