Many colleges require the SAT or ACT with Writing, as well as require or recommend SAT Subject Tests. See the Testing section of this website for lists of colleges that require or recommend Subject Tests.
All colleges equally accept ACT or SAT test scores.
Before you decide to prepare for the ACT or SAT, it is very useful to go to a test preparation group and take a free diagnostic practice SAT and ACT to see which test better suits you.
Having said that, a redesigned SAT will be given for the first time in March 2016. Because of numerous uncertainties surrounding the new SAT test, many test preparation experts are suggesting that students in the Class of 2017 take the existing, old SAT during fall 2015 and/or at the latest, January 2016.
These same test prep people are also suggesting that a safe alternative is to take the ACT, a test that not going through a lot of changes.
Just so you know, the highly respected online Kahn Academy is offering test prep for both the old and the new SAT.
A growing number of colleges don’t require any admissions tests. FairTest.org says that 800+ colleges in the U.S. admit students without regard to test scores. See which colleges these are here.
• The PSAT is given once every year in October.
• A new PSAT version that mirrors the new SAT coming out in 2016 will be offered for the first time in October 2015.
• There are no negative consequences for taking the PSAT.
• The PSAT establishes a student’s qualification for National Merit status.
• It also establishes a student’s qualification for the National Hispanic Recognition Program and the National Achievement Scholarship Program for African American students.
• You should think of the PSAT as a practice test for the SAT I.
It can be taken as early as the sophomore year in high school.
• There are alternative test provisions if you become ill or have emergencies on the PSAT test day.
• Extended time is available for qualified students who have learning or other disabilities.
• PSAT scores do not affect one’s admissions chances.
• You can prepare for the PSAT or take it “cold” without any preparation.
• If you are a student interested in becoming a National Merit Scholar, preparing for the PSAT is a smart move.
• The SAT is given seven times a year in October, November, December, January, April, May and June.
• As you know, the current SAT test is divided into Verbal, Math and Writing sections. The highest score on each is 800 with a total possible perfect score of 2400.
• The new SAT goes back to the pre-2004 scoring system of a 1600 perfect composite score base, with an 800 top score for Math and an 800 top score for Reading and Writing combined. Compass Education Group of Los Angeles offers a very useful explanation of the new SAT, as well as a pdf spec sheet that compares the current SAT, redesigned SAT, ACT and PSAT.
• Many college admissions offices use test scores (SAT or ACT with writing), along with grades, as the first screening device to evaluate student applications.
• If you apply early (EA, REA, or ED) to colleges, try to complete all SAT I testing before the end of your junior year. If you don’t, October is the last chance to take the SAT I if you apply to an Early application program.
• Research shows that students who receive good test preparation can raise their scores from 50 to 200 points. Even the most gifted test takers often get test coaching. Effective coaching usually takes 2-3 months.
• Test anxiety is often best addressed by being very well prepared.
• Good enough scores are different for different colleges. A useful way to determine what a particular college’s SAT/ACT requirements are is to find out the Median Range (25th-75th percentile) of SAT/ACT scores of accepted applicants. Go to the Test Scores, Acceptance Rates, etc. chart in the "Application Info" section for the median test scores of the colleges to which most students apply.
• The more competitive a school is, the higher their test requirements usually are.
• Recruited athletes, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with learning and other disabilities sometimes are not held to the same SAT/ACT score standards as regular students.
• The earlier you sign up for a test, the better chance you have of getting a test location you want.
• Alternative test arrangements can be made for students with disabilities or religious requirements. Make the request at least a few months in advance.
• To register for the SAT, go here.
(formerly SAT IIs)
• SAT Subject Tests are given six times a year in October, November, December, January, May and June.
• There are 20 SAT Subject tests, each with a possible top score of 800.
• Language tests with reading and listening are offered only once a year in November.
• Some colleges require no SAT Subject tests. Others, especially the more competitive ones, recommend or require two.
• Some colleges pay more attention to SAT Subject test scores than they do to SAT I scores.
• The SAT I and the SAT Subject tests cannot be taken on the same day.
• Everyone agrees that preparing for SAT Subject tests is a good idea.
• There is no question that you can raise your Subject Test scores by preparing for them.
• To register for Subject Tests and see which tests are given go here.
• The ACT is given five times a year in September (in some states) October, December, January, February, April, and June.
• The test is divided into four sections: English, Math, Reading and Science and an optional Writing Test. The highest total possible score is 36. The Writing sub-score can range from 2 to 12.
• ACT scores are accepted by college admissions offices in place of, and equal to, SAT I scores.
• The differences between the SAT and ACT include how each handles vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation; the math content; and the total number of questions. The ACT offers a science section, which the SAT doesn’t, and does not penalize test takers for wrong answers
• Some students perform better on the ACT than the SAT.
• ACT Aspire has replaced the current ACT Plan program as of April 2014.
• As with the SAT, ACT has special accommodations for students with learning and other disabilities.
• For a list of colleges that accept the ACT in lieu of SAT and Subject tests go to the TESTING section of this website.
• Students can prepare for the ACT, and when they do, often score much higher.
• To register for the ACT and see when the dates are, go here.
• AP tests are offered during the second and third weeks every year in May. For a list of AP courses and tests, go here.
• AP tests are scored on a scale from 1 (the lowest) to 5 (the highest).
• AP courses are regarded as the epitome of the most demanding courses offered in high school, and therefore, highly regarded by college admissions officers.
• You do not have to be enrolled in an AP class to take an AP test.
• Like the SAT, Subject Tests and ACT tests, alternative test dates can be set up for students who are ill or have “extreme circumstances.”
• AP scores are not among the scores sent in with the SAT I-Subject Tests report. They have their own transcript.
• College admissions officers say that it is better to get a B in an AP course than an A in a regular course.
• Colleges do not hold against a student the fact that his or her school does not offer AP courses.
• When assessing how many AP courses to take in one year, it is important to keep some balance in your life.
• If you aspire to get into the most selective colleges, having taken 4 or 5 AP classes and tests or more is essential.
• There are four AP scholar awards that are impressive to colleges:
AP Scholar with Honor
AP Scholar with Distinction
National AP Scholar
Go here to see if you qualify.
• If your schools offers AP, ask your AP Coordinator to register you for the exams.
There isn’t much to do re admissions testing as a freshman, but this is a good time to become acquainted with the different tests and when to prepare for and take them.
Sophomores anxious to get started with their admissions testing can sign-up for both the PSAT (the pre-SAT.) If you take one or more AP classes, then at the end of the year take the respective AP Tests and any relevant Subject Tests.
Junior year is when to decide whether to take the SAT or ACT with Writing. Be sure to sign up for a practice test for each to determine which one fits you. Once you know which is the best choice, then prepare for that test. Try to have the SAT and/or ACT, plus any Subjects Tests completed before the end of your junior year. And don’t forget to take any AP Tests and relevant Subject Tests for AP classes in which you are enrolled.
If you haven’t completed your admissions testing before, sign-up for:
• The September ACT or
• October SAT or Subject Tests or ACT test or
• November SAT or Subject Tests or ACT test or
• December SAT or Subject Tests or ACT test
Students who plan to apply Early Action I, Restricted Early Action or Early Decision I must complete all testing in October.
Try to understand the pressure your child feels about admissions testing. To do this, become educated about the tests and encourage your child to prepare for them. If family finances are available, find and pay for your student’s test preparation. It can make a real difference in his or her scores. One very useful thing you can do is offer to drive your child to the testing center on the day of the test so that he/she doesn’t have to deal with the stress of driving to and find/pay for a parking place, let alone get to the correct building for the test.