Standardized Testing

Everything you need to know about the ACT, SAT, and more.

Overview

There are two primary global testing agencies that produce and administer standardized tests that most colleges use in considering an applicant for admission. These agencies are The College Board (PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP) and ACT Inc. One is not preferred over the other in college admission processes. Though some students will feel more confident with one format over the other.

Here is an overview of these important standardized tests:

Students will first encounter the practice assessment for the ACT in October of their sophomore year. As sophomores, the PreACT test is strictly for practice purposes and the scores will have no bearing on college entrance.

One caveat: if a student wants to take a dual enrollment course through the community college, PSAT or PreACT scores will be considered for qualification.

PreACT is partnered with Kaplan and provides some free test preparation opportunities. This exam is scheduled and administered by BCS. Students do not have to register independently.

The ACT is offered once a month for most of the year. Test date calendars can be found by visiting ACT.org. Students must register approximately a month in advance of the ACT testing date.

ACT Inc. has a deal with the state of North Carolina (and several others) where the state covers the cost of one ACT test for all juniors. We administer the ACT each year at no cost to the students. This test is usually given in late February or early March. All juniors must participate in this sitting of the ACT. Beyond the school administered ACT, students are welcome to register for subsequent sittings as they see fit or are counseled to do so.

The ACT offers the opportunity to send your scores to up to 4 colleges for free at time of registration. If you do not have a solid list of schools, no worries. Pick four you are considering at the time of testing. You can always send additional score reports once you firm up your application list. It is typically $12-$15 per college to send score reports.

Colleges only consider your highest scores regardless of administration date. So don’t worry about sending off what might not be your highest score. Scores will not be evaluated until you have submitted a complete application for admission.

Optional writing portion: The SAT has an optional writing portion. There is an additional fee for this portion. Most schools do not require this portion. However, check individual college websites to be sure. Colleges change these requirements year to year (generally moving away from requiring standardized testing). 

Junior year, students will take the PSAT for SAT practice. The PSAT, like the PreACT is a data point that can help us determine how to best build an academic and collegiate plan. It can give us insight into what type of test prep will best work for you and it is a qualifying test for dual enrollment courses.

College Board is partnered with Khan Academy to provide free SAT prep based on an individual student’s PSAT scores. The PSAT taken in the junior year is the National Merit Scholarship Programs Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Students who score in the top 1% nationally may receive some recognition and potential scholarship from select colleges who participate in National Merit incentive programs. 

Students do not have to register for or pay for either practice test opportunity. We handle that at a school level.

The SAT is offered once a month for most of the year. Test date calendars can be found by visiting collegeboard.org. Students must register approximately a month in advance of the SAT testing date. Students must register independently for the SAT. BCS is not a testing center. Students are welcome to choose the testing center closest to home. Most public schools and many community colleges serve as test centers.

Students should take their first SAT in their junior year. We advise juniors to sit for the December or March test. Juniors at that phase of the year should have covered the majority of the curriculum tested on the SAT. The SAT offers the opportunity to send your scores to up to 4 colleges for free at time of registration. If you do not have a solid list of schools, no worries. Pick four you are considering at the time of testing. You can always send additional score reports once you firm up your application list. It is typically $12-$15 per college to send score reports.

Colleges only consider your highest scores regardless of administration date. So don’t worry about sending off what might not be your highest score. Scores will not be evaluated until you have submitted a complete application for admission.

Many colleges “Super Score” which means they will take your highest EBRW score and your highest Math score regardless of SAT date and add them to give you the highest overall composite score.

Optional writing portion: The SAT has an optional writing portion. There is an additional fee for this portion. Most schools do not require this portion. However, check individual college websites to be sure. Colleges change these requirements year to year (generally moving away from requiring standardized testing). 

College Board also offers approximately 30 subject specific standardized tests. Most students will not need these. However, some of the Ivy League and most selective colleges in the country do require or recommend 2-3 subject tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. Students can start taking subject tests in their sophomore year.

Generally after an AP course in the subject, students will be prepared to take the subject test. See your counselor for advice on which of these to take when. Again, very few students need these. If colleges don’t ask for it, don’t take it. 

Up to three subject tests can be taken on an administration date. However, it is not recommended to take more than two on a given administration date. Subject tests cannot be taken the same day as an SAT.

The school’s AP Coordinator handles all the registration and testing activities for AP Exams.. The state of NC has a deal where they are currently paying for public school students to take all AP exams. BCS expects you to take the AP Exam if you are taking the course.  It is free.  If you want college credit you must take the exam.

Your score on the exam will determine what credit you get in college. AP scores are self-reported in the college application process. You need only pay to send them to the one college where you choose to enroll. In general, scores of 4 or 5 will grant college credit. A score of 3 may or may not earn your credit. 

What type of credit is dependent on each school’s policy.

NOTE: Students can take the SAT and ACT as often as they like. However, studies show that scores tend not to move much beyond a third sitting. All testing needs to be wrapped up with the November test date in the student’s senior year in order to have results submitted to colleges in time for admission decisions.

Reporting test scores

Regarding all score reporting to colleges. It is the student’s responsibility to have official score reports sent directly from the testing agency to colleges. It can take 4-6 weeks for scores to be received once requested to be sent to a college. It then can take a couple of weeks for colleges to process scores on their end.

Send early. Do not wait! 

A new trend being seen in the college application process is that colleges are allowing students to self-report SAT or ACT scores for admissions purposes. They only require you to pay to send official scores once you decide to enroll. This is an attempt to eliminate a hurdle for students applying to college. Check individual college websites to learn what their policy is currently.

Do not let cost stand in the way of taking an SAT or ACT.

Find out if you are eligible for a test fee waiver. It has to do with household size and gross family income. Let your counselor know that you qualify and we will help you with the fee waiver. The same guidelines apply for SAT and ACT.