Let’s start by saying that if, after researching thoroughly, you are still unsure about what to do regarding tests, CALL THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICE for that school. That said, there are some pieces of information that are readily available and can guide the process.
Is it okay to self report my scores?
Many schools now allow students to enter their scores on whatever application they are using. Once a student is accepted and chooses to attend, an official score report has to be sent. Official score reports are provided by the companies that give the tests – CollegeBoard.org for the SAT and ACT.org for the ACT and they cost money. These fees can add up, even if you have a few fee waivers. Check out this list: self-reporting or check the college’s own website.
Which scores should I send?
Most people take these tests more than once and get different scores across the various sections each time. There are a few ways schools look at what you send:
They want to see it all – every time you took the test they want to see a score
They super-score – meaning they pick the highest section score across all test dates and create a new composite that represents your best results across all dates
Best seating – they want to see the score from the date where your composite was highest
Score choice – you decide exactly what to send
To see policies at most places, check out: evaluating scores. And, of course, there’s the college’s own website.
Should I take the writing section?
We hear you sighing. Very few colleges absolutely require the writing section. But a few do, most notably all the schools in the UC system. Other schools recommend the writing section. We tend to translate the word recommended to required. But each person knows their own strengths and weaknesses, so it becomes a matter of personal choice. Check out: writing requirements and the school’s website.
What is “test optional"?
A recent development in the testing world is the increasing number of schools with test optional policies, meaning you have the option of sending or not sending your scores.
If a school says it’s test optional, and you have great scores, send them. If not, consider holding them back. If you do not send scores, some schools will add written questions for you to answer. You can also use “other information” sections on applications to explain your decision.
For a list of schools that are test optional, check out: test optional policies.
Schools which are “Test Flexible” may accept tests other than the SAT or ACT to evaluate a student, such as subject tests. See policies on school websites.
Should I take subject tests?
If your school requires them, then a definitive yes is your answer. Only a few do. And a few others recommend them. However, if you are applying to an extremely competitive major such as engineering, many other applicants will send their scores, so, if they’re favorable, you should too. Here’s the info: subject test requirements.
What’s the latest date I can take the test?
Now that schools have a variety of application deadlines, the date on which you take the test matters. A general rule of thumb is take the test so that your scores are available by the deadline you’ve chosen. If you choose Early Action and the deadline is Nov. 1, 2019, be sure you have scores by then.
HOWEVER, colleges recognize that synchronizing score reports with deadlines can be challenging. Somewhere on their website you should be able to find the last “test date” score a college will accept. And if you can’t find it: CALL THEM.
In general, for all aspects of testing: IF YOU’RE NOT SURE, CALL THEM.
Also check out this fantastic resource provided by Compass Education Group: Compass Guide.