Standardized testing is an important factor in admissions decisions at most highly-selective colleges and universities. A few institutions have downplayed the importance of scores, and some have eliminated test requirements entirely, but those institutions are in the minority. At most colleges and universities, standardized testing still matters.
Covenant wants our students to understand testing requirements and to keep testing in a proper perspective. Often more important than test scores are the student’s academic achievement and extracurricular activities, with respect to both getting a top notch education and enhancing the chances of admission to selective institutions.
The SAT Reasoning Test
The SAT Reasoning Test is primarily a multiple-choice test containing critical reading, math, and writing components designed to measure one’s critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Colleges and universities use this test as a standard measure when evaluating an applicant’s credentials during the admission process. Taking the test more than three times is not generally helpful; if one is for some reason considering doing so, he/she should come to discuss it with the College Advisor. The Covenant School recommends taking the SAT during one or two of the sittings from January to May and, one last time, in October of the senior year. Regardless how many times a student takes the SAT, colleges receive all of the scores; you will not be allowed to choose which scores to send. Most colleges will select the best critical reading, math, and writing scores from all sittings of the test in order to create a composite score. Register for the SAT on-line at www.collegeboard.com.
SAT Subject Tests
The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour tests, mostly multiple-choice, designed to measure knowledge in a particular subject and the application of that knowledge. Tests in twenty-one subject areas are offered. Some colleges require SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the ACT. Some that require these subject tests insist that students take either the Math Level I or the Math Level II test and one additional test of the applicant’s choosing. The scores from these tests are used as part of the admission process and, in some instances, for placement after admission is offered. Applicants should, well in advance, learn the testing requirements for the colleges to which they will likely apply. Register for SAT Subject Tests on-line at www.collegeboard.com.
The Covenant School recommends that juniors reserve the final testing date of the school year – June – to take the SAT Subject Tests. If necessary, they may retake one or more of these tests in November or December of the senior year.
The ACT – American College Test – is a battery of tests which combines elements of aptitude and achievement in a single test instrument. As with the SAT Reasoning Test, the ACT helps predict academic success in college and serves as a standard measure by which students from diverse educational backgrounds can be compared. The ACT is a content-based, multiple-choice test with four sections: English, reading comprehension, mathematics, and science reasoning. Test takers receive a score for each section and a composite score ranging from one to 36.
Although few Covenant students typically take the ACT, those who have do so because they believe their scores on the SAT Reasoning Test do not accurately reflect their abilities, especially when those scores fall short of their performance in the classroom. The ACT tends to focus more on grammar, punctuation, and general comprehension than does the SAT. Taking both the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT in the winter and spring of the junior year gives juniors an idea whether one test will more accurately reflect their abilities. With this knowledge, the test that produces better results will be the test to take a second time in an attempt to achieve a higher score. Register for the ACT at www.act.org.
The purpose of the TOEFL – the Test of English as a Foreign Language – is to evaluate the English proficiency of those whose native language is not English. The test was initially developed to measure the English proficiency of international students wishing to study at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and this continues to be its primary function. The TOEFL measures proficiency through three sections – listening, structure, and reading – to measure an examinee’s ability to understand English as it is spoken, to recognize the language that is appropriate for standard written English, and to read and understand short passages on academic subjects. International students at Covenant should take the TOEFL. Register for the TOEFL at www.toefl.org.
Non-standardized testing is helpful to those who have a diagnosed and properly documented learning disability or physical handicap. The College Board and the ACT both offer extended time testing for those who qualify. Students who receive and have used accommodations in classroom testing for at least four months at Covenant, might be able to qualify for the same accommodations on standardized testing and should meet with the College Advisor to discuss such a possibility.
Students are responsible for either calling the Educational Testing Service (ETS) or going on-line to the College Board to request release of their standardized test scores (SAT) to colleges and universities to which they are applying. The same applies to those taking the ACT, except that they will make their request to ACT rather than to the ETS.