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How to choose junior-year classes with SAT-busting power

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Your course schedule for your junior year of high school is a critical one. The courses you complete between now and your initial exam date for the SAT can help or hinder your pursuit of your target score – but which classes should you choose? Here are three suggestions to keep in mind:

1. Fulfill your high school’s junior year expectations
The SAT tests elements of algebra, arithmetic, composition, geometry, grammar, probability, reading comprehension, statistics, and vocabulary. So, too, does the average junior year curriculum. This is not a simple coincidence. In many American high schools, SAT review is embedded within the classes you complete during your third year. You will naturally explore the content (and perhaps the strategies) central to success on the exam.

Junior year math, for example, often involves advanced algebra. Certain courses may review geometry or introduce probability and statistics. The first and simplest method to choose SAT-strong classes is to verify that you are meeting your high school’s requirements for a junior. Then, review your course outlines. Is each of the subjects above discussed? If a topic is not mentioned, have you learned it in the past? Can you choose an elective that will enable you to patch a knowledge gap prior to your test date?

2. Consider enrolling in one or more AP courses
While your high school’s minimum requirements for junior year curriculum equip you with the basic skills to score well on the SAT, completing an AP class can familiarize you with additional aspects of the standardized exam. If you intend to sit for the 2016 revision of the SAT, this suggestion is especially pertinent, as the overhaul of the test will include more AP-like elements.

What advantage does enrolling in an AP course provide? Regardless of whether or not you take the AP exam at the end of the class, an AP offering like AP English Literature and Composition or AP United States History prompts you to engage with passages of text and carefully analyze them. This is a highly desirable skill for both the current and future reading portions of the SAT, as well as for the revised writing section. Why not prepare and potentially earn college credit at the same time?

3. Maintain a manageable academic and extracurricular schedule
Consider this final tip a caveat to the above suggestion. AP courses are wonderful, but take care to avoid selecting too many challenging classes at once. AP courses, and junior-level curriculum more generally, involve a high level of commitment and a great deal of dedication and focus. And no matter the classes you ultimately choose, it will still be necessary to supplement your SAT prep plan with additional studying.

The key, then, is to effect balance. Acknowledge that junior year is stressful, and plan accordingly. This may mean limiting your extracurricular activities in favor of academics. It may also mean determining which advanced courses will assist you most. Are you liable to gain a significant SAT score increase from AP Statistics? Are you better served by addressing your comprehension weaknesses via Honors English III? Ensure you ask—and answer—such questions before you commit to a junior year class schedule.

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