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Testing

Overview
Though many colleges use a variety of factors for admission to four-year colleges, the two most important are grades and test scores. Regarding testing, students wanting to attend a four-year university will take (at a minimum) either the SAT or the ACT, though some experts recommend taking both. Students in selected majors may also be required to take specific subject tests. Check with each university and the appropriate department(s) regarding their testing requirements for admission. Students generally take admissions tests during the end of their junior year or the very beginning of their senior year.

NOTE: Students hoping to get into the most selective colleges and competitive majors should realize that they will need to spend a significant amount of time studying for admissions tests on their own, above and beyond what their teachers require. Students and parents also need to know that the highest-scoring students begin preparing for these tests as early as freshman or sophomore year.


SAT
Created and administered by the CollegeBoard, the SAT tests students’ knowledge and ability in reading, writing and math. Each test Critical Reading and Writing and Math is worth 800 points, for a maximum total score of 1600 points. Students wishing to demonstrate a minimum level of college and career readiness should be aiming for a score of 1100. Students wishing to apply to highly-selective colleges and majors should aim for a score of 1470 or above (the 2017 California cutoff score for the National Merit Scholarship program).

ACT
Created and administered by the CollegeBoard, the ACT tests students’ knowledge and ability in English, math, reading and science. The scores for all of the sections are averaged for a maximum composite score of 36. Students wishing to demonstrate a minimum level of college and career readiness should aim for a score of 23. Students wishing to apply to highly-selective colleges and majors should aim for a score of 32 or higher. 

Placement Testing
Students who do not demonstrate minimum college readiness in math and English on the CAASP, SAT, ACT AP or IB exams will have to take placement tests once they are admitted to a college. Students are encouraged to demonstrate minimum readiness during their junior year, but definitely before graduating from high school. If students cannot demonstrate readiness before graduation, they are highly encouraged to spend 2-3 months or more preparing for the placement tests at the college they will attend.

NOTE: Generally, placement tests can be taken only once, which means students should prepare for these tests and take them very seriously. In addition, failing to pass placement tests will increase the time and money needed to earn a degree and increases the likelihood a student may drop out.

Testing for Credit
Students who earn qualifying scores on AP and IB exams can earn college credit while they are still in high school, which can significantly reduce the amount of time and money required to earn a college degree. Policies for AP and IB credit are set by each college and university.

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