Many students stress about standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, thinking their score on those tests will determine their future. That simply isn’t true. In recent years, many schools have placed less emphasis on standardized tests, looking more closely at the other application elements.
Some schools do still highly value standardized test scores, of course. But many also look more closely at AP and IB scores or SAT subject tests than they do at general SAT or ACT scores.
On a practical level, this outlook means a few different things. First, colleges are looking at general SAT and ACT scores to see a general range of scores as a shorthand measure of whether or not you’re likely to be a good fit for their school. Small differences in scores (say, 50-100 points on the SAT) don’t matter. In addition, they’re looking at your test scores in the context of the rest of your application, so scoring a little worse than you thought you would doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance if your transcript, essay, letters of recommendation, and extracurricular activities are strong.
Second, it means that colleges are looking at your test scores together. Especially at selective schools, you’ll be sending in AP or IB scores, SAT subjects tests, and the general SAT or ACT scores, giving the college a range of scores to use to evaluate—and you a range of chances to get high scores.
To boost your standardized test scores, you should research the tests required and accepted by the schools you’re interested in and then research those individual tests to learn how to best prepare for them. You’ll take the PSAT during the fall of your junior year, but consider taking the SAT or ACT that fall and spring. If needed, you can take the test again during the fall of your senior year. Check with the colleges to which you are applying to find out if they superscore. This means the college will take your highest standardized test score overall from each section across all testing dates.
Visit our testing section for more information on boosting your scores, or check out these articles on the College Board website: