Many colleges and universities have no standardized testing requirements; others use standardized testing results for placement purposes or special programs within the university. Selective colleges and universities, however, do require a college entrance exam — the ACT Test or the SAT Reasoning Test. Information on current testing requirements at colleges and universities can be obtained directly from the Admissions Office or Admissions website of each college/university. In addition, information on "testing-optional" colleges and universities is available on many websites, including Fairtest.org, a for-profit clearinghouse of testing information.
Generally students take an entrance test twice — once in the spring of junior year and once in the late summer/early fall of senior year. Since performance on these standardized tests correlates with age, maturity, and time spent in school, the vast majority of students will hit their best scores in late spring of junior year and/or fall of senior year. We know that there is a lot of pressure to test early and often, but most students will benefit from testing later in their high school career.
Preliminary Test for Underclassmen
P S A T / N M S Q T
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 below). 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 sent to colleges nor used for college admissions. Scores from the junior year are used for the very selective National Merit Scholarship Qualification (NMSQT).
This test is offered annually in October. Registration is done through the Guidance & Counseling Office (not College Board). Information will be shared in September with details. PSAT scores are usually available the first or second week in December and can be accessed through your Collegeboard.org account.
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. Some colleges require the ACT with the optional essay. We recommend students look at individual college requirements to see if the essay is required. 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, June and July.
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. Some colleges require the SAT with the optional essay. We recommend students look at individual college requirements to see if the essay is required. The SAT is generally thought to be preferred by students who do well in 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, November, 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 high honors/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 every SAT test date. See the College Board website for more information.
The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a near-universal requirement for any student whose native language is not English. Ideally, a student will take the test twice, in the spring of the junior year and again in the fall of the senior year. Some colleges or universities will waive the requirement, if a student has studied in the US for a certain number of years, or if the student has achieved particular reading and English scores on SAT and ACT respectively.
Extended Time Testing and Other Accommodations
Students with IEPs or 504 plans may qualify for accommodations on the ACT and/or SAT. However, it is the student’s responsibility to request special needs accommodations for any standardized testing administration (in other words, simply being approved for accommodations here at BHS does not automatically allow you the same accommodations on standardized tests). Please note a student’s request must be made at least eight weeks in advance of the desired testing date. For more information and submission details, speak with your liaison or Celia Dill the SSD Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Test fees should never be a barrier to applying to college. 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. If you think you may qualify for fee waivers, speak with your school counselor.
SAT / ACT Comparison - Click here for a broad comparison of the SAT and the ACT, two standardizesd test which can be used as a part of the admissions process to determine college readiness. * Colleges require one or the other - not both.