Pursue Your Passions


 Do I need to take the SAT or ACT?
Ultimately, each student should prepare for the college admission process by taking either the ACT or the SAT at least once.  A related question has to do with whether students should take both.  Some students seem to perform better on one than the other. Again, we encourage the student to make that final decision by taking a practice test for each type and then assessing which test is best in an official capacity.  Colleges accept either test.  

When should I take the test for the first time?
Students should never take the official test for practice purposes. Given that several highly selective colleges require students to submit all test scores, it is not in any student’s best interest to take the test prematurely. 
Our strong suggestion is to take the SAT I for the first time in March of the student’s junior year. That leaves multiple future dates for the student to take both the SAT I and the SAT II Subject Tests. Keep in mind, too, that students tend to do better on standardized testing the more mature they are. By March of a student’s junior year, they are usually at a place in both their mathematics and English courses to do well on the test. 
Students tend to take the SAT I for the second time in October of their senior year. If a student feels like he or she needs to take it for a third time, the test is offered again in November. Similarly, if a student decides to take the ACT, February or April of junior year is a good time to try the official test.
What happens if my testing never results in scores I am happy with? 
Not every school requires the SAT or ACT.  Some schools accept alternative testing requirements, or no testing all together.  Consult for more information. 
I am applying to university abroad-do I still need to take standardized tests?
Yes!  In fact, students who are interested in going to college overseas, especially in the UK, should plan on sitting for as many standardized tests (SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, and AP exams) as possible. 

Should I take test prep, and if so, when?
Here is what we suggest: wait until the results of the PSAT come out. We realize this will take some patience, both for the student and the parents of that student. After receiving the results, the student can determine which area(s) need some attention. At this point, students might choose to enroll in a test prep course. If a student does, remember what was mentioned earlier regarding timing of the first sitting of the SAT. Essentially, the student has three months to prepare for the SAT I after receiving the PSAT results. We believe that provides students plenty of time to prepare for the test. Many students benefit from taking timed tests on their own. Not every student needs to take a test prep course.
Athletes hoping to be recruited should plan on taking the SAT in January or March or ACT in February. 

SAT Subject Tests

SAT Subject Test Guidelines

The SAT Subject Tests are hour-long, multiple choice, subject-based tests that allow students to showcase academic strengths in subject areas of their choice.

Many colleges ask students to submit two SAT Subject Test scores. Branson students should select SAT Subject Tests that best showcase their academic strengths. With the help of the teachers and college counselors and the guidelines set out below, students should develop an overall standardized testing plan for which tests to take as well as optimal dates.

As emphasized on the College Board’s website, students may do well on the tests without having studied every possible aspect of a subject: “If there are some practice questions or topics that you’re not familiar with because you haven’t studied them in your classes, don’t worry. The SAT Subject Tests are national tests meant to cover topics learned in the majority of high school classrooms across the country. However, what’s taught in one classroom is not necessarily the same as what’s taught in another classroom, even if both are teaching the same subject. As such, it is possible that you may not have covered every single topic on the test. Furthermore, you do not have to get every question on each test correct to receive the highest score (800) for that test. Many students do well on the tests despite not having studied every topic covered on the test”(

For information about test format and registration, please visit Students are responsible for registering themselves for SAT Subject Tests.

When is the optimal time to take the test?

Typically, students take the SAT Subject Tests in June of junior year. In some cases sophomores who perform exceptionally well in a course with a corresponding SAT Subject Test may take the test at the end of the sophomore year.  Students who opt not to take the SAT Subject Tests at the end of the sophomore year will have ample time to develop a standardized testing plan during junior year.

Math, Science, or History:  June is the optimal time to take these tests as students have just completed the related courses and synthesize the material as they study for final exams. 

Literature:   June of the junior year

Language:   Students of Mandarin, Italian and Latin face limited test date options and must think strategically about when the test is available and how to fit the Language or Language with Listening test into an overall plan for standardized testing.

Which SAT Subject Tests should I take?

Math:  Students who take Algebra II their junior year may take the Level I test.  Students who take any level of Precalculus during the junior year or earlier should take the Level 2 test.  Students should consult with their teacher or the chair of the department to determine readiness for these tests.

English:  Students may take the Literature test.

History:  Students may take the World History or US History tests but we advise that students first check with their instructor to assess their readiness to sit for these exams.

Science:  Students may take Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.

Language:  Students may take Spanish, Latin, Mandarin, or Italian.

How do I know I’m prepared for the test?

Students should ask themselves three questions as they consider SAT Subject Tests.

1. Am I performing well in the corresponding academic class (earning a grade of B+ or higher)?

2. Does my teacher recommend that I take the test?

3. Have I taken and scored well on a practice test?

What else can I do to prepare?

Students may prepare by using an SAT Subject Test study guide to provide familiarity with the SAT Subject Test question style and format.

Please consult the page 14 of the Student Handbook for additional information about the standardized testing.



The New SAT


Class of 2017:  New SAT FAQ

1.    When do the changes of the new PSAT and SAT take place?

The new PSAT debuts in October 2015 and the redesigned SAT will be offered in March 2016. 

The Class of 2017 will have the opportunity to take the redesigned PSAT once before any official sitting of the new SAT. 

 2.    How is the new SAT different than the old SAT?

The redesigned SAT revives the 1600-point scoring scale and will include an optional essay section.   Additionally, the test eliminates the guessing penalty, will include a non-calculator math section, and will be slightly longer overall if students elect to take the writing portion. Specific content changes to both the Reading and Math sections can be found at the following link:

 3.    Should students sit for the optional Writing section on the SAT and/or the ACT? 


 4.    Does the roll-out of the new SAT change the advice from the college counselors about appropriate timing for the overall testing plan? 

 Given that the vast majority of our students elect to take their first sitting of the SAT in March of their junior year, most students will not be impacted by the timing of the new SAT administration.  By then, students will have taken the redesigned PSAT and will have the opportunity to spend a few months preparing for the new format. 

 5.    Should students try the old SAT?

In most cases, the answer will be no.  For those students who have a history of being strong in standardized testing (e.g. sophomore PSAT scores, etc.), and are performing well in a precalculus level math class or higher, we would recommend sitting for a timed practice test of the old SAT in the fall of junior year to determine if taking the old SAT is an appropriate course of action.  We encourage students who are curious about this option to make a meeting with a college counselor to discuss further.

6.    When should students start preparing for the new SAT? 

College Board is already releasing information about the new SAT and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.  Therefore, we expect that plenty of new testing information will be available to students to use in advance of their first sitting of a spring SAT. Students will have plenty of time to prepare for the new test in order to enter their official testing plan with confidence.  We will be monitoring these changes closely and will update students and families when new information becomes available.

7.    Should the change in the new SAT affect a student's decision to take the SAT vs. ACT? 

Our advice remains the same.  Knowing that colleges value these tests equally, we always suggest that students familiarize themselves with the structure, content, and format of each test before deciding which test is the better fit.  That most juniors will begin their official testing in the spring of junior year allows for plenty of time for this assessment to take place.  Students should work closely with their assigned college counselor to devise a testing plan that makes the most sense for their learning style.

 8.    Will colleges state a preference for the old SAT vs. the new SAT?

Many colleges have already made statements about the changes to the SAT, reassuring students and families that they will accept both versions and will not have a preference.  Policies may change over the summer, so it is always prudent to double-check the websites of individual colleges. 

 9.    Will the PSAT in October 2015 reflect the structure of the new SAT?

Yes. And students will receive their scores from that test in mid-December, which provides one data point to determine the most appropriate testing plan for each student.  

Testing Resources
Each of these sites has sample questions for the tests, as well as full copies of tests. These sample tests can help you determine on which subject tests you are likely to perform best.