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What you need to know about springtime standardized tests

Prom is around the corner, awards banquets are in sight, and yearbook signings await. As if final exams aren’t enough, our students are faced with a dizzying number of standardized testing options. Before signing up for anything, here’s what you need to know.

Juniors, one of the most important things you can do this Spring is to take at least one ACT (with Writing for students interested in highly selective colleges) or one SAT.  Most juniors will take the ACT in April or June, or they will take the SAT’s in May or June.  If that’s the only official standardized test you take in junior year, embrace it.

"Did you know taking either the ACT or SAT satisfies the testing requirement at most colleges and universities in the country?" TWEET THIS

What you need to know about your test scores

This is important to remember: if you take the ACT or SAT more than once, colleges will take your highest scores.  Think about it—these colleges want to look as good as possible. They want to use your highest scores because it makes themselves look good.    

Typically, colleges will take your highest composite score on the ACT, but there are a few institutions that will take your highest sub-scores even if they happen on different dates. When it comes to the SAT, colleges will almost uniformly take your highest score from each section even when they are taken on different days—as long as it's the same type of test. In other words, the highest scores would need to come from the old SATs or the redesigned SATs if you want to mix and match scores from different test dates. So, re-taking the ACT or SAT is beneficial to the student and to the institution

Remember, the score you get in the Spring is just a baseline. This baseline score is likely to go up the next time you take it—especially if you:

  • Take some time between the test dates to study
  • Take practice exams
  • Let your brain recharge during the Summer.

The College Board website states that 55% of students who take the SATs improve their scores from junior to senior year. So, plan to retake the ACTs in September of senior year or the SATs in August (beginning in 2017) or October unless your junior year scores are phenomenal.

"55% of students who take the SATs improve their scores from junior to senior year." TWEET THIS

How important is testing as a Sophmore?

Sophomores, there’s no rush to take the ACTs or SATs this Spring. Remember the moment you start taking these tests, they can be reported to the colleges you eventually apply to. You're best suited to take the ACTs or SATs during junior year when your math, English, and writing skills come together. Once you take one of these tests, they become a permanent record in your testing history.  Wait until junior year when you are better prepared. 

What about Subject Tests?

For sophomores and juniors interested in applying to the most selective colleges, consider taking Subject Tests at the end of the year. 

  • The best time to take Subject Tests is in June. 
  • They are one-hour long and content-based and may correspond well with your final exams. 
  • If you're taking an Advanced Placement course and doing very well in the course, consider taking the Subject Test in the same subject matter. Understand that the Advanced Placement course “syncs” up nicely with the Subject Test (which is not a surprise as the College Board administers both).

Springtime tests are a rite of passage for high school juniors, but they shouldn’t be the first and last time you take them.  Junior year scores are simply a baseline. You get to see where you stand, and then map out a plan for your next steps. Taking standardized tests in your junior year is simply a starting point—not your final destination.