Most high school students who are considering college should participate in a program of standardized testing. Either the SAT or ACT are required by most colleges and universities as a factor for consideration in the admissions process.
College entrance tests are designed to measure a student’s ability to do college level work. By having a standardized set of test scores for every student applying to a college or university, the admissions professionals are able to compare students from different states, schools, and academic backgrounds.
It is rare for any college to base its admission decisions solely on the results of the SAT or ACT scores. Decisions are made based on all the information available to a college including the high school transcript, teacher and counselor recommendations, personal statement, resume, interviews, and test scores. At each college, the weighing of these factors varies, but the high school record is almost always the most important single factor for consideration for admission. We recommend that students do spend some time preparing for their SAT or ACT tests.
Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT)
The PSAT is taken in October of the Junior year. Sophomores may also choose to take the PSAT. The PSAT offers students the opportunity to participate in a standardized testing situation that is less stressful for the student; PSAT scores are not reported to colleges and universities. PSAT scores are used as qualifiers for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Test results are given as a critical reading score, a math score, and a writing skills score as well as the National Merit Selection Index which is the sum of the three scores.
The SAT is a test used by many colleges for entrance purposes. It is a test with three parts: critical reading, math and writing. A score ranging from 200 to 800 is reported for each of the three parts, making 2,400 a perfect score. The tests are given on Saturday mornings at Fayetteville-Manlius High School in October, November, May and June. The cost is approximately $54.50. Registration booklets, forms, and test preparation materials are available in the high school counseling office. Registration deadlines are approximately five weeks prior to each test administration. Students may register on the College Board website.
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SAT Subject Tests
About one-third of colleges and universities require two to three SAT subject tests. Each test is one hour in length and is designed to measure a student’s knowledge of a specific subject. Tests are given in a number of subjects including: Literature, Math, Biology E/M, Chemistry, Physics, Korean, Chinese, Spanish, French, Latin, German, History and more. Scores are used by admissions professionals to help them evaluate a student’s accomplishment and promise in a particular academic subject area. Some colleges use the scores for placement purposes.
The student, when in the college search process, should be aware of subject test requirements. The student is encouraged to sit for the SAT Subject Tests at the end of a one-year course (examples: Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History) or when a student is finishing a continuous subject matter area (examples: French, Spanish, English Composition). Students are encouraged to consult their counselor with questions about the subject tests.
The student may take up to three tests at each test administration date. SAT Subject Tests are given on Saturday mornings at Fayetteville-Manlius High School in October, November, May, and June. Along with a $26 Basic Subject Test Fee, most Subject Tests cost $18 each. Students may register on the College Board website. Please note that not all Subject Tests are administered at F-M, and not all tests are given on each test date. Students cannot take the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests on the same day.
The American College Testing Program (ACT)
The ACT is accepted for entrance and/or placement purposes by many colleges and universities. It consists of a series of four tests in the following areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. There is also an optional Writing Test which measures the student’s ability to plan and write a short essay; many colleges ask that students take the ACT with Writing.
The tests are designed to provide an overall estimate of a student’s ability to succeed academically at the college level. Each test deals more with the use of skills than with specific subject matter.
Tests are administered on Saturday mornings in October, December, April and June at some neighboring schools. Approximate cost is $38, with an additional $16.50 for the Writing Test. Deadlines for registration are posted and are readily available in the Counseling Center. Students may register by mail or online at the ACT website.
TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language
For the student whose primary language is not English, the TOEFL offers a way to be competitive in the college application process without being penalized for a deficiency of English vocabulary.
For more specific information about standardized testing, students are encouraged to talk with their counselor.