Top-Tier, Test Optional Colleges & Universities

Nationwide, many colleges and universities are reexamining their admissions policies and de-emphasizing test scores. More than 1,000 accredited, four-year colleges and universities now make decisions about all or many applicants without considering ACT or SAT test scores. Half of the U.S. News “Top 100” liberal arts colleges are on FairTest’s list of test-optional schools.

Some of the most highly rated test-optional liberal arts colleges include Bates, Bowdoin, Furman, Holy Cross, Pitzer, Sewanee, Smith, Wesleyan, and Whitman. And among leading national universities, American, Brandeis, UChicago, GWU, and Wake Forest are all test-optional.

FairTest.org is the leading advocate of the test-optional movement. There are many reasons for the test-optional surge, according to FairTest. Schaeffer explained, “Studies show that an applicant’s high school record – grades plus course rigor – predicts undergraduate success better than any standardized exam. By going test-optional, colleges increase diversity without any loss in academic quality. Eliminating testing requirements is a ‘win-win’ for both students and schools.”

“College and university leaders are sending a clear message,” Schaeffer concluded. “Test scores are not needed to make sound educational decisions. It’s time for K-12 policymakers to pay attention and back off their testing obsession for public schools.”

You can find FairTest’s frequently updated directory of test-optional, 4-year schools list online at https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional.

A list of test-optional schools ranked in the top tiers by U.S. News & World Report is posted at http://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/Optional-Schools-in-U.S.News-Top-Tiers.pdf.

Every year, we help students apply to and gain admission to many of the top tier test-optional schools on these lists. Contact us to learn more about how to maximize your chance of admission to a selective test-optional college.

 

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Colleges that Allow Self-Reporting of SAT and ACT Scores

Applying to college is expensive! There’s application fees, test registration fees, and official score reporting fees. Many students are eligible to have these fees waived, but most students don’t qualify for waivers.

Colleges in the list below compiled by Compass have stipulated that students may self-report their test scores in their applications. Click on the name of the college to visit the page on their website where the policy is explained. Note: only colleges that have written policies on their websites or application materials are included here.

*Will not accept self-reported scores, but publicly states that they will accept scores submitted by the high school counselor as “official.”

Please note: All colleges require official test scores upon enrollment; these are application policies only. Students should check directly with each college to confirm they have the most recent and accurate policy information.

Source: Compass

 

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The 5 Biggest Differences Between the SAT and ACT Explained

Test prep is not really my thing, but it plays a big role in the college admissions process for many students. That said, be on the lookout for some testing-related guest posts in the coming months! The article below is by Nicholas LaPoma, the owner of Long Island-based Curvebreakers Test Prep.

1. Timing

Possibly the most important difference between the two tests is timing. In short, you get less time per question on the ACT. Check this out:

As you can see, you get much less time to complete any one question on the ACT. One of the most important examples is on the Reading tests. On the SAT you get 13 minutes per passage, on the ACT you get 8 minutes 45 seconds per passage. That is a huge difference! So, if you struggle with timing, the SAT is likely for you.

2. Question Distribution

The SAT and ACT have a vastly different distribution of questions in terms of subject matter. This is especially true in the Math section of the tests, as the ACT has a large amount of Geometry and Trigonometry questions and the SAT does not. The SAT is more Algebra focused.

Further, the ACT is considered an achievement test (What you learned) whereas the SAT is often considered to be a trickier, more aptitude based test (based on skills).  If you hate Algebra, and like straightforward word problems, the ACT Might be for you.

3. No-Calculator Math

A similar but important consideration is how one will handle no-calculator Math. Many students are used to punching every question and operation into their calculator and are totally reliant upon the calculator for basic multiplication and division. These students will struggle on the no-calculator portion of the SAT, as you may have to do long division. Some schools do not allow students to use calculators until a certain grade level – those students will be better equipped to tackle this section.  If you really struggle with no-calc, the ACT might be for you.

4. Science Section

As you probably know, the ACT contains a science-based section. This is actually a reading / chart reading / graph reading task, so it often correlates well with reading score. That means that the ACT is mostly based on reading skill, whereas the SAT is mostly based on Math skill.

As indicated above, the Science section actually makes the ACT a more reading based exam, where the SAT is a more math based exam.

5. Question Difficulty

The SAT is typically considered an aptitude test. It is based on your skills in each area that is tested. The acronym SAT initially stood for Scholastic Aptitude Test, proving the point. The SAT is unable to move away from its roots and become a totally achievement based exam, so many students “feel” that the questions are more tricky or difficult. If you like more straightforward questions, the ACT may be a better test for you. We find little difference when preparing students for the exams, but some students in particular find one test more appealing than the other for this reason.

 

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International SAT Date Changes

The SAT is offered internationally several times a year. Unfortunately, the following changes to the international testing schedule were recently announced:

  • In June 2017, only the SAT Subject Tests will be administered internationally. The SAT will not be administered in June.
  • In the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years, the SAT will be available internationally in October, December, March, and May. SAT Subject Tests will be available in October, November, December, May, and June.
  • Country-specific scheduling changes will be announced in spring 2017.

Learn more about international test dates and registration here.

Planning Your Testing Calendar in 2017

Great post by the team at Applerouth! All juniors (and sophomores who want to get ahead) should give it a read!

It’s the start of a new year, and with the new year, new questions that need answering, especially those related to finances. If you are a junior who will meet with your college counselor in the next few weeks to begin the college admissions journey, you will want the SAT or ACT tests to be on your radar this spring. If you have already taken an SAT or ACT at least once and are wondering if you should try again, or if you have yet to sit the official test, helpful information awaits.

In 2017, the SAT will be offered this semester on January 21st, March 11th, May 6th, and June 3rd. This is the last year for the January SAT date and the first year for an August SAT administered this summer on August 26th. The ACT will be offered on February 11th, April 8th, and June 10th.

In determining which test(s) you should take, there are a few considerations to make in order to ensure that you position yourself to get your highest score. Most importantly, you will want to prepare adequately. Take a practice test at the College Board or ACT website, evaluate the scores you receive, and begin preparing for the content, strategies, and timing pressures that you will encounter on the test. Ideally, you will devote at least a month of daily practice, with a few timed practice tests, to give your first test a solid performance.

Not only is preparation essential, but you will also need to consider your own schedule. Do you have an important robotics competition that would prevent you from taking the February ACT? What are your spring break plans? Is finals week sufficiently stressful to preclude you from taking the June SAT? Look at your academic and extracurricular calendars, and discuss a potential date with your family to see if there are any conflicts.

Finally, if you are planning on taking the SAT, you might be considering taking an SAT Subject Test or two to submit to colleges. Those tests take place on the same day as the SAT and, while you may take up to three SAT Subject Tests on any one test day, you cannot take both the SAT and a Subject Test. Typically, students will take SAT Subject Tests around May or June in order to coincide with AP Exams, since both tests are content-heavy. If you were planning on taking the SAT as well, you will want to consider how to organize your calendar to accommodate both tests.

Maybe you took the SAT or ACT this past year and are wondering if or when you should take the test again. Taking the SAT or ACT test is an investment of time and energy, not to mention money. Is it worth spending another Saturday morning in a high school classroom, working on math problems and reading passages? In most cases, an extra test is worth the extra effort when accompanied by a few necessary steps.

In order for a student to do her best on any number of SAT or ACT tests, preparation is paramount, no matter how many times you have taken the test previously. A student may take the test a dozen times, but you will likely get the same score if you have not devoted considerable time to understanding the test format, building mastery with the content, and practicing the testing strategies.

Often, when you take the test the first time, you might feel considerable anxiety. Once you make it out of the testing center and realize that an SAT or ACT test is totally doable, you might perform better on the second test, simply because much of the burden of anxiety has lifted. You know what the proctor will say; you know how to pace yourself for each section; you can manage the various demands placed on you. Sometimes, it may take an additional test for a student to overcome the effects of those stressors.

Of course, it might be that you don’t need to take the test an additional time. You adequately prepared, felt that you performed your best on each of the test dates, and have the scores that put you in a competitive position with your colleges. In that case, you can focus your attention on other aspects of your application – boosting your GPA, contributing more to extracurriculars, arranging those teacher recommendations – or taking a well-deserved break.

Each student’s history of test preparation and test performance will differ; however, there are abundant opportunities this spring either to prepare for and take the test for the first time, or to shoot for one final test to achieve your highest result.

Read the full article here!

You Just Took the PSAT—Now What?

psat-nmsqt

PSAT scores are now available online for counselors and will open to students on Monday. Compass Prep has prepared a number of resources that can help with interpretation, provide context, and illuminate where to go from here. I suggest checking them out!

Understanding Your Score Report

Using PSAT Scores to Compare SAT and ACT

National Merit Semifinalist Preview: Class of 2018

PSAT National Merit FAQ: The Road to Becoming a Finalist

 

 

College Board Simplifies Request Process For Test Accommodations

College Board Announces New SAT® Testing Supports for English Language Learners

NEW YORK—The College Board has overhauled its request process for testing accommodations, making it easier for eligible students to receive the support they need on College Board assessments.

Beginning January 1, 2017, the vast majority of students who are approved for and using testing accommodations at their school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved for taking the SAT®, PSAT10, PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT Subject Tests, and AP® Exams. Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams. This streamlined process builds on the College Board’s August 2016 expansion of testing accommodations that can be approved directly by schools without the need for additional documentation.

Read full release here: https://www.collegeboard.org/releases/2016/college-board-simplifies-request-process-for-test-ccommodations?ep_ch=PR&ep_mid=11326140&ep_rid=163330058

The Future of SAT Subject Tests

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Why are Subject Tests required by drastically fewer colleges than a decade ago? Is the relevance and popularity of the tests actually diminishing? Are the tests likely to survive or will they be discontinued by the College Board?

The perceived necessity of College Board’s Subject Tests has been on the decline since 2005 when the SAT II Writing test was essentially folded into the SAT. Subject Tests are explicitly required (no substitutions or exceptions) by only five U.S. colleges, about 90% fewer than just a decade ago. Read more via this helpful Compass post. 

How to Interpret New ACT Score Reports

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The redesigned ACT student score reports aim to contextualize students’ scores and offer details about students’ individual strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, these goals are impeded by the overwhelming volume of information included on score reports.

This excellent post from Compass breaks down the exact contents of the student score report and explores how both students and parents can benefit from the information.

In Transitional Year, SAT Scores Drop on Old Test

The College Board today announces average scores on the SAT for last year’s high school graduating class — and such announcements are typically a time of debate over the state of education, the value of standardized testing, educational inequities and more. This year’s results are somewhat difficult to analyze, because some students took the old version of the SAT and others the new. The College Board reported declines in the average scores from the class, but those averages are for those who took the old SAT. The ACT also reported declines this year, noting that more students are taking the test. Both the College Board and the ACT are pursuing more contracts with states to require high school seniors to take one test or the other, and that means more test takers may not in fact be prepared for or preparing for college.

In comparing the old SAT’s scores for the class of 2016, compared to 2015:

  • The average for critical reading was 494, down from 497.
  • The average for math was 508, down from 512.
  • The average for writing was 482, down from 487.

Full results are available here, but readers are cautioned by the many caveats about comparisons because of the transitional year.