College Counseling

Standardized Testing

As a complement to the student’s academic record and transcript, standardized test scores are intended to help admission officers determine whether students can do the work academically in the first year of college. Although more and more colleges and universities have acknowledged that they can make good admission decisions about whom to admit without using test scores – and more than 850 institutions have adopted a testing-optional policy ( – testing does remain an important part of the application process at a majority of schools today. It is important to emphasize, however, that it is only one component of a complex equation where the primary focus remains centered on each student’s classroom performance.

“Top Five List” of Things to Know About College Admission Testing:

1. There are two options for students: the SAT and the ACT. We recommend that students try one of each, and then focus on preparing for and taking whichever test suits them best.

2. Colleges strongly prefer to receive test results (SAT, ACT) directly from the testing services. Students are responsible for having their results sent directly to their choice of colleges, which is done online through their College Board or ACTStudent account.

3. Many colleges and universities will “superscore” test results, combining the highest subsections from all sittings for a best overall result. Colleges that do not “superscore” choose from among submitted scores the single test date on which a student achieved her highest results.

4. When forming a list of colleges to which she will apply, each student should make a note of which schools require Subject Test scores (sometimes referred to as SAT II scores). Some colleges will request specific subjects while others will allow you to choose. Unless a specific test is requested by the college, students should elect to take Subject Tests in areas of strength. It is also helpful to coincide test-taking with the completion of that subject in school.

5. When considering whether or not to apply test-optional to a college or university offering that plan, students are best served by comparing their results with the range of scores reported by the college. Students with scores that fall below an institutions middle 50% range might consider having a conversation with their college counselor about the possibility of withholding their results. A complete list of test optional colleges can be found at Students are best served by choosing to apply to colleges where their scores fall within or above the reported middle 50% range when score reporting is required.

Sensible Sequence for Standardized Testing

Specific circumstances vary for each child and our college counselors advise students regarding what they consider the best testing timeline. 
For a majority of students, the arc of learning that needs to be completed in order to hit the target for these tests doesn’t reach it’s end point until spring of junior year. Thus, some students might not see the results that they might hope for on their junior PSAT because it’s simply too early for them to have a complete understanding of the material that will be covered on the test, especially in math. 

For students who have an accelerated track in math or who have particularly strong aptitude for reading and analyzing what they’ve read, PSAT results may reveal that they could attempt a timeline that begins with SAT/ACT testing in fall or winter of junior year.
College counselors will provide advice and guidance regarding how to prepare, and the frequency and timing for standardized testing.

Other Information About Testing:

List of 5 items.

  • Recruited Athletes

    If you are going through the recruitment process, this timeline may not work for you. Please see the College Counseling Office for guidance.
  • SAT Subject Tests

    Many schools do not require subject tests. Highly selective college and universities typically are the schools that request them. If you think there is any possibility that you will need them, you should take them while the subject matter is fresh in your mind.
  • Test Prep/Tutoring

    Some students opt to have private tutoring for standardized testing preparation. The College Counseling Office does not endorse a particular test prep organization or tutor but we are happy to pass along the contact information of tutors or organizations that other families have endorsed. Some students use these services, many do not.
  • Score Choice

    The College Board has made score choice an option. Students can chose which sets of test scores they want to report, however many colleges and universities have a policy that requires students to submit all scores. Please consult each college’s web site to learn their requirements.
  • Khan Academy

    The College Board has contracted with Khan Academy for free, on-line test prep. We highly recommend using this resource. A link to the site is located to the left on this page.