• Standardized Testing Overview

    Every year standardized tests – the PSAT, ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests – are administered to millions of students.  For most colleges, standardized test scores are part of the student’s admission file, which includes: high school grades, extra-curricular activities, recommendations, and a student’s essay.  However, there are some universities and colleges where tests are optional and some that don’t use test results at all. For more information on test optional colleges, go to www.fairtest.org.

    Important considerations to keep in mind:

    • Go to www.actstudent.org and www.collegeboard.org for excellent resources regarding the ACT and SAT, including practice tests (some abbreviated and some full length) and daily Question of the Day posts. Each year's test dates are listed on the ACT and SAT websites and it is the student's responsibility to register themselves for the test(s).
    • To best prepare for standardized testing, students should become familiar with the testing format of the ACT and SAT by utilizing practices tests.  These can include the PSAT and other practice tests offered at Drake. Click here for more practice test information.
    • The Preliminary SAT, also known as the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), is a preparatory version of the SAT exam. You can only take the PSAT once per year, and most students take the test in both 10th and 11th grade. If you earn a high score on the PSAT your junior year, you could qualify to receive a National Merit Scholarship - $180 million dollars in merit scholarships are awarded to students each year! Testing your skills in reading, writing, and math, the PSAT is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. Unlike the SAT, the  highest score possible on the PSAT is 1520.
    • Colleges do not see a student’s PSAT scores, nor are they used for admission purposes. They are simply meant to be risk-free tools to help students.
    • The College and Career Center offers practice tests throughout the school year that are open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  Practice tests are held at Drake and proctored by local test prep companies.  A suggested donation of $15 is appreciated with the proceeds benefiting the College and Career Center.  A student is never turned away from taking a practice test if the suggested donation is a financial hardship for the family.
    • The purpose of taking practice tests is to determine whether you are more comfortable with the ACT or the SAT format. Once you have a preference, it is recommended that you focus on preparing for that test only. Try a practice test of each and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
    • Generally, students take an official ACT or SAT the spring of their junior year. Drake strongly recommends that students take the optional writing test when taking the official ACT or official SAT.
    • With each test administration, students can send up to four score reports to different colleges at no cost. Even if you are not yet sure which colleges you'll apply to, consider taking advantage of this free service with each test administration as it will save you a lot of money down the road!
    • Expect to take the SAT or ACT twice, unless you are satisfied with your scores on the first try.
    • There are free, low, and high cost options for test prep. Students and families should consider the best test prep strategy for them. There is a no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the best test prep. A number of local test prep companies and tutors advertise their services in the College and Career Center so feel free to stop by and pick up flyers. 
    • For low-income students, fee waivers are available in the College and Career Center for standardized testing. Students who receive a fee waiver for the ACT will have 20 "anytime" score sends for each test for which a student received a fee waiver at no cost. College Board will provide unlimited score sends to any student who received a fee waiver for the SAT.
    • SAT/SAT Subject Test Fee Waiver brochure
    • ACT Fee Waiver Eligibility Requirements brochure
    • To do well, become familiar with the test, get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast and arrive at the testing center early.
    • Do not spend too much time preparing for standardized testing at the expense of your high school coursework.
    • Key differences between the SAT and ACT are outlined here.
    • To learn how colleges use test scores, click here.


    SAT Subject Tests

    Subject Tests are one-hour exams designed to allow students to demonstrate achievement in a particular academic area, but the tests are not tied to specific curricula and are expressly intended to be used in admission decisions.

    If Subject Tests are in play for you, consider allocating a spring test date to complete them. Subject Tests are not offered in March, but they are offered in May and June. Either of these dates are sensible options because yearlong coursework will be nearly completed, and preparation for AP and final exams will begin.

    Subject Tests and the SAT cannot be taken on the same day, so plan ahead.

    What is a good score on a Subject Test?

    It depends on the context.  While few institutions readily report Subject Test data for admitted or enrolled students, one can make some reasonable assumptions. SAT score data in the middle-50th percentiles (25th % to 75th %) are available, and it stands to reason that Subject Test scores for enrolled students are similar to SAT scores. Students can expect that Subject Test scores in the low-mid 700’s put them in the same ballpark as other applicants to the highly selective colleges which require Subject Tests.

    What do percentiles indicate?

    When evaluating your Subject Test scores, focus on the scaled score from 200-800 and not the reported percentile. Percentile scores for Subject Tests are misleading, because they often indicate a skewed testing population. For example, only 27,000 students take the Physics test each year, so it is logical to assume that most are quite good at Physics. Your scaled score, not your percentile, is the most important number on your Subject Test report and allows you to compare your performance across different subjects.


    Update regarding which schools require, recommend or consider SAT Subject Tests: https://www.compassprep.com/subject-test-requirements-and-recommendations/


    The New World of College Admission Testing: Insights for the Classes of 2021 & 2022

    Sophomores, juniors, and their parents were invited to attend an enlightening discussion of college admission tests on December 3, 2019. In this session, the following information was shared:  

    • Colleges’ evolving policies related to the requirements and use of test scores
    • Details of the Redesigned SAT & PSAT: new content, structure, and scoring
    • ACT's surging popularity and how students may benefit
    • The importance of Subject Test choices and timing
    • Implications of Score Choice and repeat testing
    • Trends in testing timelines and test preparation
    • Sensible and successful approaches to college admission testing

    Attendees received a complimentary copy of Compass's indispensable The Compass Guide to College Admission Testing and extra copies are available in the College & Career Center. Here is our guest speaker's presentation from December 3, 2019. If you would like to hear a similar presentation rather than review the slides, feel free to check out one of their free webinars: https://www.compassprep.com/webinars/ 

    FAQ's re: sending standardized test scores
    What if I am applying to a CSU but I don't know which one at the time I register for the SAT?
    You can send your score directly to Cal State Apply (code 3594) and it will be automatically shared with all CSUs. The processing center for the CSU system is in Long Beach, so when you see Long Beach show up after putting in code 3594, please know that it does not refer to the specific Long Beach campus but rather the processing center.
    What if I am applying to a CSU but I don't know which one at that time I register for the ACT?
    You can pick any CSU that you are considering and send the ACT score to that school.  Since ACT scores are shared amongst all CSU campuses, sending your score to one will assure all campuses receive them.
    If I am applying to the UC system in the fall, but have not selected specific campuses yet, where do I sent my SAT or ACT scores?
    For the UC system, just pick the one UC you are most interested in and likely to apply to and the scores will automatically be shared with all UC campuses.
    What is  Score Choice and how does it work?  I hear that I should use that so I can hand select which scores go to which colleges.
    The College Board and ACT have adopted policies, generally referred to as "Score Choice," designed to give students some control over how SAT, Subject Test, and ACT scores are reported. Drake Counseling staff does not recommend the use of Score Choice.  We recommend that you send all of your scores to all of your colleges. Plus, some colleges prefer to see a student's entire testing history. For example, Stanford and Yale are among the schools that require students to submit all of their scores, partly to discourage excessive testing. The UCs also mandate that students send all test scores, but their primary concern is to ensure that students do not inadvertently fail to submit any scores that might present them in a more favorable light.
    Students who take the SAT or ACT two to three times should not worry that colleges will evaluate multiple scores negatively. In fact, the most common policy of colleges regarding SAT scores is to mix-and-match math and verbal scores from multiple tests. This "super-scoring" approach is becoming more common with multiple ACT scores as well. Admission Officers are looking for reasons to admit students and will use the best scores to do so.  Breathe and have faith.
    Is there any additinoal information student athletes need to know regarding sending scores?
    Students with a NCAA Eligiblity Center account need to send their test scores to the Center using code 9999.