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Standardized Tests

While standardized tests are not a measure of one’s value as a human being, they are critical in the college admissions process. They are important because they help college admissions officers compare students from different sorts of schools all across the nation. Of course, many have criticized the tests on many grounds–with good reason.  But there is no getting around the fact that the standardized tests are important elements of the admissions game.

Every junior should take the PSAT in October of the junior year. This is a good “practice test” for the SAT. Scores are not reported to schools, and their only real purpose is to qualify you for the National Merit scholarship programs. However, they can be a good indicator of how you might perform on the SAT in the spring of the junior year.

Every student in Colorado is required to take the state-administered ACT. These scores can be helpful and can be submitted to colleges for admission. However, keep in mind that the state does not administer the optional writing test at this time, and many private (and many public) colleges require that portion. So you will likely have to take the ACT again for college entrance purposes. You may choose to submit only one score to colleges, or you may submit more than one score: colleges see only the scores you submit.

You should plan to take the SAT in the spring of the junior year. If you choose to submit your SAT scores to a college, the admissions office will see all your scores, no matter how many times you took the test. You cannot cherry pick scores, as you can with the ACT. As with the ACT, you should be sure to register for the writing portion of the SAT; this is technically “optional,” but more and more colleges want to look at the writing scores, too.

These are tests offered in a wide range of subjects. They are shorter (usually only an hour or so), and you can sit as many as three SAT II exams on the same day (you cannot take the SAT I and the SAT II tests on the same day, however). Your parents may remember these as the “Achievement Tests.” Students considering a selective college will want to take several SAT II tests. Many selective colleges require two or three of these exams, and some colleges may require specific SAT II scores to be submitted. The more you take, the more able you are to cherry pick from among your best scores as you submit them to colleges. Generally, focus on SAT II tests in subjects where you are most confident. Plan to take the test immediately upon finishing the relevant course (i.e., take the chemistry exam as you are wrapping up your chemistry course). Also try not to take only science courses or only social studies courses. Admissions officers like to see intellectual breadth, as well as depth. And as with the other test, be sure to buy a book or two to help you familiarize yourself with the structure of the test and the material it will cover. Preparation is very important with the SAT II subject tests.


Converting scores from one test to another is an imperfect science.  Statisticians complain that true conversions are not possible.  But if you’re trying to figure out whether your ACT or SAT results are wildly different, check out these conversion charts.  They’re not perfect, but they give you a pretty good idea.


SAT I and SAT II Subject Test

Test Date                                       Test Options                                  Register-By Date

October 1, 2011 SAT & Subject Tests September 9, 2011
November 5, 2011 SAT & Subject Tests October 7, 2011
December 3, 2011 SAT & Subject Tests November 8, 2011
January 28, 2012 SAT & Subject Tests December 30, 2011
March 10, 2012 SAT only February 10, 2012
May 5, 2012 SAT & Subject Tests April 6, 2012
June 2, 2012 SAT & Subject Tests April 29, 2010


Register for the SAT

ACT Test

Test                                                          Registration Deadline                         (Late fee required)

September 10, 2011 August 12, 2011 August 13 – 26, 2011
October 22, 2011 September 16, 2011 September 17 – October 30, 2011
December 10, 2011 November 4, 2011 November 5 – 18, 2011
February 11, 2012 January 13, 2012 January 14 – 20, 2012
April 14, 2012 March 9, 2012 March 10 – 23, 2012
June 9, 2012 May 4, 2012 May 5– 18, 2012


Register for the ACT


If you are interested in getting some help with preparing for tests, you might want to check out the resources below.  If you want personal recommendations on which might be best for you or for your student, be sure to send me an email.

A free set of online games and tools that are backed up with both individual tutoring and group instruction.

An online video program that reviews all the concepts that appear on the tests. For a discount on this program, contact us.


Not all colleges require that you submit ACT or SAT scores for admission.  In fact, a growing number of colleges and universities are going “test optional.” In other words, you can decide whether you want to submit those scores. keeps a list of schools that do not required the tests.  So have a look to see if your top choices are on this list.

For more on our thoughts and opinions about standardized testing, you might like to browse the following articles.

SAT vs. ACT: What’s the Real Difference?

The Upside of State Standardized Tests:  A Student Speaks

Hate the ACT and SAT Tests?  Me Too!  But Colleges Still Love Them

Standardized Tests and the International Applicant

SAT, Score Choice, and the Business of Standardized Testing

National Counseling Association Considers Value of Standardized Tests

The ACT, SAT, and Test Optional Admissions

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