Your college selection process ideally includes creating great options and then making an informed decision on which is best for you. Knowing how standardized tests fit into this process is one effective way to maximize your options. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the standardized tests.
Should I take the ACT or the SAT? You can take either or, preferably, both. Since most colleges will count either your ACT OR your SAT score, it can only help you to take both tests. Check each school’s Admissions website to confirm the application requirements.
When should I take the tests? “Early and often” is perhaps the best answer. Students who wish to maximize their options will take the tests twice by the end of their junior year. To gain experience, some students consider taking the tests during their sophomore year. That said, there is plenty of time for testing during junior year. Retaking the tests in senior year can be an option. But waiting to start the test-taking process until senior year will limit options for recruited athletes since coaches often need to make recruiting decisions before or early in your senior year.
Why more than once? Colleges will often only count your best score. Additionally and importantly, most schools will “superscore” the SAT -- admissions will count the highest score from each section. Therefore, it can only help students to take the test multiple times. Note that some colleges do NOT superscore the ACT; only the SAT.
Other colleges are saying that I don’t have to retake the test. Why are you suggesting I should? Having higher scores can only help you gain admission to the best schools. Retaking the tests will expand your options. Which approach is in your best interest? Some coaches at schools with lower academic requirements are telling students not to retake the test, thereby limiting the prospects’ options so the prospects are more likely to choose their school.
Does practice help? Yes! Just like studying for any test in school, preparation and practice for the standardized tests can have a significant impact on your results. Similarly, the experience of taking the tests will usually make you more comfortable over time allowing you to improve your scores through familiarity with the process. There are many test preparation organizations and tutors available. Khan Academy offers a free version.
How early during junior year should I start testing? The SAT test is offered several times over the course of the academic year offering plenty of opportunities to fit with your schedule. Taking the tests for the first time during fall of junior year provides flexibility to retake the tests in the winter or spring. Keep in mind that you will want to take SAT II tests in May or June of your junior year.
What are SAT II’s? The SAT IIs are subject tests. Most schools strongly recommend or require that students take at least two SAT IIs. From a purely quantitative perspective, taking the SAT II’s can only help a student’s application.
What do you mean by “strongly recommend”? A few schools no longer require students to submit SAT II scores but expects that anyone with access to the tests will take them. The removal of ‘requirement’ allows exceptions for some international students.
When should I take the SAT II’s? Most students take SAT IIs in subjects they study during their sophomore or junior year of school. We encourage students to take these tests in May and/or June immediately after having studied that subject. Taking one or two of these at the end of your sophomore year can lighten the load during a hectic junior year.
Does it matter which subject tests I take? The subject tests are an opportunity to show colleges your strengths. Select the subjects you know best. Visit each school’s admissions website to determine if there are any restrictions or recommendations for which tests you should or shouldn’t take.
How do test scores factor into the recruiting process? A prospect’s academic profile impacts their ability to gain admission. Test scores are a key component and are needed as early as possible in the process in order to avoid wasting time if gaining admission is unrealistic.