Time to stock up on #2 pencils
|High School Standardized Testing Timeline
At CHCA, the PLAN test is administered during the school day in the fall of the freshman year to begin to familiarize students with advanced college entranced standardized testing. There is no cost for this exam, and the results are used for counseling, planning and course progression through high school only. These scores are not reportable.
Students take the PSAT during the school day in the fall of their sophomore year at CHCA as practice for the SAT Reasoning Test. If a sophomore is enrolled in an AP class, he/she may have the opportunity to take the AP test for that class that year (generally in May). Similarly, if a sophomore plans on applying to highly selective colleges who recommend or require SAT Subject Tests, he/she should take the appropriate Subject Test(s) in June of their sophomore year (if the student has just completed relevant course work in that subject area).
The PSAT/NMSQT will be taken again in the fall of the junior year, where scores are to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students should plan on taking the SAT and ACT at least once during their junior year. Students enrolled in an AP class should take the AP test for that class that year (generally in May). Students who wish may also take additional SAT Subject Test(s) as scheduled during their junior year.
Since most students begin applying to colleges in the fall and winter of their senior year, the SATs and ACTs should be completed by December of the senior year. Students who wish may also take additional SAT Subject Test(s); which will need to be completed by December for most general college applications. Note that students who are applying Early Decision or Early Action will need to have all testing completed by October of their senior year. Students enrolled in an AP class should take the AP test for that class that year (generally in May).
College Admissions Testing
There are two different standardized tests used for college admission in the United States – the American College Test (ACT) and the SAT (Reasoning Test). These tests are also accepted by a number of international universities. Colleges accept both tests. We recommend that students take both the SAT and the ACT in the spring of junior year. Because some students do better on one test than the other, trying out both allows the student to find his/her strength. Students can discuss their results with their college counselor to determine a specific strategy for potential continued testing.
Both the ACT and SAT test standards of Math and English; only the ACT has a Science section (primarily a Reading test). Both the ACT and SAT include an essay: the SAT essay is mandatory, but the ACT essay is optional (we advise students to take it). Students must check with prospective colleges to see what their Admissions Office requires. The ACT scores each section on a scale of 1 to 36, and compiles a total composite score using the same scale. Each section of the SAT (English, Math and Writing) is scored on a scale of 200 to 800, with 2400 being the highest possible combined score. A student can selectively send the best ACT or SAT scores to the colleges to which they apply. Students should discuss score reporting with their college counselor if there is any question about which scores to send.
The PLAN Test®
The PLAN program helps students in early high school build a solid foundation for future academic and career success. It is a comprehensive guidance resource that helps students measure their current academic development, explore career/training options, and make plans for the remaining years of high school and post-graduation years.
As a “pre-ACT” test, PLAN is a powerful predictor of success on the ACT. At the same time, many schools recognize the importance of PLAN testing for all students, as it focuses attention on both career preparation and improving academic achievement. These curriculum-based tests in English, Mathematics, Reading and Science cover skills and knowledge commonly taught in high school, and are judged to be important for success in both high school and college. The tests measure what students know and what they are able to do with their knowledge.
Typically, PLAN is administered in the fall of the sophomore year. However, CHCA administers the PLAN to all 9th grade students. The content of the PLAN tests is closely tied to that of the achievement tests in the ACT. For additional information, see www.actstudent.org.
The PSAT/NMSQT, or Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, is a multiple-choice standardized test administered by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). The PSAT taken in the sophomore year provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test. The PSAT/NMSQT will be taken again in the fall of the junior year, where scores are used (with the permission of the student) to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
The test is composed of three sections: Mathematics, Critical Reading and Writing. Each of the three sections is scored on a scale of 20 to 80 points, which add up to a maximum composite score of 240 points. This parallels the SAT, which is graded on a scale of 200 to 800 (the narrower range is to distinguish from which test a score comes and to denote less accuracy). However, unlike the SAT, the PSAT does not include higher-level mathematics (e.g., concepts from Algebra II) or an essay. At CHCA, the PSAT is administered in the fall of the sophomore and junior year. See www.collegeboard.com for additional information and study guides.
National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC)
The PSAT will be taken again in the fall of the junior year as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholars program. The Preliminary SAT®/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a program co-sponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). The sum of the three section scores is known as the Selection Index, and is used, along with four general criteria for eligibility such as U.S. citizenship (or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law) and for both preliminary and primary selection in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Students enter NMSC competitions by taking the PSAT/NMSQT, which serves as an initial screen of approximately 1.4 million entrants each year, and by meeting these published program entry and/or participation requirements. NMSC uses the Selection Index score on the PSAT/NMSQT as an initial screen of program entrants and to designate groups of students to be honored in the competitions it conducts.
Students not recognized as Semifinalists whose Selection Index is above a different limit are recognized as Commended Students and receive Letters of Commendation. After being confirmed as a Semifinalist, one year after taking the PSAT as a junior, students must complete an application to become a Finalist. Other factors besides the PSAT Selection Index score are taken into account, such as the student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) and extracurricular activities. For more information about NMSC, visit www.nationalmerit.org.
The ACT assessment measures high school students’ general educational development and their capability to complete college-level work with the multiple-choice tests covering four skill areas: English, Mathematics, Reading and Science. The optional Writing test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay, and is used to calculate a Writing score. Specifically, ACT states that its scores provide an indicator of “college readiness” and that scores in each of the subtests correspond to skills in entry-level college courses in English, Math, Social Sciences and Biology. Students are given a 1-36 score on each of the four required sections. The average of these scores, rounded to the nearest whole number, constitutes the “composite ACT score.” The essay is not factored into the composite score, but is graded and combined with the English score to create a separate Writing score.
The multiple-choice English section tests punctuation, grammar, usage, mechanics and rhetorical skills. Math questions on the ACT cover primarily arithmetic, algebra and geometry. Unlike on the SAT, there are also a few trigonometry questions. The Reading section is comprised of four reading passages in the categories of fiction, humanities, social science and natural science. Students are asked to answer 10 questions about each passage. The Science section consists of seven passages, each with 5-7 questions. The questions ask students to interpret graphs/charts/tables, understand experiments, and comprehend scientific discussions. The Science section does not presuppose a significant science background in any area.
The ACT is typically administered three times in the fall, once in the winter, and twice in the spring. There is no penalty for wrong answers on the ACT (there is a penalty for incorrect answers on the SAT). For additional information and study preparation information, see www.actstudent.org.
The SAT Reasoning Test is a measure of the critical thinking skills needed for academic success in college. The SAT assesses analysis and problem solving—skills learned in school that are needed in college. Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200—800, with two writing subscores for multiple-choice and the essay. It is administered seven times a year in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Territories, and six times a year overseas. The SAT includes several different question types, including a student produced essay, multiple-choice questions and student produced responses (grid-ins). See www.collegeboard.com for additional information and study preparation information.
In addition, there is one 25-minute section that is utilized to ensure that the SAT continues to be a fair and valid test. This is a common test development practice, but this does not count towards the final score. This may be a critical reading, mathematics, or writing multiple-choice section. This unscored section is used to try out new questions for future editions of the SAT. It also ensures that scores on new editions of the SAT are comparable to scores on earlier editions of the test. This helps to ensure the fairness of the SAT, a primary objective.
The SAT is comprised of 10 total testing sections. The first section is always a 25-minute essay and last section is always a 10-minute multiple-choice writing section. Sections two through seven are 25-minute sections. Sections eight and nine are 20-minute sections. Test-takers sitting next to each other in the same session may have test books with entirely different content sequences for sections two through nine (Math, Critical Reading, and Writing).
The SAT Subject Tests®
SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II: Subject Tests) are designed to measure knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge. Highly competitive colleges generally require SAT Subject tests. Students take the Subject Tests to demonstrate mastery of specific subjects like English, History, Mathematics, Science and Language. The tests are independent of any particular textbook or method of instruction, and test content evolves to reflect current trends in high school curricula. Colleges may use the Subject Tests for admission, course placement and to advise students about course selection. Used in combination with other background information (the high school record, scores from other tests like the SAT Reasoning Test, teacher recommendations, etc.), they provide a dependable measure of academic achievement and are a good predictor of future performance. Some colleges specify the Subject Tests they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take. Want to know more about when to take the tests, which ones to take and how to study? Download this handy PDF or visit www.collegeboard.com for additional information.
Subject Tests fall into five general subject areas: English, History and Social Studies, Math, Science, and Languages. Most students take Subject Tests toward the end of the junior year or the beginning of the senior year, or as soon as possible after completing a relevant course in that subject. For Foreign Language tests, at least two years of study are best prior to taking the test. All Subject Tests are one-hour, multiple-choice tests. However, some of these tests have unique formats:
- The Subject Test in Biology E/M contains a common core of 60 general-knowledge multiple-choice questions, followed by 20 multiple-choice questions that emphasize either ecological (Biology E) or molecular (Biology M) subject matter. Before testing begins, the student must choose which test they will take, either the ecological or molecular. Students are not allowed to take both tests in one sitting. If this happens, the scores may be canceled.
- The Subject Tests in Mathematics (Level 1 and Level 2) have some questions that require the use of at least a scientific or graphing calculator. Mathematics Subject Tests are developed with the expectation that most students will use a graphing calculator.
- The Subject Tests in Languages with Listening (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish) consist of a listening section and a reading section. Students taking these tests are required to bring an acceptable CD player with earphones to the test center.
How many times should I take the SAT or ACT test?
How often a student should take college placement examinations varies by student. Each student is different in terms of goals and test scores. Discuss your individual testing strategy with your college counselor.
How are SAT and ACT test scores reported to the colleges to which I am applying?
It is the student’s responsibility to request official SAT and ACT score reports be sent directly to the colleges and universities to which he/she is applying. Test scores are NOT included on the official CHCA High School transcript. Students are given four free score reports on either test when they register. Students can also pay to have additional scores sent. When the students take either exam, they are asked to provide a code associated with the CHCA High School (360957).
Should students study for these tests?
Most students can increase their score through preparation. Students can either study independently or there are a number of college test preparatory programs available. CHCA offers SAT prep twice a year. See the Guidance Office for additional local resources. Some websites also offer preparatory activities and additional resources (www.actstudent.org and www.collegeboard.com).
When should a student take the SAT Subject Tests?
Many highly selective colleges recommend or require SAT Subject Tests. It is important to check specific college websites to see what each school requires. For students who plan to take them, they should take Subject Tests as close to completion of the relevant topics as possible (in other words, some students may choose to take SAT subject tests as early as the end of the sophomore year). Students can work with the CHCA Guidance Office to determine whether colleges they are interested in require or accept these tests, which tests are required and which are optional, and whether taking these tests is a recommended part of that student’s portfolio. Want to know more about when to take the tests, which ones to take and how to study? Download this handy PDF or visit www.collegeboard.com for additional information.
Which test should I take: the ACT or the SAT?
Colleges in the United States accept either the ACT or the SAT. We recommend that students take each test at least once to determine if the student is better suited for one test or the other. Once the student receives his/her scores, it is advisable to speak to the college counselor to determine an individual testing strategy.