Planning For Standardized Testing
SAT and ACT tests remain equally viable options for students. There is ample preparation material for each test, and colleges accept each equally. Increasingly, colleges are willing to super-score ACT tests as they do SAT. As a result, families find themselves faced with key questions: Which test should my student take and when should she take it?
ACT Overview The ACT is made up of 4 sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, plus an optional Essay. The section lengths range from 35 minutes (Reading and Science) to 60 minutes (Math). The content of the Math, Science, and English is similar to what junior students are learning in school. ACT Writing is optional and consists of one 40-minute essay on a contemporary topic with social relevance. Students applying to the University of California campuses who take the ACT must take the writing test to meet the UC examination requirement.
SAT Overview The SAT begins with a long Reading Test made up of five passages. The Writing and Language Test follows with four passages for students to edit. Math makes up the second half of the multiple-choice exam; the Math Test is split into a no calculator section and a calculator section. The essay has become an optional final section on the SAT. However, Students applying to the University of California campuses who take the SAT must take the writing test to meet the UC examination requirement.
SAT Subject Tests The SAT Subject Tests are designed to demonstrate academic achievement in specific subject areas. These tests have been discontinued. If any students were able to take a subject test before they were discontinued, then check with the universities on your list about whether you can submit them.
Super-scoring Some colleges/universities use this for admissions and/or reporting scores for rankings. Super-scoring refers to the process of taking the best scores from each section of your SAT/ACT exam and putting them together to create your best overall score. Of course, this is not something the applicant can choose to do as both the SAT and ACT require all sections of the score are submitted. Rather, select institutions around the country have policies that use this technique in their admissions process.
Holistic Admissions Most of the highly selective colleges and universities have a holistic admissions process. Universities that claim to have a holistic admissions approach do often factor in test scores but do not use an index score when they review applications for admission. Holistic refers to looking at all aspects of the applicant. As part of the admissions process, the university will consider all aspects of the application, including letters of recommendation, the Activities List, the essays, school profile, the student’s demographic profile, and other aspects that are brought forth in the application for admission.
Do you know that there are Test-Optional Schools? Even before the pandemic, more than 1,000 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. do not require SAT or ACT scores. For most of these schools, a test-optional policy is a practical necessity to ensure adequate volume, diversity, or specialty of applicants. They are moderate to highly selective, admitting fewer than half of their applicants. Since the pandemic began, more universities have adopted test-optional policies. It is important that students check with each university on their list to determine if the university is test-optional.
Score Choice The College Board and ACT have adopted policies generally referred to as “Score Choice,” designed to give students some control over how SAT and ACT scores are reported. However, colleges/universities have the final say over what scores applicants should submit and how those scores will be used. Students should carefully review the score-reporting policy of each university to which they plan to apply.
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