Tag Archives: Standardized Testing

Should You Take the SAT or ACT with Essay?

Few colleges now require the essay when you take the SAT or ACT. In fact, in 2016, the College Board made the essay optional, stating: “While the College Board remains steadfast in its commitment to the importance of analytic writing for all students . . . one single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”

Yet, for the Class of 2017, 1.2 million students wrote the SAT essay (70% of total test-takers), and 1.1 million students wrote the ACT essay (53% of total test-takers).

Currently, there is a strong movement among colleges to no longer require the SAT or ACT essay. According to the Princeton Review, only 19 colleges still require the essay, of which 9 belong to the University of California system. In fact, no colleges state that they use the essay for admission, though some state that they use the essay for course placement.

Harvard explained that its decision was part of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI), to broaden its outreach. Registration for the ACT costs $46 without the essay, and $62.50 with the essay; the SAT costs $47.50 without the essay, and $64.50 with the essay. The university emphasized that students still have a variety of ways to demonstrate their writing skills – through the Personal Essay required by college application platforms, Harvard’s own Writing Supplement, and an optional writing portfolio.

 

COLLEGES THAT REQUIRE THE SAT OR ACT ESSAY
Claremont McKenna College
Martin Luther College
Schreiner University
Soka University of America
The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
United States Military Academy
UC, Berkeley
UC, Davis
UC, Irvine
UCLA
UC, Merced
UC, Riverside
UC, San Diego
UC, Santa Barbara
UC, Santa Cruz
University of Miami
University of Montana Western
University of North Texas *
Wellesley College *

*only requires essay with ACT
Source: The Princeton Review

OUR RECOMMENDATION

We recommend that for upcoming SAT or ACT tests, you do not register for the essay unless you plan to apply to a college that requires the essay. In other words, even if a college recommends the essay (without requiring it), we feel that you do not need to take the essay because typically it does not play a role in the college admissions review process. Alternatively, if you excel at writing and do not mind the additional expense or time, you certainly can opt to include the essay in your standardized testing plans.

There is increasing complexity surrounding the requirements for taking and reporting standardized testing, including the ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, AP exams, and IB exams.  If you would like guidance, feel free to contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

College Board Offers SAT in August, ACT adds July Test Date

The College Board began offering the SAT and Subject Tests in August 2017 for the first time, and will be eliminating the January test date going forward. Fewer test centers were available in August, since schools have a lighter staff during the summer.

The ACT also changed its test schedule, adding a July test date, effective July 2018. Both February and July test dates are not available in NY test centers, but students can travel to another state if these particular test dates suit them.

Finally, the College Board has instituted a faster score release policy, in which scores for multiple-choice questions will be available 13-19 days after each test date; with essay scores available 24 days later. For example, for the October 7 test date, multiple choice scores have been available October 20-26; and essay scores will be available October 31.

Why is the College Board Adding an August Test Date?

The new College Board test date is likely a response to the increase in seniors applying through early admissions and the consequent growth in SAT testers in the fall (see chart below). Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift towards early applications, in which seniors apply in November, and receive notification in December.

In large part, students are taking advantage of the strategic boost of applying early. The admit rates are typically much higher, and colleges are filling an increasing percentage of their freshman class through early admissions, leaving fewer spots to fill during regular admissions. As a result, the entire standardized testing schedule has shifted to earlier test dates. For early admissions, students need to complete their testing (SAT, ACT and Subject Tests) by October.

In addition to the recently added July 2018 date, the ACT also offers a test in September, an ideal time for seniors because they can prepare over the summer, and are just starting to deal with the academic requirements of senior year. The SAT has been steadily losing ground to the ACT over the past few years, and a strategic modification of the testing schedule may be an effort by the College Board to recover ground.

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Who Should Take the August Test?

The August test date is ideal for seniors who would like an additional chance to improve their SAT or Subject Test score after their junior year testing, or would like to take additional Subject Tests. The summer typically provides a less intense environment in which to prepare, without the pressures of schoolwork.

For rising juniors, we do not advise taking the SAT until November or December, because students typically experience meaningful growth and maturity over junior year, and continue to learn content that can boost their scores.

One exception, however, would be rising juniors who are pursuing athletic recruitment, and need early testing scores for coaches to make a determination about whether they are viable candidates.

For each student, deciding when and how often to take the SAT or ACT depends on a variety of factors, including whether you are applying to colleges through early or rolling admissions, the selectivity of your colleges, how much time you can devote to test preparation, and your competing time commitments. 

Test Centers for August SAT

Many test centers have chosen not to offer their sites for the August test date, creating a tight supply for what might be a large demand. For example, only 53 test centers will be available in New York, reflecting an 80% drop in the number of test centers from June to August. Brooklyn only has one test center, and it is already filled. As a result, if you are interested in the August test date, register as soon as possible so that you find a space, preferably at a test site that is convenient for you.

This interactive map by Compass Education Group shows the data for a selection of 12 states.

The college testing environment is constantly undergoing changes. To help you sort through testing options and plan for successful college admissions, contact us at www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

 

REFERENCE: 2017-18 SAT and Subject Tests Test Dates

Note that Subject Tests are not offered in March. Also, while Literature, US History, Math 1, Math 2, Biology, Chemistry and Physics are offered every testing date (but March), World History and Language tests vary by month. In addition, although you can choose to add more Subject Tests on the day of testing (with a maximum of three), the one test that you cannot add on the spot is Language with Listening, because that requires special equipment.

2017-18 SAT Subject Tests U.S. Administration Dates and Deadlines
SAT Date SAT Subject Tests Available Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline

August 26, 2017

Register

July 28, 2017

August 8, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

August 15, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

October 7, 2017

Register

September 8, 2017

September 19, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

September 27, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

November 4, 2017

Register

October 5, 2017

October 17, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

October 25, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

December 2, 2017

Register

November 2, 2017

November 14, 2017 (for mailed registrations)

November 21, 2017 (for registrations made online or by phone)

May 5, 2018 April 6, 2018

April 17, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

April 25, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

June 2, 2018 May 3, 2018

May 15, 2018 (for mailed registrations)

May 23, 2018 (for registrations made online or by phone)

 

 

Who Benefits from Test-optional and Test-flexible Admissions Policies?

As the role of college entrance exams continues to shift, many students find it difficult to navigate evolving and variable testing requirements. The process is made even more complex by the growing number of “test-optional” schools that do not require students to submit the SAT or ACT.

Over 925 colleges and universities have decided that standardized test scores are not as predictive of academic success in college as the day-to-day academic performance reflected by a high school GPA. Current test-optional colleges include Wake Forest, Smith, and Bowdoin.

Several others, including NYU, Middlebury and Hamilton fall under the category of “test-flexible,” meaning that applicants have the option to submit alternative college entrance examinations, such as SAT Subject, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate examinations in place of SAT and ACT scores.

Many students question how to handle test-optional policies, and are unsure of whether or not they should submit their scores. In this blog, we will take a closer look at student choices in applying to test optional colleges and why more and more schools are offering test-optional admissions policies.

Which colleges offer test-optional policies? Are all policies the same?

FairTest.org offers a comprehensive list of the colleges that currently offer test-optional and test-flexible admissions policies. While colleges offering these policies include a variety of institutions, it is notable that many are small liberal arts colleges, public universities, and small Catholic colleges. With few exceptions, the most highly selective colleges continue to require standardized testing; besides being a standard indicator of college readiness, test scores can create a benchmark of acceptance for schools that are becoming inundated with ever-increasing applicant pools.

It is interesting to note that of the 50 highest-ranked national universities, only four have test-optional or test-flexible policies, including Wake Forest, University of Rochester, Brandeis, and NYU, whereas 21 of the top-ranked liberal arts universities offer such testing options. One possible reason is that to attract applicants, the national universities rely more on US News & World Report’s rankings, which factor in test scores. In addition, small liberal arts universities are typically more holistic in their evaluations of candidates.

Test-optional and test-flexible policies vary widely, and the best way to make sure that you are submitting the correct testing requirements is to research the details on the specific college’s website.

For example, NYU (test-flexible) requires testing but students have a variety of options:

  • ACT (writing test not required)
  • SAT(essay test not required)
  • 3SAT Subject Test scores
  • 3AP exam scores
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma
  • 3IB higher-level exam scores if not an IB Diploma candidate
  • Nationally accredited examthat shows you completed your secondary education

Many test-optional schools require students who are not submitting test scores to meet additional requirements, including interviews, writing samples, teacher recommendations, or completing a Test-Optional Form. For example, Franklin & Marshall College requires students who choose to opt out of testing to submit two graded writing samples (creative or analytical), preferably from a humanities or social science course. Loyola University Maryland asks applicants who take advantage of their test-optional policy to submit an additional teacher recommendation and/or personal essay. At Virginia Commonwealth University, high school applicants must have at least a 3.3 GPA to bypass testing requirements.

Interestingly, many test-optional schools, including Marist College, require students to submit standardized test scores once they have been accepted and enroll. The schools use these test scores for the purposes of academic advisement and course placement.

Why do schools offer test-optional policies?

Increasing ethnic diversity

Many schools, including Wake Forest, claim that test-optional policies have led to a more diverse student body with no notable difference in academic achievement between students who opted out of testing and those who submitted scores. Wake Forest also states that ethnic diversity increased by 54% in the first seven years that their test-optional policy went into effect. A 2014 report from two former Bates College admissions officials, William Hiss and Valerie Franks, also found an increase in racial and socio-economic diversity at test-optional schools.

Focusing on holistic admissions

In determining whether an applicant is a good fit, test-optional schools stress the importance of examining the student’s complete academic profile. The College of the Holy Cross states, “We are test optional because we have found that a student’s academic history in high school is a better indicator of their scholastic ability than an exam taken on a singular Saturday morning.”

Fairness

Many institutions are disillusioned with current standardized testing, and feel that the test preparation available to the wealthy creates an unfair advantage. For example, Marist College states, “Many studies indicate performance on standardized tests is closely linked to family income and education level, while others suggest a possible bias against certain minority students. Our experience shows that the rigor of a student’s program and overall academic performance can best illustrate commitment, motivation, work ethic, and a willingness to take on challenges.”

Improved US News Rankings

Intentional or not, the schools offering test-optional policies also tend to see improved U.S. News rankings. A 2014 study by researchers at the University of Georgia examined data from 32 selective liberal arts colleges, and found that, after going test-optional, these schools received an average increase of 220 applications and their mean SAT scores rose by an average of 26 points.

Selectivity and test scores are important factors in the U.S. News rankings. US News is transparent about the components that comprise its ranking methodology. 8.125% of rankings derive from the SAT critical reading and math portions; and the composite ACT score; and 1.25% from selectivity.

Test-optional policies tend to increase applicant numbers, creating higher selectivity for the schools, and since students who did better on standardized tests report their scores, while students with low scores often do not, the school can report artificially inflated test scores of accepted applicants. Test scores make up 65% of the US News selectivity rating, which becomes 12.5% of the larger weighting used to rank each college.

Notably, the only “test-blind” school, Hampshire College, is unranked by US News. Hampshire College does not consider any ACT or SAT scores as part of its admissions policy, and therefore has no scores to report. Sarah Lawrence was once “test-blind” as well, from 2003 to 2012. In 2012, Sarah Lawrence switched to a “test-optional” policy, presumably to rejoin the ranks of US News, among other reasons.

Bottom-line: Should I send my scores?

At the end of the day, you might be deliberating over whether or not to send your scores. Here are some considerations to assist in your decision:

Research the range of standardized test scores for accepted students

According to U.S. News, “If you do some research and find that your results fall below those of the top third of accepted students at more selective schools or below the median at more inclusive institutions, you may want to hold them back.”

Decide if your test scores accurately represent your potential as a student

At the College of the Holy Cross, Director of Admissions Ann McDermott writes, “If you feel your testing says something about you and your abilities, feel free to send them along. We will look at them in conjunction with your transcript, your recommendations, essay, and interview (if you have had one) and make our assessment.  If, on the other hand, you feel that your test scores do not represent you well, then do not hesitate to withhold them. We will not make any assumptions about your testing, and will focus our attention on your transcript and the other accompanying credentials that are contained in your application.”

Take a hard look at your academic performance and activity list

Jane H. Dane, associate vice president for enrollment management at Old Dominion University in Virginia, notes that applicants who withhold scores are “particularly scrutinized for other evidence of potential for success, like challenging course work and leadership skills. The more well-rounded you are, the better your chances of impressing without scores.”

Remember that regardless of testing policies, all schools look at more than your scores

Try to remember that test scores are just one part of your college application, and not even the most significant one. As the College Board reminds us, “College admission officers give the most weight and importance to your high school grades and whether you’re challenging yourself.”

Determining the best testing options for each student requires consideration of a variety of factors and personal preferences. For more information on standardized testing, or any other aspect of the college admissions process, feel free to contact Collegiate Gateway. We’re always happy to help!

The State Of Standardized Testing

Taking and preparing for college entrance exams has perhaps never been so confusing! In addition to studying, students must now decide which tests to take – the SAT, ACT and/or Subject Tests – and navigate the ever-changing and variable testing requirements of the colleges to which they are applying. The process is made even more complex by the growing number of “test-optional” schools that may not require any test scores at all. However, most schools – especially those ranking among the most selective – still require students to take either the SAT or the ACT. And while there’s a lot of rumor and speculation about which test is easier, harder, or more impressive to admissions officers, the truth is that determining which test is right for you involves understanding the differences between the tests, as well as your own test-taking strengths and weaknesses.

ACT Overtakes the SAT

At this point in college admissions, schools do not favor one test over the other, nor do they consider one to be easier than the other. While it used to be that students from the East and West coasts took the SAT, and students from the Midwest took the ACT, that divide has narrowed significantly, and in 2011 the ACT surpassed the SAT as the most popular, or most commonly taken test throughout the country.

Differences Between the SAT and ACT

It is beneficial to note that there are substantial differences between the two tests. Firstly, the ACT is by design an achievement test, drawing from core curriculum standards in order to measure what a student has learned in school. The SAT, on the other hand, was originally modeled after IQ tests, and is designed to measure a student’s aptitude for reasoning and verbal abilities. As a result, the ACT is often regarded as concrete and straightforward, while the SAT is more abstract. This is somewhat reflected in the differences of the test formats themselves. The ACT has four components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has three: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and Writing (which includes a required essay). However, many of these differences may narrow in the coming years, as the College Board announced earlier this year that it will be making changes to the SAT, in order to measure a “core set of knowledge and skills” that students need to succeed in college.

Because of these differences, and individual variations among students, there is no test that is universally recommended for every individual. Some students will prefer the ACT, for instance, because it doesn’t contain obscure vocabulary or particularly difficult reading passages, whereas the SAT reading section is loaded with tricky questions and difficult vocabulary. At the same time, acing the ACT will require you to speed through the test. For example, students are given 35 minutes to answer 40 questions in the reading section, while the SAT gives students 70 minutes to answer 54 reading questions.

Score reporting is another area in which the tests differ. Both the ACT (act.org) and College Board, which administers the SAT, Subject Tests and AP exams (collegeboard.com) allow students to choose which individual tests to submit to prospective colleges. However, the policies of individual colleges differ, and some will require that students submit all the SATs that they’ve taken. Another issue to consider is whether each college will “super-score” the standardized test scores, meaning that they will consider only a student’s best score on each section, from different test dates. Most colleges super-score the SAT, but not the ACT.  A few exceptions of colleges that super-score the ACT include Amherst, Williams, Cornell and NYU.

Test-Optional Colleges

A growing number of colleges have a “test-optional” policy, in which students are not required to submit the SAT or ACT.  These 800 colleges and universities have decided that standardized test scores are not as predictive of academic success in college as the day-to-day academic performance reflected by the GPA.  Current Test-Optional colleges include Wake Forest, Smith, and Bowdoin. Many others, including NYU, Middlebury and Hamilton fall under the category of “test-flexible,” meaning that applicants have the option to submit alternative college entrance examinations, such as SAT Subject, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate examinations in place of SAT and ACT scores.

Which Test is Right for You?

Determining the right testing option for you requires consideration of a variety of factors and personal preferences. For more information on standardized testing, or any other aspect of the college admissions process, contact Collegiate Gateway at www.collegiategateway.com.