Princeton Review Guidelines for PSAT, SAT, ACT Over A Decade Old And Inadequate



I have told my seventh-grade son that he must start now taking high school credits and preparing for the tests that will get him a scholarship and admission to college. I have these guidelines from The Princeton Review. What do you think of them?

Anne S.

San Antonio, TX

Dr. Yvonne Fournier
Dr. Yvonne Fournier

Dear Anne in Texas:

I have included The Princeton Review Guidelines you sent me with your letter for others to see. Incidentally, a colleague of mine who subscribes to the Review’s online e-mail marketing forwarded me her e-mail from The Princeton Review with these same guidelines:

When’s the best time to prepare?

Deciding when to prepare for the SAT, the ACT, or the PSAT can be daunting, so we’ve got some recommendations. Still have questions? Call us at 800-2Review (800-273-8439) to speak with an advisor who’ll create a plan just for you.


Relax! You’ve got plenty of time. Freshman year should be about focusing on your studies, building your GPA (we can help), joining clubs, and figuring out what activities you like.


You’ve got some time before you have to get into intensive prep. Continue to focus on taking challenging classes, and consider taking SAT Subject Tests that correspond with your AP subjects. Also, take a practice SAT or ACT in the spring, and think about an SAT or ACT course.


We recommend SAT or ACT prep in the summer, winter or the spring, depending on what works best with your school schedule. Juniors should consider taking the SAT/ACT by March/February (or sooner) of junior year, for the most stress-free timeline.


You may already be done with the SAT or ACT, but then don’t lose sight of the bigger picture: You need to complete scholarship applications and talk financial shop with your parents. Work on your applications, and follow up with your teachers about recommendations.

Need help planning or preparing? Call us at 800-2Review (800-273-8439), or visit

– The Princeton Review Team


This schedule put out by The Princeton Review is well over a decade old and, unfortunately, no longer adequate.

Eighth grade is the new “freshman” year of high school. As such, I strongly recommend your son get moving in the eighth grade.

Getting into college with a scholarship will require him to not only have a good ACT or SAT score, but to also demonstrate he is worthy — a decisive, self-reliant, self-directed student who intends to be a leader in the future.

That starts now, not in his junior and senior year of high school.


Seventh grade: In English, begin your transition from formal to academic language. Recognize the difference and become versed in the latter — reading and writing.

Take pre-algebra. In the summer, get the text for Algebra I and complete it. Go into Algebra I with a foundation for eighth grade. Take physical science or biology in eighth grade and pick an international language and make sure you can converse in it.

Eighth grade: Write down the subjects you will take in each year of high school. Once you have completed Algebra I, get a practice book for the ACT and PSAT. As early as 10th grade, you can take practice tests in these (PLAN and PSAT, respectively) and decide which one of these tests you wish to pursue to enter college.

I prefer the ACT. The rest of the test is academic language in English. The scientific reasoning on the ACT is a “reasoning test” that happens to use science. It is to see if you know how to read charts, use data and come to valid conclusions. It is about how well you think and not about how much science you know. Ask the publishing company to send you your answers as well as a copy of the test you took. Highlight your correct questions and then learn the ones you missed.

Also in eighth grade, write the name of five colleges that you believe are best for your current career goals, knowing these may change. Call the admissions office of each and ask for the average grade point average of entering freshmen and average ACT or SAT score. Then ask what is needed for a scholarship. Set your goals for your grade point average at graduation and the ACT or SAT score you will aim for. Write the grade you will need in each of your courses in high school to achieve your GPA. Place this where you are able to see it daily. It is your scorecard to your future.

Begin taking your ACT or SAT in the summer before your senior year. That will give you more opportunities to retake the exam if you need to increase your score.

Finally, instead of taking AP courses to get out of taking college courses, insist in your junior year and senior year on taking dual enrollment courses in a college near you. AP courses teach you how to take a test. College courses teach you college courses! Don’t waste your high-school time on electives that have the reputation of being worthless. Use your time in high school to learn what adds value to your life.