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 important at most colleges (regardless of what they may tell you in an information session), it is critical that you understand testing requirements.

New SAT Overview (beginning with March 2016 test)

Types of Tests

PSAT/NMSQT is the Preliminary SAT National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is given each 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, college advisor and parent reference only. These scores are not sent to colleges.  The PSAT is similar in structure and content to the SAT; strong performance on the PSAT might indicate a preference for the SAT when the time comes to choose which test to take in the junior winter/spring.

SAT is one of the two major exams associated with college admissions; the other is the ACT.  Years ago, the SAT was more commonly taken by students on the east or west coasts, and the ACT was primarily taken by students in the Midwest; now there no geographic distinction, and colleges will accept either test with no preference.  The SAT exam consists of reading, mathematics, and writing sections, and requires four hours to complete. It is administered six times a year on campus between October and June.  Beginning in summer 2017, there will be an August test date off campus. Students are responsible for registering themselves for all testing after the PSAT, including the SAT, ACT, and/or Subject Tests.

ACT (American College Test) is an alternative to the SAT and has recently overtaken the SAT as the exam most frequently taken by high school students.  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. Research shows that the large majority of students do about the same on both tests; however, a small number will do better on the ACT or the SAT, so we recommend students take a practice test of each to see which test is preferable, based on a score comparison and the student’s experience with the test format. (Learn more about the differences between the tests.)

SAT Subject Tests are one-hour, multiple choice exams (offered by the College Board, the same company as the SAT)that test your knowledge of specific academic subject areas such as world languages, math, sciences, history, and English literature. Students can choose which tests to take, if any, 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. Language subject tests include a listening section only on the November exam. Some highly selective colleges require two SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. Most colleges don’t require any subject tests, though if you are a strong standardized test taker with solid content knowledge in any of these Subject Test areas, it may be advisable to have a few strong scores to complement your testing profile. It is important to know whether you will need subject tests (and which tests you may need) as you make your testing plans, so be sure to check the admission websites of the colleges you are considering.  (For example, many engineering programs will require applicants to take Math 2 and Physics or Chemistry.) 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.

 

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, 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 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, 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 SAT subject tests unless you use score choice. To send your SAT and SAT 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

Prior to taking an SAT, an ACT, or a Subject Test, the College Advising Office strongly recommends that students spend time preparing.  Students should find the option that works best for their learning style, schedule, and budget. 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.

At the very least, 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.  Therefore, at minimum, you should familiarize yourself with the format of the exams by using the booklets with sample questions provided by the College Board and/or the ACT. 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?

We recommend that students try a practice test of the SAT and the ACT to determine which test they prefer or the test on which they perform better. Once you choose your test, it’s best to focus your energy on preparing for that one test; no college will require or expect both. Once students have determined which test is the best fit for them, we encourage students to find a program or resource that will allow for reasonable, consistent practice and prep.   There are many types of test preparation available.  These include books that students use to prepare on their own, online resources, tutors, and commercial courses. See the Links and Resources page for more information about test prep resources available to Deerfield students.  

Subject Tests: Subject Tests are required or recommended by a small number of selective colleges. Many Deerfield students choose to take a few Subject Tests to demonstrate their command of certain disciplines, even if the test is not required by a certain college. (As always, it’s best to refer to colleges’ websites for their requirements.) The best preparation for the SAT Subject Tests is successful completion of the relevant course.  Of course, students should also familiarize themselves with the test format using a test prep book from the library, amazon, or the bookstore to do their best work.  Below are the recommended Deerfield courses to complete before taking the Subject Tests.  Students should consult with their teachers if they have questions about the extent to which a particular course prepares them for an exam.

 

In order to take: You should be finishing:
Literature grade 11 English, with excellent reading skills
US History Honors US History
Mathematics Level I Algebra II
Mathematics Level II Pre-Calculus or higher
Biology E/M Biology Accelerated
Chemistry Chemistry Accelerated
Physics AP Physics 2 or AP Physics C
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.