Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Standardized Testing

Written by Lisa Bleich

Is it better to take the SAT or the ACT?

It makes no difference; both tests are equally accepted at colleges.  The only exception is that some accelerated medical school programs only accept the SATs.

Do I have to report all my scores?

It varies by school what their policy is regarding score choice.  The most common options are below.

Highest Section Scores Across Test Dates.  Colleges will consider the highest score for each section of SATs (and in some instances the ACTs) to create a superscore, however most will not supercore between the old and new SAT.  (Some schools will even combine scores across tests, for example Georgia Tech will look at the highest scores between SATs and ACTs.) Students have the option to choose whichever scores they want to send, but must send the entire score for a single sitting.  Once the scores arrive at the college or university, they will only consider the highest score from each section.  Some schools that adhere to this policy are: Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, Washington University in St. Louis, Princeton, and MIT.

Single Highest Test Date.  In this scenario, colleges will only consider the single highest test date for a given sitting.  Some schools that follow this policy are: The University of Wisconsin and Penn State.

All Scores Required.  For these colleges, students must send all their scores and the colleges will review them all. Some schools on this list include: Yale, Cornell, Stanford, The University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Berkeley, and Georgetown.

Click here for a full list of score choice requirements published in 2012.[1] 

Click here for the SAT Score Choice FAQs

Will I be penalized for taking ACT or SAT multiple times?

No, most schools only consider the top scores and do not penalize students for taking the test multiple times.

Do schools superscore the ACT?

Some schools will take the highest scores from each section to create a new composite ACT score, but many do not.  Click here for a full list of schools that superscore the ACT.  

Do schools consider non-required test results, such as SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams? 
If you include these test results as part of your application, some schools will consider them only in light of how they might benefit your review. However, some other schools, such as Vanderbilt, recommend not sending SAT subject tests that are not in the top 90th percentile because it will impact the application.  This also goes for AP scores that are lower than a 3 and for the most select schools lower than a 4 or a 5.  It is better not to report the scores than to report a low score.  Students do not need to send their official AP exam scores until they have matriculated at a given college.

What if I change my mind about which SAT subject tests to take after I register?  That is fine.  You do not need to decide which tests to take until the day of the exam.  You can take up to three subject tests per sitting and can take as many or as few as you like the day of the exam.


[1] Please check with the College Board or the school website for the most up-to-date requirements.

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