What exactly are US News and the College Board?
The College Board, which is headquartered in New York City, has been around for a long time. It is a membership association that was formed in 1900 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB). The College Board is now composed of close to 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations. The organization sells and provides for the administration of standardized tests used by academically oriented post-secondary education institutions to measure students' abilities. The College Board offers the PSAT/NMSQT and the SAT Reasoning and Subject tests.
The PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test):
The PSAT is not used directly by colleges and universities when they make their college admissions decisions. A student's acceptance or rejection will usually (but not always) take into consideration the SAT or the ACT, which is administered by another organization. It is advisable, however, for a student to take the PSAT. Although the testing takes less time, it is structured in a way similar to the SAT, so that the student can gain a good sense of his/her strengths and weaknesses in this kind of timed multiple-choice test situation. It is important to know that students who do very well when they take the test while in the 11th grade may be eligible for National Merit Scholarship awards or recognition. This recognition can then affect college admission, even though specific PSAT scores are not submitted.
The SAT -
SAT Reasoning tests are intended to measure a student's Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics capabilities. Many higher education institutions require either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT as one of their admissions criteria because it is felt that there is a correlation between the standardized test scores and the student's later college success. The College Board also offers SAT Subject tests, which are required for admission to some institutions. These tests focus specifically on one subject - a language, biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc. There can be considerable differences among various colleges/universities with regard to the importance attributed to the standardized tests in making their admissions decisions, as well as their individual test requirements. A small, but growing, group of colleges/universities, for instance, have decided not to require standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT) from their applicants at all because they feel that the tests are culturally biased and are not representative of a student's ability to succeed in college.
US News & World Report
The US News & World Report is a news media outlet which has been publishing under that name since 1948. Since 1983, the organization has published yearly comprehensive rankings of a wide range of colleges/universities, now also including graduate schools, high schools, and other institutions. Many factors are taken into consideration when determining the rankings - types of schools, location, acceptance rate, financial aid offerings, and so on. A student might see some of these factors as being of greater or lesser importance to him/her. There has been considerable controversy over the actual value of rankings, in that it is difficult to fit the human factor into the equation - the personal needs/personality of each student. Just because an institution is highly ranked doesn't necessarily mean that it would be the best place for any given student to study.