Sophomore year? Junior year? Students and parents are always asking me when a college-bound student should take the ACT or the SAT for the first time. The answer in most cases is the September or October administration of a student’s junior year. This allows her to have a baseline to help create a study plan and start looking at colleges. Let’s say Shametria wants to go to LSU and finds on the school’s website that she needs at least a 24 composite to be considered. Her September test is a 19 composite. Now she knows her goal improvement is 5 points. That’s alot, but not impossible. This helps the parents decide if they want to put her in a school-based prep class, a weekend bootcamp, an online prep program or hire a private tutor. In this case, I would also look at the scholarships available should Shametria reach her goal score of 24. This can also help parents decide if tutoring is a reasonable investment. With a needed gain of 5 points, this student would do well to do a prep course in the fall and take the test the second time in January of her junior year. She’s likely to increase 2-3 points from a prep class. Now that she has a solid 21 or 22 under her belt, it’s time to bring in a private tutor to further refine her skills. Ideally, she earns that 24 by June and takes the test a 4th and final time in the fall of her senior year to try to earn a 25, thus giving her a boost on her application to LSU and putting her in the running for even more scholarship money.