Although both the College Board and ACT organizations schedule exam dates throughout the year, it’s about this time of year that test preparation begins in earnest and even a healthy amount of angst is felt over which tests to prepare for and understanding what’s required for colleges on your radar. May is AP exam month. Juniors are well aware that SAT/ACT scores can shape their list of colleges as the application process begins in a few months.
First, I’d like to remove some of the stress you might be facing and redirect you to a website FAIR TEST listing colleges that place less emphasis on the SAT/ACT. There are also many test optional and test flexible universities. Test flexible campuses allow the student to replace the SAT/ACT with subject based exams including Subject Tests and AP exams. DON’T WORRY! There are now more than 1000 Accredited Colleges and Universities DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor-Degree Programs.
In my video, you’ll learn a bit more about the types of required standardized testing
Which format: ACT OR SAT?
All colleges will accept either test format. Students are encouraged to explore both exams and take a practice test at home under test conditions. If you’re working with a test preparation service/tutor, you should expect an assessment of testing formats with customized test preparation based on YOUR STUDENT’s needs.
If you would like to know which exams are required at a particular college, you’ll have to navigate into the “Application Requirements” link likely a challenge to find somewhere within the admissions tab of a college’s website. An easy way to locate this information is to Google: “<Name of University> standardized testing requirements undergraduate admissions”/ Exams can vary across departments and schools within a given university. For example, here’s the link to Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions Testing Requirements requirements.
*** If your student finds the ACT acceptable, I prefer the ACT simply for a logistical reason. SAT dates in May and June should be reserved for SATII Subject tests. These subject exams are required at many of the more competitive colleges and the best time to take these is immediately following AP exams/end of the school year. Also, SATII subject tests can be submitted in lieu of SATI scores at test-flexible institutions.Super Scoring and Score Choice
options should relieve some of the stress over SAT/ACT scores. Many colleges “superscore” which means that your application is evaluated on a composite score based on the best sub-scores across different test dates. This list can be found here:
The PSAT is also nothing to be terribly concerned about because this exam serves very little purpose beyond qualifying an exceedingly small number of students as National Merit Finalists. Please don’t fret about this exam either.
The PSAT is not reported in your college applications. However, if you are an 8th to 11th grade student, the PSAT is often and acceptable standardized test to submit for any competitive collegiate summer programs.
The College Board received 157,000 requests for testing accommodations. I recommend that students apply for their accommodation as soon as possible as this covers not only the SAT/ACT but your AP exams.
If you’re approved for a testing accommodation, it’s important that your tutor administer a diagnostic tool to determine which exam format is most suitable for you, as some exam formats align more effectively with specific learning disabilities. Your test preparation should incorporate and adjust for your accommodations. For example, if you have extra time, your tutor should be teaching you how to effectively leverage this accommodation to realize your full potential.
Please be aware that the ACT organization will only approve accommodations if the student has been professionally diagnosed and if the student receives the same accommodations at high school. ACT also requires students to register for a specific test date at the time you apply for the accommodations.
The College Board requires accommodation requests to be submitted seven weeks in advance of your test date. Please start the process early allowing for time for appeals if necessary. While having your high school support (if not handle) your accommodation request is extremely helpful, it isn’t necessary. Parents can do so independent of the high school if necessary. There is no stigma with requesting accommodations and this information is NOT shared with college admissions records.
Testing anxiety is a genuine concern. For some students, an accommodation can be invaluable to addressing and resolving test anxiety. Please speak to your family physician for a referral to a licensed psychologist specializing in evaluation and providing the support you need to create the appropriate accommodations not only for testing but for success throughout high school.
Accommodations such as extended time, isolated test taking or keyboarding are provided for a variety of situations including ADHD, executive function disorders, physical disabilities such as visual processing or handwriting, and mood/anxiety disorders including test taking anxiety.
It’s certainly not uncommon for students to feel uneasy at exam time; but some students have experienced actual test anxiety which inhibits the student from performing to the best of their abilities as a result of cognitive and/or physiological responses to their anxiety. A licensed psychologist should be consulted to diagnose testing anxiety and create a plan for treatment allowing the student to feel empowered about the outcome and situation. Preparing for exams and relaxation strategies will help students with test anxiety. Your psychologist should and can coordinate with your tutor.
Whether you’re ready to write your college essays or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized summer reading plan to explore or deepen an academic/personal interest, I invite you to contact me to schedule your Educational and College Planning Assessment available for current seniors and all middle and high school students
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. is the founder and principal educational consultant of College Career Consulting, LLC. She has over 30 years of experience as a university faculty member and shares her knowledge, professional resources and support with students who are ready to advance their lifelong educational and career journeys.