Standardized testing is important to all students. From the state required MCAS, to the range of college admission exams the acronyms and requirements can create confusion for many of us. Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT as one criteria used for admission, and some very selective colleges and universities may also require SAT Subject Tests. There are an increasing number of colleges who are “test optional” which allows students to apply without submitting standardized test scores. FairTest maintains a list of colleges that are test optional.
College Admissions Tests
ACT — This test has four multiple-choice sections – English, Reading, Math and Science, as well as an optional Writing section that is scored separately. Composite scores in ELA and STEM are also calculated. We recommend taking the ACT with the optional essay in case a college requires it. The ACT is generally thought to be preferred by students who do better applying what they already know, as it is subject-based. The composite score ranges between 1 and 36, and the Writing ranges between 2 and 12.
The ACT is offered in September, October, December, February, April and June.
SAT — This test is administered by College Board and has two broad sections – Evidence-Based Reading/Writing and Math, as well as an optional Essay section that is scored separately. Seven sub-scores and two cross-test scores are provided to colleges in subject and skill areas. The College Board has a complete explanation of the scoring. We recommend taking the SAT with the optional essay in case a college requires it. The test includes multiple choice, but also incorporates a math section where testers must determine their own answers. The SAT is generally thought to be preferred by students who do well general reasoning and problem solving, in addition to content. The composite score ranges between 400 and 1600 (200 and 800 per section), and the Essay ranges between 2 and 8.
The SAT is offered in August, October, December, March, May and June.
SAT Subject Tests — Subject Tests are college admission exams on specific subjects and are generally required by only the most selective colleges, although others will consider the scores. Most colleges and universities that require the tests usually only require two, but there are a handful that have required three. Subjects include English, science, history, math and world languages. The College Board has a complete lists of subjects. Not all tests are given on a test date. You can take one, two or three tests on one test day. Students should only consider taking an SAT Subject Test if they are strong in the subject and they believe that they may be considering colleges or universities that require them. In science, especially, the content on the test is beyond what is covered in our honors courses, so some independent work is generally recommended. Each test is scored between 200 and 800.
Note that not all Subject Tests are given on SAT test dates. See the College Board website for more information, click here to be re-directed to collegeboard.com
Preliminary Tests for Underclassmen
PSAT/NMSQT — This test is a practice SAT, but also serves as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Its sections and approach are based on the SAT (see above). The score ranges are 320–1520 for the total score, 160–760 for each of two section scores, and 8–38 for sub-test scores. There is no essay section. PSAT scores are not used for college admissions.
Bedford High School tests sophomores and juniors on the Saturday test date in October (which usually falls on the Saturday after Columbus Day). Registration is done through the Guidance Office (not College Board). Information will be sent to juniors in September with details.
Fee waivers for standardized tests are available for students with economic need. College Board allows for two SAT fee waivers and two SAT Subject Test waivers. ACT allows for two test fee waivers. Students who qualify may also receive waivers for college application fees.
Applying to Colleges Outside the United States - Canada and UK