Everything You Want to Know About Tests

Since many colleges are now test optional, should I test?

In almost all cases, the answer is yes. Having strong scores to submit to a wide range of schools will help you stand out to admissions counselors. In addition, many scholarships are tied to standardized test scores, either formally or informally, so a high score can give you a leg up for both merit and need based aid. View the tests with an ‘everything to gain, nothing to lose’ mindset.

Should I take the SAT or ACT?

Once you’ve decided to test which one should you take? The best way to decide is to take one full official practice test from both the ACT and SAT. Make sure to take them under true test conditions; timed with bubble sheets. Tests can be found on both the College Board (SAT) and ACT websites. If there’s a material difference in your scores you’ll know which test plays to your strengths.

What’s a score target, and how do I determine mine?

Before you jump into test prep and scheduling, it’s worth taking a few moments to think about your score target. Your target is simply the test score you’d be proud to include as part of your applications. All schools that accept testing publish the average scores of their admitted class each year. The easiest way to get to your target score is to look at your college list and determine which school has the highest achievable median test score. Your target score would need to be at that level or slightly above to give you a good chance of admission For example, if the college with highest median test score on your list is George Washington University, you’d want to aim for an ACT score of 31 or better, which is the median at GW.

How do I prepare for tests?

Study, study, study, practice, practice, practice! As much as the College Board and ACT would like you to believe otherwise, you can absolutely improve your score with study and practice. There are legions of test prep companies some charging thousands of dollars but you don’t need to shell out big bucks to ace these tests. You just need time and discipline to prep on your own. Speaking of time, start early, ideally during the summer before your junior year. If you can afford it, buy a test prep book and start there. There are also free online resources like PrepScholar and Varsity tutors. Then take as many practice tests as you can find.

How many times should I take the test?

The number of times you take the test is entirely dependent on how many tries it takes you to achieve your score target. We recommend starting in the fall of your Junior year to give yourself plenty of time to re-test if necessary. Colleges have various deadlines for receiving your scores, so make sure your last test will release scores before those dates.

What is Super-scoring?

With a few exceptions most schools will super-score your SAT. This means they’ll combine your best EBW sore and best Math score from different test sittings to give you a higher composite score overall. Super-scoring on the ACT is a newer policy, and not all schools have adopted it, so check the application requirements carefully to see if it applies.

When are the tests offered, and how does a student sign up?

SATs are offered 7 times per year:

March, May, June, August, October, November, and December


ACTs are offered 7 times per year:

February, April, June, July, September, October and December.


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