Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?


Our counselors answered:

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Lily Trayes
Founder and CEO Ivy League Placement

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Jane McClure
Partner McClure, Mailory & Baron Educational Counseling

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Rod Bugarin
Former Admissions Officer Columbia, Brown, and Wesleyan University

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

Here is my video response to the question.

Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

Do you have your suspicions about the college board?

The College Board fancies itself as a non-profit institution. According to their literature, “The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity” and “The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities, and concerns.” ( I ask: “excellence and equity” in what? Do they mean excellence and equity in education? If so, it seems more like they are attempting to develop the universal standard for excellence and equity in education. But then again, their statement is not really very clear; they may refer to education, but they may also mean the excellence and equity of their own profit. It reminds me of the saying, "The biggest trick Satan ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist". It seems like we all know the College Board exists, but we often overlook the way in which the institution has infiltrated our education system. In fact, one might go so far as to consider The College Board a monopoly. After all, their only competition is the ACT, so the College Board has virtually no pressure regarding their pricing structure. Therefore, one would argue that the cost for services should equal the cost to deliver said services. However, the College Board enjoys inordinate profits. Where is Teddy Roosevelt when you need him? Let’s examine the facts: Cost of Tests and Services SAT Reasoning Test: $45.00 SAT Subject Test: $20.00 for the first test on one day and $9 for each subsequent test (up to three in one day) Send SAT Reasoning or Subject Tests to Colleges (3 to 5 week delivery): $9.50 per college Cost to send SAT Reasoning or Subject Tests to Colleges (2 day delivery): $36.50 per college PSAT/NMSQT: $13.00 (schools sometimes charge additional administrative fees) AP Test: $86.00 each Send AP scores: $15.00 per college College Board's College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS), a college financial aid application designed to help students pay for college: $26.00 for the first college and $16.00 for each additional college I will point out the obvious here: these only constitute the costs for college admission tests. On top of this, families pay the billion dollar test prep industry for assistance preparing for the tests and colleges charge application fees of up to $100. [In order to double check the absurdity of these prices, I checked the median household income in the United States: $50,740] Questionable Non-Profit Structure According to information provided by the IRS, the College Board’s revenue is $6,760,690 and its assets are $5,198,705. The net profit equals 5% of what the organization spent on tests. The College Board is located in a mid-town Manhattan building directly across from Lincoln Center (see photo). In 2005, president Gaston Caperton (former governor of West Virginia and businessman – not educator) was compensated over $600,000. As a result of its standing as a non-profit entity, the College Board is not liable for taxes, yet their profits are many times higher than most small business in the country. Even though the government may classify the College Board as a non-profit organization, the classification is inaccurate because the College Board overcharges for products and controls several for-profit subsidiaries (see trademarks below). The College Board also acts as a conduit for ETS (Educational Testing System) which manufactures the SAT and many other standardized tests. The College Board contracts with ETS for services and compensates the ETS well over $100 million per year. Registered Trademarks Not only does the College Board “own” the above listed tests, the organization actually has a trademark for over fifty products. I encourage you to review them at Curriculum Development AP madness has reached epic proportions – and for all the wrong reasons. Advanced placement courses should, in an ideal world, serve to provide students with a way in which they can develop their academic interests in certain areas at a higher level. In the past few years, students have taken up to five AP classes per year! Question: Who creates the curriculum for the AP classes? Answer: The College Board. Question: Who trains teachers how to teach the AP classes? Answer: The College Board. Question: Who benefits most from AP classes? Answer: The College Board (especially at $86.00 per test plus $15.00 per score report). And now…get "ready" for ReadiStep – a new program unveiled by the College Board in October 2008 and "ready" to infiltrate schools in Fall 2009 ( The program’s purpose is to help teachers make sure that students are on the path to college readiness. Excuse me, but isn’t that what teachers, administrators, parents and school boards are supposed to do? Who decided that the College Board should take on this role? (Answer: the College Board) The new test will of course cost money: $10 per student. Mr. Caperton insists that many districts have been demanding that the College Board develop this program. When he was asked to furnish a list of supposed schools, he offered only two names: (1) Susan Ruske of the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada AND member of the College Board’s board of trustees, and (2) James R. Choike, a professor of mathematics at Oklahoma State University (I ask: how does he qualify as a person who should “demand” said new test?) – who helped DEVELOP Readistep. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Caperton. Threats to Status Quo The University of California System is the largest consumer of the SAT, with 170,000 students applying each year. When the president of the UC system, Richard Atkinson, suggested dropping the SAT because he realizes it is an unfair measurement of a student’s abilities, Mr. Caperton responded, “To drop the SAT would be like deciding you’re going to drop grades” (Associated Press). UC President Atkinson asserted that students can do everything expected of them, but the test distorts educational priorities and practices, causing hard-working students to doubt their abilities. The hardest hit students are from low income backgrounds who cannot afford to have a psychologist diagnose them with a learning difference in order to gain extra time to take the tests or pay absurd prices for test preparation. How did the College Board respond to this incredible threat to their profits? They satisfied the UC System by dropping analogies from the test, adding reading passages of varying lengths, dropping the quantitative comparison section and adding a writing section. They did alright with this compromise until the UC System decided to allow the ACT instead of the SAT Reasoning test. Recently, the UC’s announced that the two Subject Test requirement will be dropped for students enrolling in Fall 2012. ********************************** So, back to that “commitment to excellence and equity”…you decide for yourself. Hopefully enough people will get angry enough to stop the madness that causes so much undue stress and financial burden for families. Corruption pervades our society and economic systems, but only through our outcries of unfairness will a change occur – especially when it impacts our children and our country’s future.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

4 Basic Test Strategies

1. Test the waters, early All students should plan to take the PSAT (practice SAT exam) and PLAN (practice ACT exam) during both sophomore and junior years. Early exposure to the format of standardized tests will improve both confidence and performance for the official sitting. Students should plan to take their first SAT and ACT exams early in the spring semester of junior year. This timeline offers students ample opportunity for targeted preparation for a second sitting. 2. Familiarity breeds success The more familiar students are with the format of an exam, the higher the likelihood of earning a score befitting ability. Both the SAT and ACT formats are similar to a crossword puzzle, or the popular television show, Jeopardy!, in that the questions are posed in an unusual format. Frequent puzzlers or quiz show loyalists have an advantage over novices because they get the quirks of how questions are posed. Prior to taking the SAT or ACT, students should understand the layout, question types, and directions that they will encounter. One of the most effective and proven forms of test preparation is taking full practice exams. 3. Senior year sitting Unless you earned a perfect score on the SAT or ACT, always plan on taking a standardized test during senior year. Something happens in the summer between junior and senior year that more often than not improves performance on standardized tests. Whether it is maturity, information synthesis, or greater seriousness of purpose, senior year testing is often the time students earn their strongest score. 4. Take both the ACT and SAT Nearly all colleges and universities accept either the ACT or SAT. It is to a student’s advantage to try both tests and determine a preference. It isn’t necessary to repeat both exams. Only repeat the stronger of the two tests. Keep in mind that colleges and universities want to report high scores, too. So, they will take your best score regardless of test administration.

Jessica Brondo
Founder and CEO The Edge in College Prep

Create an individual strategy

Each student learns (and tests) differently so there is no cookie cutter recommendation for all students, but here are some good suggestions for everyone: 1. Take the PSAT in 10th grade. This will really give you an idea of what the SAT will be like the following year (NO ONE will see your grade so it is purely for practice). 2. If you happen to be in an advanced level class in school, you should look to take the SAT II exam for that particular subject in either May (if you take AP) or June (if you are not in an AP class) while the material is fresh. 3. Take a practice ACT (if available) or register to take the actual ACT in September of your junior year. 4. Take the PSAT again in October of your junior year 5. Your PSAT scores will come out in December. At that point compare your PSAT score with your ACT score and see if one is drastically higher than the other. If one of them is, you should definitely opt to focus on that one. If not, you can take both. 6. You should opt to take the SAT or ACT at least twice, if not three times before applying to college. Target SAT test dates should be March, May, October (of senior year) or January, May, October (of senior year) for international students who don't have a March test. Target ACT dates should be April, June, September (of senior year). 7. Plan to take more SAT IIs in June of your junior year (or May and then take your SAT in June). WHICH ONES? The SAT was designed as an aptitude test—it tests your reasoning and verbal abilities, not what you've learned in school. In fact, the SAT was supposed to be a test that one could not study for (though this is hardly the case today). On the other hand, the ACT, is an achievement test, meant to test what you have learned in school. However, this distinction between "aptitude" and "achievement" is dubious. There's concrete evidence showing that you can study for the SAT, and as the tests have evolved, they have come to look more and more like each other. HOW MANY TIMES? There is no set number of times that a student should take the SAT; however, most students will take the test at least twice. Some students choose to take the test three times, if they have been working hard to prepare and are confident that their scores will increase. It is not recommended that a student take the test more than three times, and it is recommended to only take the SAT subsequent times after doing some form of preparation, since you definitely do not want colleges to see a lower score on the second test. Hope this helps!

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

There is no one "right" answer

There are choices now as to which test you might prefer- the ACT or the SAT I. With my students, I would say that about one third score better on the SAT, one third score higher on the ACT and the final third score about the same. As a result, I suggest to my clients that they sit for both the SAT I and the ACT in the Spring- compare the results and if they are happy- then they do not need to retest. If they feel that they could do better- then choose either the ACT or SAT I to prep for over the summer and give it one more shot. I hate to see too much time and money spent on test preparation at the expense of student's schools work as that is much more important in gaining admissions! SAT II's are one hour achievement test which are only required by the more selective schools. I advise students to sit for two of them, if they are applying to those colleges, in the areas of their greatest strength i.e. Biology or History etc.

Marjorie Shaevitz
Admissions expert, author, speaker www.adMISSION

Standardized tests: Which ones? When? How many times?

How to know whether SAT or ACT, when, and prep As an independent counselor who has been working with students for more than twenty years, my recommendation to students is to take practice SAT and ACT tests before they do anything. They can do this for free online with College Board or Princeton Review (or go to a local Princeton Review office). Once they get the results back from each of the tests, then they can decide which test, the ACT or SAT, fits them best. Colleges accept either test. After deciding which test to take, then it's imperative for students to do some preparation. As I tell my students, would you play an important tennis game without practice or some coaching? Whether working with a test tutor, online prep with the likes of or on their own, students who prepare do better than students who don't. The time to take a test is when you are best prepared. Finally, the number of times to take a test depends on each student's circumstances. In general, two or three times is enough; but again it depends on whether the student is fully ready to take the test and do his/her best. Sometimes circumstances, such as a flat tire on the way to the test site or being sick, will dictate whether a test should be taken again. Students should do what makes sense for them.

Erica White
College & Career Counselor Middletown High School


I suggest that students take the SAT one time AND the ACT one time during their junior year. Which ever test the student did better on, I recommend taking that specific test a 2nd or 3rd time in order to improve scores. The SAT has 3 sections...reading, math, and writing. The ACT adds in science. When signing up for the ACT, it is important to register for the ACT with Writing. Some of the more selective schools require SAT subjects tests, I suggest students take these in May of their junior year, due to the fact that many students will be taking AP exams in similar subject areas around that time.

Brian D. Crisp
Founder and President Crisp Consulting + Coaching; Burton College Tours

What's the Diff?

The ACT and SAT are widely accepted at many of the selective colleges across the United States. Although both are accepted, they are extremely different. Your strengths as a student will determine which test provides you with the greatest advantage while demonstrating your abilities to admission officers. What’s the Diff? The ACT and SAT have both different content and different scoring rubrics. Each test will require its own strategies. Some of the main differences to help you decide should be the following: She Blinded Me With Science. The ACT includes specific science content and the SAT does not. If you are not comfortable with science and working with scientific information, then the SAT may be a better choice. Write of Passage. The SAT essay is required and the essay is optional on the ACT. If writing is not a strong suit, the ACT may be an advantageous choice. Score Card. The SAT deducts 1/4 point for each incorrect answer (except the math grid-ins) and the ACT has no wrong answer penalty. Guess strategies will be different for each test. To understand if a certain test will provide a particular advantage you should take a practice test for each. Many test preparation companies have assessments that will help you better understand which test is better for your admission goals. Regardless of the ACT, SAT or both, you will need preparation specific to that test.