Standardized Testing

At the most highly selective colleges/universities in the US, standardized testing remains an important factor in admission decisions. A few institutions downplay the importance of scores, and some have eliminated test requirements entirely, but those institutions are still in the minority. Because standardized testing is so important at most colleges (regardless of what they may tell you in an information session), it is critical that you understand testing requirements.

Types of Tests

PSAT/NMSQT is the Preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is given in October to our sophomores and juniors, and Deerfield handles the registration. You do not need to sign up for the PSAT. Scores from the junior year are used for National Merit Scholarship Qualification (NMSQT), and are for student, advisor and parent reference only. These scores are not sent to colleges.

SAT I is the most common college admission exam in the Northeast. The exam consists of critical reading, mathematics, and writing sections, and requires four hours to complete. It is administered six times a year on campus between October and June.

SAT Subject Tests are often referred to as SAT IIs. These are one-hour, multiple choice exams that test your knowledge of specific academic subject areas such as foreign language, math, sciences, history, and English literature. Students can choose which tests to take and the tests are offered six times per year, on the same dates as the SAT except in March when only the SAT is offered. Foreign language subject tests include a listening section only on the November exam. Many highly selective colleges require two (and very rarely three) SAT subject tests in addition to the SAT I (or ACT—see below). However, many colleges don’t require any subject tests. It is important to know whether or not you will need subject tests (and which tests you may need) so be sure to check the admission websites of the colleges you are considering. Although three subject tests can be taken in one sitting, we recommend that you sit for only one or two at a time because it is difficult to be well prepared to take three at once.

ACT (American College Test) is an alternative to the SAT and more popular than the SAT in many parts of the country. It is a content-based test with sections on reading, English, math, science, and writing. The ACT requires students to answer more questions in less time than the SAT, so speed is important. Many students find the test more straightforward. Research shows that 60% of students do about the same on both tests, 20% do better on the ACT, and 20% do better on the SAT, so it may be worth taking both to see which test is better for you. (Learn more about the differences between the tests.) Students can submit the ACT instead of the SAT I, the SAT subject tests, or both, depending on the college’s application requirements. All colleges accept the ACT and have no preference between the ACT and SAT.

We offer a free ACT practice test each February for students who would like to try it to see if it might be a better test for them. The ACT is offered in September, December, and April at Deerfield. Most students will use the May and June test dates to take subject tests. The May date falls just before AP exams, and the June test date falls at the end of exam week. Plan carefully so you can spread the tests out and prepare adequately.

Registration

Deerfield Academy Code is 220685

1.  It is YOUR responsibility to register for ALL standardized tests, except the PSAT and AP exams.

2.  Online registration is the easiest way for most students to sign up for the SAT exams and the ACT exam. You will need a valid major credit card and photo (for the SAT) to register. Be sure to have your scores sent to Deerfield when you register. 

3.  Make sure you meet the test registration deadline—standby testing is no longer available for the SAT and subject tests!

4.  International Students should enter their address as Deerfield Academy, 7 Boyden Lane, Deerfield, MA 01342 in order to avoid international charges.

5.  It is vital that you know the testing requirements of each college to which you plan to apply. Note which SAT subject tests (if any) they require and/or if it is a college with a test-optional policy. Consult with your college advisor about which tests to send to which colleges. For example, if a college is test-optional you may choose not to send your scores if they are not competitive.

6.  Always use the exact same name and address when you sign up for any test! If you sign up as John Smith the first time then as W. John Smith the next time, the computer registration and reporting systems will treat you as two different people, which will make sending scores to colleges much more difficult.

7.   Students eligible for extended time testing must see Mrs. Thiel, Deerfield’s testing coordinator, for help with the extended time application process. This must be done as soon as possible because it can take up to six months for execution of the entire process for extended time. See Mrs. Thiel for details.

8.  Fee Waivers - If you qualify for a test fee waiver (or think you might) for either test, please see Mrs. Thiel, our test coordinator, to get your code for online registration.

9.  You will receive an admission ticket for all testing sessions. Check the information for accuracy and that you are assigned to the correct testing site. If you are not, or if you have other questions, see Mrs. Thiel well ahead of the test date. Remember to bring your photo ID, admission ticket, and calculator with you to the test.

10. Each time you sit for one of the exams, you will be offered the chance to send your results to a small number of colleges for free. We advise that you do not do this the first time you sit for the exams. Your scores will usually rise in subsequent exams, and it will be best for you to send all of your scores at once when you decide on your final list of where to apply.

Testing Timeline

Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • Register for and take any SAT Subject tests for which you are qualified in June.
  • Sophomores take the PSAT in October. Deerfield will register all students.

Junior Year

  • October – PSAT (Last time Deerfield will register students.)
  • November/December – Some juniors may decide to register for and take the SAT, subject tests, and/or ACT exam.
  • January – Recommended test date for the SAT
  • April – Register for and take the ACT
  • March and May – Possible test dates to register for the SAT I and SAT subject tests. The March test date usually falls during spring break so cannot be taken at Deerfield; register for a test site near home. 
  • May and June – SAT test dates should be used to take the SAT or SAT subject tests. Your college advisor will help you decide which tests to take and when.

Senior Year

Retake the SAT I, SAT subject tests, and ACT as needed. Early Decision/Early Action applicants can still take the October and November exams and have their scores available for colleges in the early round.

Reporting Test Scores

The only way for colleges to see your SAT or ACT scores is for you to arrange for official score reports to be sent. Scores do not appear on Deerfield’s transcripts.

  • Colleges require official score reports sent directly to them from the testing agencies. As a rule, they will not accept a copy of the report the agency has sent to you, nor will they accept a copy from Deerfield. Always have an official report sent!
  • Use the correct CEEB code. Every college and other organization (scholarship agencies and the NCAA) that might want to see your scores has a four-digit code listed in the back of the registration booklet or online. The CEEB code for Deerfield is 220685.
  • SAT and ACT registration forms have spaces to put these codes when you register. A certain number of official reports are sent free of charge as part of the price of registration. Do not list any colleges in this space when you take the tests as a junior! Do, however, use the spaces for/during senior test dates, at least for colleges to which you are fairly certain to apply. You can always add others later online. To register for either exam, visit sat.collegeboard.com and/or actstudent.org.
  • Score Choice/Super Scoring. Score Choice gives you the option to choose which scores (by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests) you send to colleges—in accordance with an institution’s stated score-use practice. Almost all colleges will “super score” the SAT, i.e. they will take your best individual reading, math, and writing scores even if they are from different test dates. For example, if you scored a 650 Reading, 680 Math, and 700 Writing in January, then scored a 600 Reading, 720 Math and 650 Writing in October, you should send both score reports and know that most colleges will use 650/720/700 as your scores. 
  • Score reports for all SATs are cumulative up to the date of the request. Therefore, if you request a report for the November testing date of your senior year, it will include all tests taken up to that point, both SAT and subject tests unless you use score choice. To send your SAT I and subject test scores, visit sat.collegeboard.com/scores.
  • Score reports for the ACT are not cumulative. You must obtain a separate report for each testing date if you would like to send more than one set of ACT scores to colleges. To send ACT scores, visit actstudent.org. Most colleges do not super score the ACT although some are beginning to so be sure to ask the colleges where you are applying what their policy is regarding super scoring the ACT. If they DO super score the ACT you may want to send more than one report to those colleges so they have all of your best scores.
  • Dates by which colleges should have your scores: For students applying under any early decision or early action plan, scores should be sent by November 1st at the latest. However, if you are an early applicant and need to take a test in November, colleges will accept scores from this test date but scores should be sent immediately after the test has been taken. For most students applying regular decision or Round 2 early decision, scores should be sent after the December test date.
  • Rushing Scores: You always have the option to rush scores if you are worried new scores will not arrive in time for a particular decision deadline, but it is the opinion of the college counseling office and most admission officers that rushing scores is not necessary. Remember that scores are sent electronically and arrive instantly so rushed scores will not get there much faster but College Board charges a lot to prey on your anxiety!

Test Preparation

Familiarity with the organization and types of questions on any standardized test will be helpful, as it will allow you to focus on the content of the questions without having to spend extra time during the exam to figure out the directions. Some basic and common-sense strategies are useful in preventing extra stress and wasted time during those important hours.

There are many types of test preparation available for the SAT I, the SAT subject tests, and the ACT. These include books that students use to prepare on their own, computer software, websites, and commercial courses. At the very least, you should familiarize yourself with the format of the exams by using the booklets with sample questions provided by the College Board. Preferably you should take a full-length practice test and score it. Look over the questions you answered incorrectly or didn’t answer. Are there specific areas where you are weak and can improve on? Did you budget your time well? There are sample questions and test taking tips on the College Board and the ACT web sites. All contain practice questions, as do many of the test preparation books you can find in Deerfield Academy’s Campus Store at Hitchcock House, as well as other bookstores or online sites like Amazon. Another important free tool to help with test preparation is Deerfield’s test prep program offered through Academic Approach. It requires a password, which will be distributed via email to all students by the Academic Dean’s Office. 

Princeton Review provides some excellent test preparation books, courses both online and in person, as well as private tutors, as do many other companies. Practice tests are also available from the College Board. Some students are motivated to prepare on their own, while others may believe that they will not do the necessary preparation unless they have the external motivation that comes from a formal course and instructor. Although there is considerable debate about the benefits of test prep, we have seen enough students raise their scores significantly that we have come to believe that some preparation is valuable.

In order to take: You should be finishing:
Literature Excellent reading comprehension skills
US History US History (grade 11)
Mathematics Level I Algebra II
Mathematics Level II Pre-Calc or higher
Biology E/M Biology Accelerated
Chemistry Chemistry Accelerated
Physics Physics Accelerated (AP-B, not freshman course)
French* French III Honors or French IV
Latin Latin IV
Spanish* Spanish III Honors or Spanish IV
Chinese** Chinese IV

*Test with Listening is offered only in November. You may take the test with or without the listening section, but many Deerfield students do well on the listening test because our immersion classrooms prepare them well.

**The Chinese subject test is only offered in November and includes listening.