A High School Standardized Testing Timeline

A High School Standardized Testing Timeline

By Jay Bacrania

Whether or not you agree if standardized tests measure college-readiness, these exams are a huge part of the college admissions process, starting as early as 10th grade.

Many students, parents, and even schools do not have a clear picture of which tests are required and when students should take them. If you’re wondering when your student should be preparing for and taking standardized tests in high school, we’ve put together a testing timeline for you.

Print it out and post it on your fridge as a reminder to stay on track! We hope this helps!

10th Grade


When? Spring (if administered by your school—many schools do NOT administer this exam in the 10th grade).

Why? Benchmarking for SAT/ACT.

Our Advice: Really– do not sweat this exam!  This is just a benchmarking tool. Be familiar with question types and give it a good shot. If you’re way below where you feel you should be, consider it an indicator to start exploring why.

2) SAT Subject Tests

When? After the completion of a challenging course.

Why? 10th grade is a great time to consider taking Subject Tests.

Our Advice: Study at least four weeks in advance, and study lightly throughout the second semester of classes.

3) AP Exams

When? At the end of Spring semester. However, very few students will take AP exams in 10th grade, as most high schools restrict the number students who can take these exams prior to 11th grade.

Why? AP Exams show intellectual rigor in courses, one of the most important factors in college admissions. They can also be converted to college credits at many universities.

Our Advice: Again, sophomores do not usually take these exams. However, if your student does opt to take an AP Exam, it is imperative they study on their own in addition to class work. Pick up a prep book at the beginning of their spring semester, and encourage them to follow along in the book throughout the semester.

11th Grade


When? Fall (if administered).

Why? Benchmarking for SAT/ACT; National Merit Scholars Qualifying Test.

Our Advice: If your junior is seeking scholarships tied to the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, they should take these exams seriously. Otherwise, don’t stress! Use this test to familiarize yourself with question types.


When? Students can sign up for the exam dates of their choosing throughout the school year. Students may test as early as December, although exams can be taken multiple times in March, May, or June. Colleges don’t at all mind seeing up to three scores reported.

Why? These exams carry the most weight for admissions and should be taken very seriously by both students and parents.

Our Advice: Do sweat these exams! Studying should start at the end of sophomore year or the beginning of junior year (and not during second semester as many schools recommend). Study or prepare with a tutor for at least 3-4 months prior to these exams.

3) SAT Subject Tests

When? After the completion of a challenging course.

Why?  Juniors applying to selective colleges should take at least two SAT STs to display breadth of knowledge to admissions officers.

Our Advice: Students should take the subject tests they’ll do well in to display their strengths. There is some strategy behind this and should be discussed in more depth on a case-by-case basis.

4) AP Exams

Junior year is generally “the year of AP” for students opting into these exams. Follow the same study advice as above.

5) SAT/ACT (Summer After 11th Grade)

When? During the summer after 11th Grade.

Why? If your student is unhappy with their SAT or ACT scores, this is the time for intensive test preparation. The stakes are high, and there are only a few more chances to take these exams prior to application submission.

Our Advice: One-on-one tutoring is often more effective than classroom-style SAT prep courses, though it depends on your student’s learning style.

12th Grade

Ideally, standardized testing should now be complete. This frees your student to focus on academics (often including AP classes), applications, enjoying the rest of high school, and preparing for college.

In some cases, students will need to take the SAT or ACT in 12th grade. By this point, the stakes are high, so formulate a clear study plan based on the student’s target score.

Armed with this knowledge, you and your student should be able to devise a clear and balanced plan for handling the major exams that will need to be taken in the run-up to college admissions.

About the Author:

Jay Bacrania is CEO and Co-Founder of Signet Education,   At heart, Jay is an educator and entrepreneur, and he has combined those passions in stewarding the establishment and growth of Signet. Passionate about service to others, Jay has worked closely with the Signet team to build an organization committed to improving the lives of everyone it encounters—clients, students, tutors, staff, and community members. He strives to find the best ways to recruit, train, and nurture incredible educators, with the aspiration (read: obsession) to create the highest-quality education company anywhere.  In a past life, before Signet, Jay attended Berklee College of Music and was a jazz trumpeter. Jay is also a 2005 graduate of Harvard College, where he received a BA in comparative religion.

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