Whether you’re a senior 2020 getting ready to start or wrap up your college applications or somewhere in the middle of high school wondering about all things related to testing -this newsletter answers all your questions and provides links to some of my many resources providing even more details about these topics. I invite you to reach out with questions- contact me directly — let’s chat!
If you haven’t already done so, in addition to reading my bi-weekly newsletters, I invite you to follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn where I provide a daily link to an article I’ve selected accompanied by a brief comment related to Educational & College Admissions. At my website, my college admissions blog provides new and original content every few days as well. Enjoy!
Today’s newsletter focuses on the all things related to standardized testing- including some important changes in the SAT and ACT . But first, a few (brief) highlights about the SAT and ACT exams. You can scroll through to the changes section, or click some of my links for more details.
Standardized Testing- SAT, ACT, PSAT, & AP exams ?!! College Admissions & College Applications Help
Before jumping into my discussion about recent changes in both the SAT and ACT, I’ll take a moment to answer two pressing questions about the SAT/ACT likely on the minds of many seniors (2020):
“What is the last scheduled fall SAT/ACT seniors can take to meet deadlines for submitting required scores as part of their CommonApp college applications?”
“Do I need to wait to submit my Common Application until after I take or submit my fall SAT/ACT exam scores?”
The answer to the first question depends on whether you’re an Early Action/Early Decision or Regular Decision applicant. (For more on Early Decision and Early Action- please read my blog on these options and when/why they may be the right path for you– click my link). For seniors 2020 who are regular decision applicants, you can comfortably sit for the December test dates. For EA/ED, and many public universities, the October date is typically the last acceptable test date. That said, please check each college’s website to review acceptable score report submissions guidelines.
For example, if you’re applying to the University of Florida or Princeton, you can find information on the last accepted test dates for the 2019-20 Common Application cycle in highlighted links. If you’re not into predicting score report arrival dates- Emory has a very informative chart to ease even the most college-admissions angst filled readers today.
*** Students can and should submit completed college applications even if you anticipate taking late fall exams. Your college application is submitted separately from required external documents including your test scores, high school transcripts and teacher recommendations. Your application isn’t evaluated until all required components are received. That said, please submit your application as soon as your portions are complete regardless of whether you have taken all your exams and sent scores. There’s an actual bias against “later” applications. No prizes for submitting in August with the exception of “rolling admissions’ -in which case you will hear rather quickly if you are one of the first applicants to submit.
We can all agree that the College Admissions process is complex and your application will most certainly be evaluated on several comprehensive criteria. 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. This list can be found here at
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.
Super Scoring and Score Choice
options should relieve some of the stress over SAT/ACT scores.
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Details in my blog that all Juniors and Seniors should understand is found here:
So, finally-let’s talk about what’s new in the ACT and SAT testing formats:
Well by now, you’ve likely heard the news-there are some interesting changes. The ACT Organization has just announced that beginning in September 2020, students can retake single sections of the five-part three-hour exam rather than sitting for all sections a second, third or even fourth time! In theory, this upcoming change allows students to avoid the risk of getting a lower score on a section they have already taken and feel the score is sufficient for their college admissions goals.
There’s two ways of looking at this new option. On the one hand, the ACT exam may have become a whole lot easier – allowing students to focus more closely on preparing fr one or more parts in a single sitting (after an initial full test option). On the hand, the pressure to retake the exam may appeal to perfectionists- similar to the artist who can never finish a perfect painting or the person who changes their shirt a half a dozen times before leaving home. Personally, I think the college admissions process is stressful enough and I’d rather have heard news that more colleges are now on the TEST OPTIONAL LIST (see list above). You decide– the option to retest on a single part of the ACT may result in repetitive drawn out testing attempts (fortifying an already overdone industry of expensive test prep services).
The new policy just added more to an already heightened debate over role of standardized testing in the college admissions process. A growing number of universities have adopted a test optional/flexible policy. There’s no denying that still many colleges, including larger public state university systems place heavy emphasis on these scores. Parents and students feel lots of pressure to do well on the the ACT and SAT exams, and this often results in time-consuming and expensive test services.
SAT and ACT PREPARATION STRATEGY?
Begin my knowing university policy- does a target college Super Score or utilize Score Choice?
I suggest allocating a dedicated four-to-eight week time period for regular and disciplined test preparation. Ideally, students should have completed Aleg 1, & II and Geometry prior to taking either the ACT or SAT. For more about the contents of the exam, please read my earlier blogs noted above.
SOPHOMORE – JUNIOR-
When to Test? Should You Retest?
First, let’s be clear, the SAT isn’t yet on board with this single-section testing option. If you are taking the ACT- this option may be in your interest. Speaking with your college counselor about your study habits, time management and other issues to carefully map out a test preparation timeline not later than the middle of 10th grade. I said set your timeline-but for some students – the actual prep may not be until 11th. Have a plan in place. Knowing when you will be prepared for the content of these exams and have the time to do so depends on – all the other demands of challenging courses, AP/IB/AICE exams, subject tests and your busy extracurricular schedule (Robotics, Theater, Sports, Music, Math Team??).
The new ACT testing policy has many parents, teachers and college advisors concerned that the policy will just fuel the college admissions frenzy-and yes, further disadvantaging students who lack the financial resources for access to SAT/ACT preparation.
I provided a detailed discussion of the components of the ACT exam and exam scoring above. Each section is graded on a scale of 1 to 36, and the four required sections are averaged into a composite exam score. The new policy being rolled out in September 2020, will provide students with a “superscore” that based on the highest scores of subscores across each testing date. The current policy forces students to send colleges multiple test results. Under the new policy, a superscore will appear on the score report.
Just because the ACT will provide a superscore option, doesn’t yet mean that universities will accept and evaluate this differently. I caution students to be aware of each college’s policy on SuperScore and ScoreChoices – two different issues.
So what’s your strategy. There’s an old adage-measure twice, cut once and I think that applies here.
Prepare to do your best on the exam at your first attempt-studying carefully for all sections. I fear students will now consider taking the exam four times – focused on one section at a time- I cannot imagine a more protracted agony! My other concern is that students with highly selective college goals will test, retest and retest bumping sub-sections from 33 until they reach 35/36 – sadly redirecting limited and valuable time which could be spent more joyfully on extracurricular activities- turning test prep into a time-consuming obsession.
Whether you find this humorous or intriguing- did you know that students can take the ACT exam up to 12 times! According to the ACT research, “students who take the test more than once have increased first-year college grades than those who take the test a single sitting”. ACT suggested this is a reflection of student motivation- I beg to differ.
Currently the ACT costs $52 without the optional writing section, and $68 with writing. ACT hasn’t yet announced pricing for single-section testing —but you can bet this is going to be a huge revenue boost for the organization and for test-preparation services. The current battle for market share-1.9 million ACT takers and 2.1 SAT takers annually.
Again- disciplined test prep – measure twice, cut once. High school is about discovery and joy. Our students face so much unneeded pressure – so let’s do what we can so they don’t have to jump through hoops and hurdles that rob them of peace. Everyone finds their path- one test isn’t the defining aspect for our amazing and wonderful young adults will lead. Parents-what was your SAT/ACT score- did it define or change your life? Probably not! That said, please don’t misinterpret my message- -the exam is relevant and should be taken seriously- but taking the exam over and over and over-that’s just not a strategy I support nor encourage even under the new ACT policy.
One last note-the ACT’s competitor also announced a recent change. You may recall the controversial SAT Adversity index – I wrote about it here. Well, under pressure from industry groups, parents and college counselors, the SAT Adversity Score was “quietly” (cough cough) abandoned. I think we will all be relieved when both the ACT and SAT are both put to rest permanently. Sadly, that is not anytime soon -but change is on the horizon as evidenced by the growing number of outstanding universities adding their name to the test Optional list.
Some highly ranked test-flexible schools include the following:
New York University (NYU
Need some guidance on your test preparation and test taking strategies – please reach out.
While a student’s GPA and transcript are a significant determinant of admissions and academic success, there are as many as five to seven qualified applicants for every available space in the freshman class. As a former admissions committee member and a current Cornell alumni interviewer, I can assure you that admission committees seek to create a freshman class that is diverse in intended majors, geographic origin and personal interests.
SUCCESS and JOY in 2019-20!!
As noted, your student’s GPA and transcript are the most significant determinant of admissions and academic success. High school is a time for academic and personal discovery. Developing and sustaining a passion for learning cannot be overstated. Sometimes that discovery is sparked by coursework and other times it is through an extracurricular experience.
There’s very little variation in curriculum options across high schools in that all students will complete four years of english, four years of social studies, complete a foreign language and enroll in the math and science classes at a level they can manage.
The differences across high schools and across students are in the electives taken and in whether students enroll in Honors or AP/IB/AICE levels of classes.
Don’t waste your electives ! Accept a challenge you can comfortably manage. Please don’t follow the crowd!
Students who are successful not only in admissions, but as actual undergraduate students, are those who have well defined interests, nurtured as early as middle school and further developed throughout high school.
Having an academic niche or a personal passion outside the classroom builds motivation, focus and academic success.
It is indeed never too early to begin Educational and College Admissions Planning!
College Admissions Planning- Start Early- Increase Your Chances of College Acceptance
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 reading, learning and time management 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.
Best wishes for an absolutely meaningful and enriching 2019-20.
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.