Good idea to test early?

My D and I were thinking that she might take the SAT or ACT early to set a baseline. Good idea/bad idea? She is in Algebra 2 so it might be helpful for her to have that under her belt but don’t see any other downside. She is a 3.8ish student, she should get merit at some nice schools but not shooting for the stars like many on here (not applying to Stanford etc). University of Washington might be the most challenging school to which she will apply (in state). Just started JR year of HS. She is pretty busy with Irish Dance (competitive, competed in Nationals) and will be getting a job. Any advice will be appreciated.

Unless you’re worried that she’ll choke up with anxiety in a real testing setting, you don’t absolutely HAVE to have her take a real test in a testing center, early. BTW, fall of junior year of high school isn’t that early. Traditionally, one takes the PSAT in the fall of junior year, the SAT in the spring of junior year, and maybe again in the fall of senior year. But in today’s hypercompetitive environment, there are kids who start taking the tests as early as 8th grade. But they’re shooting for the stars.

I’d say that she could/should take a free downloadable practice SAT at home under timed conditions, and the same for the ACT. She should then decide which she wants to focus on. Some kids are better-suited for one test or the other. From what you describe, she doesn’t sound as if she would be in the running for National Merit, so specific prep for the PSAT isn’t necessary. Instead, decide whether she’s prepping for the SAT or the ACT, and have her start doing practice tests (there are many retired ACTs that are legally in the public domain, and downloadable for free on the internet). Then, after she’s done some prep, have her take the ACT this winter. That leaves her some time to do some more prep, if need be, and take it again in the spring or summer. Taking the test repeatedly doesn’t improve one’s score - it’s the prep one does beforehand that leads to improvement.

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My D took Pre-Calc in her junior year and took the SAT in the 3 consecutive sittings (December, March and May) immediately after the PSAT. She worked with a private tutor to focus on specific skills. The tutor recommended scheduling all 3 tests online at the same time to mentally prepare and she felt it took the pressure off needing to hit a mark since she was registered for others already. Strategy paid off for her with a nice 130 point increase.

My kids started early and had a tutor, which worked out better for my 2021 grads with covid. One of my dancers is an 8 time world qualifier and won the highest scholarship at nationals senior year, my other is a 1 time WQ who quit after 8th grade. I get the time commitment (mine did 3 seasons of varsity sports so it was school - sport - dance every day), both won local scholarships and the Irish dance was the attention getter for some, their sister never danced but was treasurer of the Irish dance club at her college (business major who needed leadership for her resume) and it’s something she was always asked about in interviews.

Did she take the PSAT10 or the PreACT? Our strategy was to use those tests as a baseline and design a self-study plan around areas of weakness. Taking a practice test under timed conditions is another good way to get a baseline score. Both of my kids tested early but they had a solid algebraic foundation and were already taking Calculus. If it were my child, I would probably wait until she had at least one semester of Algebra under her belt.

I’m a test prep tutor. IMO, taking any official test as a practice or to set a baseline is a complete waste of time and money. There are many free official tests available online. Take one at home, or find a quiet place in the library. Take another free test, after some prep, and see if the score improves.

When a kid takes the test officially, the score is there. If your kid does terribly, they are going to feel they have a mountain to climb, plus the score exists. There is much more pressure to perform and do better. That can be demotivating for some kids. Others might feel more motivated, but I’m guessing a student like that is going to feel motivated even if they do a free test at home.

Dozens of parents have asked me this question. I have yet to have one parent come back to me and say the student wished they had taken an official test first as a practice. I’m trying to think of a comparison and am drawing a blank. Practice when it doesn’t matter.

I usually receommend starting Fall Junior year if a student has completed Algebra 2, but waiting until the Spring if currently taking Algebra 2.

Algebra 2 will help with many of the questions, and getting a score just to have one, when a student will be more prepared in the future, isn’t a worthwhile investment.

There are 10 official practice tests and another 15 released QAS tests that can be used to understand a student’s current score range.

Taking the PSAT will give a student the experience of a test day, which can also be a bit bewildering the first time.

So I’d advise taking the PSAT now, taking an SAT or two in advance to get familiar with the format/question type and see where the score falls, and then targeting May/June for the actual SAT.

Wow, 8 time WQ! My daughter has danced in Nationals a few times and Oireachtas several times, been an open champ for many years but not ever been close to WQ, she just wants to recall. She has a couple more chances and there are quite a few that have WQ’d from her dance school.
Thanks for sharing!
I think maybe having her take a couple practice test to start is a good idea.

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She took Algebra 2 last year, taking trig now. I think I am going to have her take a practice SAT and ACT to start. She does not always test well and has accommodations (ADHD etc, has a plan).
Thanks for the advice!