Taking SAT in 9th grade

I was working with my 9th grader and as part of getting ready he tried a practice SAT. He ended up with a 1280, I think with a bit of practice he could get a 1500+ score. My thinking was ok get it out of the way and this is one less thing to worry about in the future.
Also his 9th grade workload is very low, so it would be good prep for next year where I heard teachers are much more strict.
Can he use his 9th grade SAT score when he applies ? Is there a disadvantage for him taking it this early ?

I would wait until at least sophomore year. Some schools won’t accept a score prior to that time. Carnegie Mellon comes to mind. While most colleges are ok with a freshman year score, he may as well wait and take it in August or September of sophomore year if you are truly trying to be one and done and still count for all schools.

Edited to add that the SAT is changing format soon. I don’t know the dates for the transition, but you may want to look at that factor, too.

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I am glad I asked you are right, from their admission page.

We believe that college admission testing in the 9th and 10th grades adds to the anxiety of a process that students won’t encounter for several years. As a result, we encourage students to submit 11th or 12th grade SAT or ACT scores (tests taken the summer after 10th grade are appropriate). While earlier tests may measure knowledge at the time they are taken, that level of knowledge gradually evolves and doesn’t fully represent the knowledge students bring to college first-year courses. Should students present tests taken two or more years in advance of their first-year experience, we’d take the timing of the test results into consideration. The greater the amount of time prior to students’ first year of college, the less we can rely on the test results as a fair representation of their knowledge entering Carnegie Mellon

I am glad you checked…I was thinking they accepted 10th grade SATs, but they don’t consider 9th grade grades…I had the right school, but the wrong details.

If so, this is a golden opportunity to put some extra time & effort into something that he is genuinely interested in! a hobby, a sport, a cause he believes in, etc.If he isn’t sure what he is genuinely interested in, it’s a good time to try things.

Also, you can help him start building the study habits he will need when the work and the workload do get harder: doing work ahead of time, planning out the timing of longer things (term papers / projects / prepping for finals) etc.

I tutor for both tests.

Please do not start this process until he is well into his sophomore year. I’ll give you a million reasons.

  1. Tests are de-emphasized these days. So many colleges are now test optional, test blind, test flexible. Since the pandemic, a lot of colleges have stopped requiring them and I don’t see that changing soon. Colleges care more about other parts of the app.

  2. If he starts prepping now, he will be prepping for an obsolete test format. The test is going to be online in 2024 and is going to be noticeably different. There will be a minuscule number of official tests available for prep, and by the time your kid takes it, there will quite possibly be a few subtle changes in question format, etc…that he will not have seen before.
    EDIT: This explains the test changes thoroughly and provides a link to sample questions.

It’s always possible that things could change, but expect a digital test for 2024.

  1. Over prepping leads to burnout. Prepping for too long is counterproductive.

  2. Let him be a kid. There are better ways to spend time than to prep for tests.

  3. It’s demoralizing when a kid doesn’t get the score they hoped for. Test prep is expensive and time consuming, and if he gets a score he isn’t happy with, he might feel obliged to keep prepping, whihc leads to more stress about getting a “good” score.

  4. He still has tons of learning to do. Let him learn more before he takes a test. I see students rush to take it when they clearly would have benefitted from another year of math, for example.


Most students don’t begin thinking about standardized tests until after they get their PSAT back, and thus don’t prep until after the PSAT (taken in fall of 11th). But certain scholarships are available to those who make National Merit, and with CA having gone test-blind, the only way to present evidence of a high test score to them is to have received a National Merit award. I would argue that prepping for the SAT early (or for the PSAT) is worth it, for that reason, if CA publics or the schools that offer substantial scholarships for National Merit are on the table.

If your child is interested in doing this, and is mature enough to see the long game, I’d have him spend a little time each week prepping for the PSAT now, steadily over the next year and a half, without taking away time from all the other things a 9th grader does. He may not have had all the math yet that the SAT covers; maybe leave that for a bit later on. I think that if he is extremely well prepped for the PSAT, then just a little bit of polishing will be needed for the SAT, to be taken starting in perhaps Jan of 11th grade.

please don’t start this trend. let the kids be kids. there is zero reason to take it that early.

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My kids had a slightly different thought process. They took the PSAT every year from 8th grade through 11th grade and both took either the official SAT or ACT for the 1st time in 11th grade. My kids both wanted to put a big 1st score on the board and not test until they could get their “Goal” score in practice.

My 2nd kid was testing at a similar level as your kid in 9th grader, got a 1390 on the PSAT as a 10th grader, and did some targeted prep on his weaknesses the summer before his junior year. He took the ACT at the start (August) of his junior year, got a 35 on the ACT (equivalent to 1540 SAT). He has been preparing for the SAT before getting back the ACT score and got a 1550 in a timed practice SAT, but he loved being “One and Done” with standardized testing (so he never took official SAT) and he was able to focus on other parts of his application. He ended up being accepted to a selective summer program which was probably the most important non-academic thing on his resume.

I can also share that, as a tutor who has worked with hundreds of students, 99% of them don’t start prepping until a few months before and can still manage to get top scores. In my experience, over prepping doesn’t lead to the desired outcome. I’m currently working with a girl who saw a different tutor first. She has already done about 15 tests and her score keeps going down. This is common.

Any practice SAT from before 2016 should be disregarded. They are a completely different format. There are a finite number of official tests. IMO, Princeton Review or Kaplan tests, etc… are garbage and not like real tests. Any student who spends years prepping for a test will run out of tests at some point.

And of course, with the new format, College Board will release a few mock tests for students to prepare. Maybe four, if that. But, as was seen with the test relaunch in 2016, there were definitely subtle changes or new types of questions in the year after the new tests were released.

I am always in favor of kids taking the test once if possible. IMO, 8-10 is a good number of practice tests before taking it officially. But that isn’t going to be possible with the new online version. As I said, the format is changing dramatically and the test will be a full hour shorter.

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Fwiw, I’ve never run into a school other than CMU that won’t accept an early test. Harvard used to say within 3 years, but dropped that a while ago. And when my daughter was going through the process, there were enough data points that I don’t think CMU really enforces what they say.

She scored high enough in 8th that she could have stopped then, taken it in 9th, etc. One key thing to know is that if a student qualifies as a National Merit semi-finalist, the student needs to have a confirming score on the SAT or ACT no earlier than the beginning of Sophomore year. So wait until at least 10th grade.

She ended up taking it again Fall of Junior year, along with the PSAT required for NM scholarships. If you’re going to take a meaningful test Junior year Fall - I usually advise making the prep investment for SAT at the same time.

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The student’s score of 1280 would be very difficult to raise substantially enough for a super competitive school, even if said college would accept a score from freshman year. I see little point in this student rushing to take a test any time soon, especially as, from what I have seen so far, the new test may possibly be a bit “easier”, at least as far as reading and writing is concerned.

There is no substitute for more education and intellectual development.


Thank you this is exactly what I am thinking, he plays a musical instrument and enjoys it. But like most kids his age most of his time is spent on IG, YouTube and video games.
My key for him is just time management, kind of hard when he has straight As without putting in any effort. My worry is when he has harder classes next year he’ll have a more difficult time when he can’t finish everything the night before.

Thank you everyone for your input. I guess I freaked out a bit and started to worry when a friend told me his kid had taken 5 APs as a freshman and 6 as a sophomore in a private school.
In our public school you can’t even take APs as freshmen and I don’t see my kid taking more than 6-10 in total never mind 11.
I also didn’t know about the change in format of the SAT, I don’t see a reason to put effort into this before his sophomore yet at the earliest. I’ll go look into the National Metric scholarship since we are in CA.
BTW for everyone mentioning burnout I checked his app usage and he was on IG 20 hours last week I am ok if he has enough work that he only gets 10 hrs a week on there. :slight_smile:

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If he loves it, pouring that time into the musical instrument, and youth orchestra, and pre-college conservatory, may become the “hook” that gets him into a top school.

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I can’t see how this would be helpful. Schools don’t want them this early and a kid so targeted to college this early won’t get a chance to be a kid. Unless he’s ‘young Sheldon’, this is too much too soon.

  1. Every college will consider course rigor/APs etc from the context of his school, so he won’t be compared with other schools

  2. A lot matters on what the two of you will consider a ‘good’ outcome from the college app process. If everybody is happy with the state university; his current trajectory makes it likely that he will get in; and you can afford it, then you have little to worry about.

However, if meaningful merit $$ will be required, or if there are aspirations for more selective schools or schools with particular programs then you need to be thinking ahead. IF that is the case, then from Grade 9 on, how he chooses to use his time outside counts- and the more rejective the school the more it counts.

My S took it (ACT though) in June after sophomore year and people fussed that was too early. (I figured it was good practice and to get a baseline for what schools we might want to tour during his upcoming junior year. He had done Duke Tip a few years prior so we knew he would be solid and not stressed during the testing.)

In hindsight, it worked out well….bc Covid hit 8 months later so he thankfully had a June score after 10th, and just had taken a Feb (11th grade) test before testing was pretty much suspended for months and led to wide spread TO among schools.

But with Covid not likely to have disruption on testing availability again (knocking on wood!) then whenever he feels ready and not pressured.

Taking it “early” gave us an idea of schools that could be a target, etc.

But others may disagree.

After soph is junior year. So there’s a difference. And a low score can be ‘improved’ with a lot of training.

My point being that the sooner you take it and if you get a solid high score then you have an idea of what schools you can be considering.

Sure you can test again and improve but S got a 32 a week after sophomore year and thus, didn’t feel pressured to take it again until Feb of junior year (when he got a 35). (He considered stopping at the 32, one and done.)

We knew less than 5 weeks after sophomore year before junior year even started two months later what schools to visit and when based on his 32.

We didn’t have to wait to take it fall of junior year and then wait for results around Thanksgiving.

We toured three schools in the fall of his junior year knowing already that he was competitive and if he took it again he’d likely be even more competitive.

So for US taking it early worked well.

You may not consider one week after finishing 10th grade early but we didn’t know anyone else who took it that summer as all were waiting until Junior year BEGAN in the fall to do so.

And then Covid hit March of junior year and S had already been done in Feb.

And he had taken two Subject tests and the ACT essay test (scored a 11 out of 12) the year prior. Worked out beautifully.

So IMO, sure 9th grade is early but 10th or immediately after 10th finishes (June) works well.