Why You Can’t Take the SAT in the Summer

I expect that just about any parent or teenagers reading this post will agree with this statement: the SAT and ACT should be offered in the summer.

It’s a no brainer. In the summer students have more time to prepare for the test and they can be better rested before they take it.

I’ve always wondered why the test giants haven’t offered to test at a time when it would be convenient for millions of families. The issue came up recently when the College Board, the maker of the SAT, agreed that teenagers attending a $4,500 test prep camp at Amherst College could take the test in August.

When this news reached the press, all hell broke loose. You can imagine how it looked that the only teenagers who would have access to the test during the summer were a few wealthy students.

Not surprisingly, the College Board eventually yanked the special SAT test date for the rich kids. But the episode prompted me to ask the College Board why the SAT isn’t administered in the summer. It’s six test dates span from October to early June when many students are still in school (and also dealing with their final exams.)

I got a lengthy response back from Kathleen Steinberg, the executive director of communications at the College Board.

College Board’s Response

Here is Steinberg’s explanation for the lack of summer testing:

The current testing calendar is designed, in large part, to accommodate the needs of colleges that use SAT scores in the admission process.

Additionally, since many of our 7,000 test centers are located in high schools and the majority of our test center staff are teachers, counselors and other educators, conducting testing during the school year ensures an optimal availability of both testing facilities and staff to operate them.

And, as research shows SAT performance is linked directly to the type and rigor of coursework test-takers pursue in high school, there also is value in having students take the SAT when they are actively engaged in classroom study.

The SAT was administered in the summer at various times in the past, but this was long before the test was administered to millions of students annually via 7,000 test centers in more than 170 countries.  For instance, I have anecdotal information that the SAT was administered in the summer during the early 1970s and have seen “College Entrance Exam Board” registration booklets from the early 1950s showing that the SAT was offered in August, but not in October or November as it is today.

Of course, participation in standardized testing was much different then, as approximately 95,000 SAT exams were administered annually in the early 1950s compared to nearly 3 million during the 2011-2012 school year.

Interest in Summer SATs

Many students and educators have suggested that offering the SAT during the summer would enable students to take the exam at a time when they are (presumably) unencumbered by classroom work, homework, preparation for other exams and non-academic extra-curricular activities.  While we are exploring the possibility of a summer SAT administration, we have not made the decision to do so, nor do we have a set timetable for such a decision.

Following are some of the logistical and operational considerations that must be evaluated:

1. Test-center availability.

Many test centers are located in high schools, and high school buildings are often closed during the summer months.  Would it be possible to open enough test centers on a summer Saturday (and also on Sunday for students who test with accommodations requiring two-day testing and for students who cannot test on Saturday due to religious observance)?

2. Availability of test-center staff. 

We rely on counselors, teachers and other educators to serve as test center staff.  Would we be able to adequately staff test centers in the summer?

3. What is the true level of interest in summer testing? 

How many students would take advantage of summer testing?  Is the interest nationwide or more regional in nature?  Would we have enough test-centers and staff to meet the demand?  How would a summer administration impact participation in the current test dates?  (i.e. do we need to add an eighth national administration or shift the dates of the current seven national administrations?)

4. Availability of fee-waivers. 

More than 20 percent of students currently take the SAT for free as part of the SAT fee-waiver program, and fee-waivers are distributed in-school by high school counselors.  What steps would we have to take to ensure qualifying students have access to fee-waivers for summer testing?

Bottom Line:

I think the College Board will discover that there is a huge demand for summer testing. None of the issues that Steinberg raises strikes me as deal breakers. Yes, it would take considerable effort to launch summer test dates, but it would be well worth it.

What do you think? If you’ve got a thought, please use the comment box below.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of the newly released second edition of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.

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  1. I’m reading this years after the fact. Maybe they even offer summer tests now–I haven’t noticed. But I did notice that everyone here is assuming there IS A/C to turn on in the summer. Few schools in our district even have A/C, and I assume this is true in many northern areas with older builidngs. But it can still get very hot, especially inside a poorly ventilated school, in the summer–so that would not be a good testing atmosphere.

  2. My son graduated early from high school and was planning on attending a community college for his first two years of college until a baseball coach just recently asked Matt to play baseball for his 4 yr college. Unfortunately, Matt has not taken the SAT and now needs it to get into this college this fall. Summer testing would be very beneficial to my son.
    Thank you,
    Penny Dietz

  3. Steinberg’s explanation is soft. Most towns have community colleges which are staffed year round. There are testing centers used by other standardized tests such as ETS. I’m also pretty sure most high schools could get staff to work a couple of days in the summer to administer the test (I’m a teacher). It would take funds to hire a testing center and it seems they don’t want to pay to give the test in the summer. A quick fix would be to charge and additional fee for the summer test. I would have payed more to have my daughter take the test this summer as it would have relieved much stress as the SAT was just weeks from her AP exams.

  4. I will really appreciate if there are summer testing dates in July or August. This will definitely help students to prepare better for the tests.

  5. A summer administration date is needed to offer at least one set of weekend dates if only to better accommodate those students who are involved in fall sports who either have to miss a weekend of sports activities in order to take the test or are not able to get a good night’s rest beforehand due to sports activities on a Friday night. Additionally, there are plenty of rising seniors who would be better served with a late-summer test administration before they become involved in their demanding AP classes.

    In answer to all those weak excuses raised by the SAT folks as to why a summer SAT administration date is not feasible … why not offer SAT test dates in mid- to late-August. MOST high schools are already back in session … or the teachers and counselors are involved in new teacher in service training and/or “staff development” days. So there should be (1) facilities available in which to administer the test, (2) plenty of people available to monitor the test administration, and (3) counselors available to ensure that students who are eligible for fee waivers can get them.

    If there is any questions about the true level of interest in a summer test date, all the College Board has to do is institute an earlier registration date requirement (for example, three months in advance so that students who “qualify” for fee waivers can have them processed well ahead of the test administration date).

    I believe just ONE late summer test offering would be sufficient to prove students’ and parents’ point that there is not only wide-spread interest in such an offering, it might well be the highest attended test date of the year.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. The private schools are done in our area by the time the SAT is given but the PUBLIC schools are NOT done. Instead, the SAT and subject tests are sandwiched between AP exams and Finals — not to mention high level performances, state finals games etc. It is ABSURD that there is no July or August or even September date. For many students, this is the time that they can handle taking the exams. Further, if they want scores to be available to colleges, they really have to take the tests by the June date. I find it hard to believe that there are not students across the country who would appreciate the chance to take an August test.

  7. I don’t understand why this is even controversial, summer tests would be very beneficial. The dates were very inconveniently placed for most of 2015 as they interrupted finals and since its May now I would strongly recommend that there be summer test dates administered even if it is just one test date in July or August. I can assure the board that scores would be higher with students being better prepared. I personally want there to be more dates for the testing of both the ACT and SAT because 7 wont cut it.

  8. Why not end this crazy testing all together? It does not completely guarantee how well a student will do in college. I went to a state college and got a master’s degree. I’m sure my ACT test scores were very low. My high school did not prepare me for these test. I still went to college and did well. This is just a way to make money and weed out students to keep college campuses segregated.

  9. Summer dates for the SAT would be great! As a parent I think students taking the SAT over the summer would have much more time to devote to preparing for the test. As it stands now eleventh graders are so overworked with AP and honors courses and pressure to raise and sustain their GPA’s that also making time to prep for the SAT equals overload. Give the kids a break and give them the opportunity to devote themselves fully to a summer SAT.
    That’s my two cents,
    Cindy Johns

  10. I work full time M-F and was asked if I would be willing to be a volunteer proctor for Fire Commission tests – I know very little about Fire Services but I watched a short video, took a short quiz, and am now able to proctor those exams based on my schedule.

    I’d be willing to bet there would be enough people willing serve as volunteer proctors in vicinity of any testing location selected to accommodate a summer test date.

    Yes, there may be value in seeing how students fare while carrying a regular classload in high school, but the reality is (at least in my experience with my family and many friends) that schoolwork can suffer when students are continually taking practice SAT tests for, spending hours looking at resources for how to TAKE the test, and stressing about how they can do well on it with school/athletics/church and extracurricular activities/part-time jobs.

    Summer offers distractions and in my opinion, college students have to learn how to study/prepare for tests with distractions more comparable to what summer break presents to high school students.

    That said, students who can balance summer distractions while preparing for and truly striving to improve prior scores (or doing so well first time that no re-take is necessary) should be provided the opportunity to take the test during summer.

    Could tests not be administered at Testing Centers nationwide (like Real Estate exam/GRE)?

    Lastly, with the number of colleges offering prep classes in summer, it would make sense that the students could take the test in a reasonable timeframe following completion of those classes instead of waiting until Fall.

  11. How about this : Why don’t we sign a petition, allowing the SAT to be in the summer. I’m a senior in high school, and it is my only victor in putting my life in the right route. It will need a couple thousand signatures though. CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES!!!

  12. Lynn,
    I am a test center supervisor for both the SAT and ACT. While I understand why it might be better/easier for a student to test in the summer, the question of being able to staff a test center is something that must be taken seriously.

    When ever the ACT falls on Easter break as it did this year, I have a hard time getting enough teachers to work as room supervisors and proctors. I feel that I would face the same issue during the summer. There is also the matter of coming into school during the summer. The pay that I receive as a test center supervisor certainly doesn’t equal the number of hours involved in getting ready for test day along with the hours that I put in on test day.

    Again, I understand how this idea could benefit the students – I just think that the bigger issue would be the staffing of the centers.

  13. Unfortunately, our district is so cash strapped that they are seriously considering getting rid of Guidance Counselors. The decision to keep them at the end of last year was only by one vote. There is no extra money and there is no place to squeeze another penny from.

    And yes, it’s cooling the buildings, having proctors but it’s also custodial time to get the room set up, clean up afterwards and make sure everything is locked tight. Our district (like every district in California) has taken huge hits in the last 3 years, having to cut over a million dollars out of the budget. Perhaps if the local community college, which does have very short summer program would have the staff and facilities to host a summer testing center. That would be great!

    And even though DK’s view are considered “contrarian”, I have to agree. I see stressed out, melting down students on a daily basis. They are under a tremendous amount of presssure to be the best, get the best grades, test scores and get into the best colleges. Seems like these kids are burning out and need some time to not think about school. And this is only the 3rd week of school here…

    1. Lee — Thanks for your comment. I would assume that the College Board would pay the school district for the use of the buildings and the proctors. I can’t imagine the staff is doing this for free.

      I also do not think that all this stress is necessary. Across the country 75% of students get into their No. 1 school. I think the stress happens when students don’t realize just how many school options they have.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  14. The real issue here is the monopoly that college board has over these college admission tests and the way in which they use this power. Most colleges require some standardized test and while the ACT is increasingly an option, the more selective schools still require the 2 to 3 SAT subject tests in addition to everything else. This leaves no option but to deal with taking the SAT. The reasons provided for not administering the SAT in the summer are really lame and could be solved. As for theexcuse about not being sure about the demand for these the summer test date…is that not something that could easily be tested using limited test center administrations in each city. What it does point to, is the lethargy and unwillingness to serve the needs of the customers.. The students who may wish to take the test when they are able to prepare for and take the test without the stress of classes, school activities, and school exams.

  15. My son did not take the test during his very busy junior year, and now he will be limited to where he can apply to schools in the fall without an SAT score. He will need to wait for the scores, and won’t have a second chance of taking the exam before early admissions deadlines. Without checking thouroughly, I assumed the test would be administered “somewhere” during the summer, and this would be the best option; soon after school was finished (June 12th here in Maryland) and before the rigours of his senior year. I agree that the excuses given for not testing in the summer are certainly just that – excuses, and many of the comments offer reasonable mitigations. Since we have to pay for the grueling test, wouldn’t it actually be cost effective to offer the test more often throughout the year?

  16. Thank you very much, Lynn!
    The SAT and ACT should be offered in the summer! I have contacted College Board about the issue. If more people request, hopefully they will consider !!!

  17. When I was in college I took the GREs for graduate school during the summer–and I had to go to a full-time internship during the week. High school students have more time on their hands during the summer than I did in college. Why not let them take a test when they’d have more time to prepare for it? And why can’t more school systems join together to offer SAT prep during the weeks before the test, instead of forcing students to pay for expensive tutoring?

  18. Some colleges and universities in Indiana hold the ACT and SAT test on their campuses. That would be much better for people who want to take the ACT or SAT test in the summer rather than holding it at a high school.

  19. The real issue no one talks about is that cash-strapped school districts can’t afford to cool down the buildings in the hot summer. The enrollment fees couldn’t pay for the A/C, much less the proctors, security, etc.

    If a school district offers it at 10 high schools, you could be looking at the difference between a few teachers’ annual salaries. Not an easy call to make.

    1. Thanks for weighing in DK.

      I can’t imagine that it would take several teachers’ salaries to pay for a district to cool some rooms for several hours. I can’t imagine that the districts would incur costs beyond the compensation the College Board would give them. And the cost to pay proctors should be the same regardless of when the test is held.

      Maybe I have a different perspective living in Southern California, but the hottest months out here can be September and part of October. So the College Board is covering A/C costs out here during the regular testing period. I also can’t imagine that the A/C costs more than the heat for testing in much of the country in the winter.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. I have always thought it would be more convenient for my student to test in the summer when there are fewer distractions, but recently we got our wish and here is how it turned out for her in early June. In metro Atlanta & Georgia, most schools are out for summer the third week of May so the idea was that she would have some breathing room after AP exams and finals.

        For the most part, I think it worked well for her, and she was much more relaxed and rested than October, but for 4 hours plus, they were testing in a stifling hot classroom where the proctor (a police officer?) kept apologizing for the conditions and letting them take frequent breaks to get fresh air. And we actually had a very cool start to summer here too… normally we have some very hot days in May and early June! I think for some of these cash-strapped school districts, it does cost considerably to use the AC and find teachers to proctor!

  20. So, just maybe they should have the SAT’s be more like Todd Weaver’s suggestion, and include a real personality evaluation in the test. That way, we can actually find out if there are real students, or just drones being force-fed practice exams and AP classes just to please their parents. Imagine each university seeing just what kind of student they are admitting. Wouldn’t that make a better fit?

    Todd has a very valid point, as shown in many responses on the Lynn’s blogs. Parents are so concerned about getting into ‘this college or that college’ that they forgot about life for their kids. I savor the ‘old days’ when you didn’t prep and just showed up with two pencils and a mind – both sharp.

    Thankfully, Lynn does a great job of pointing out that it is more important to match your student with the college than send them somewhere to fail emotionally and possibly academically, too. Have a good summer all you wannabe test takers! 🙂

  21. The SAT was administered nationally in August from 1946 to 1963 and in July from 1964 to 1973. The July years coincided with a large increase in the number of students taking the SAT, but I don’t know how popular the July dates were. Here in New Jersey, not having AC in many schools might be an issue. If a summer test date were in high demand, it is easy to imagine that there might not be enough acceptable locations.

  22. I think it’s more about options. I can see where it would significantly reduce the stress level of some students if they were able to take the SAT prep classes without it cutting into homework time or having to sacrifice one of their free weekends to do the class. And then there are the students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. Athletes had better take the test off season which is also the only time they have to do campus visits, official and otherwise. Then there are those who are involved in the band, art, theater, history, etc competitions which occur in the spring.

    As for test center availability and staff? I don’t know about other states but all schools in Texas can be rented at just about anytime of year. And if the schools are closed, the teachers aren’t using their weekends to catch up on grading and lesson plans. I’m sure they could round up enough teachers interested in making some extra-cash for vacation.

    It’s just weird. I don’t know why they don’t do it but they certainly don’t have a good reason not to.

  23. I just signed my son to take a summer Princeton Review session. I was wondering why there are no tests during the summer. These reasons do not hold water. Most schools have summer programs they offer and there are always proctors willing to oversee the students. The Princeton guaranty is that you have to take the test within 30 days of your session, well, that does not fit with the OCT 6th date.

    Someone with energy and pull should challenge the test giants and institute summer tests, it makes perfect sense that students have some breathing time and can focus on the standardized test requirement at some schools…

  24. I am not sure that a summer test would be appropriate for our already over-stressed, over-worked high school students in this country. What’s wrong with “letting a kid be a kid?” Life is too short to fill summers with more test taking.

    Why not get outside and be a lifeguard? Or camp counselor? Or run your own lawn mowing business? Or scoop some ice cream?

    Take a break!

    There are already 7 chances to take the SAT during the 2012-13 school year. There has to be at least one date during that time frame that works.

  25. Lynn,

    I agree completely that none of Ms. Steinberg’s logistical and operational considerations are deal-breakers. In fact, they simply spell out the considerations College Board needs to work through in order to set up a true pilot program for summer test dates.

    There may be advantages to taking the test in June than August, but I think the real advantage this could offer high school students is to take the test when they’ve had the opportunity to devote some time to prep (if they choose to) and to take the test when well-rested.

    Thanks for pushing on this!

    Jane Kulow

  26. I agree that community colleges are open during summer and can be a testing facility, as well as many public and private high schools are also open during the summer due to offering summer school classes. The statement from College Board regarding “having students take the SAT when they are actively engaged in classroom study” is a bit inaccurate since there are kids who get out of school in May and do take the June SAT and ACT. Not only are they not in school, they can be well rested before the test not having to attend school the day before. I often thought about that since we have many friends with kids in both public and private high schools that get out in May while ours get out at the end of June.

    1. Hi Karen,

      I think the early June testing date can be an advantage for students who live in states where their academic school year is shorter, such as Missouri where a lot of my relatives live. In California though the students often don’t get out of school until mid June or even later and the SAT coincides with finals. Bottom line: There is no good reason why the College Board can’t do the right thing and add summer test dates.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  27. My son took an early June ACT at a local community college, a couple of days after school ended for the summer. He did well. He took it again in fall and actually didn’t do as well. But he did no test prep whatsoever so I think the higher summer score had more to do with the subjects being fresh in his mind. (But the ACT is different from the SAT in that being fresh from the specific subjects does help a lot).

    I don’t see why a community college test site during the summer isn’t a viable option. They exist in many areas and most are open and having classes year round.