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.
COMPARING SAT AND ACT SCORES
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.
TESTING DATES FOR 2011-2012
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|
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|
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.
TEST OPTIONAL COLLEGES
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. FairTest.org 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.
GREAT COLLEGE ADVICE ARTICLES
For more on our thoughts and opinions about standardized testing, you might like to browse the following articles.