Do I need to take the SAT or ACT?

These are different tests and can, in some cases, appeal to students in different ways. 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 wait for their PSAT scores and sit for a practice ACT in the late fall (November or December) and then compare the scores and experiences in order to make a determination about which test is best. Students should work closely with their assigned college counselor to devise a testing plan that makes the most sense for their learning style.

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.

If a student is taking the SAT, we recommend they take their first formal sitting in March of the 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.

For students who prefer the ACT, typically February or April of the junior year is a good time to try the official test.

Athletes hoping to be recruited should plan on taking the SAT in December or March or ACT in February.

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. The website fairtest.org lists all 'test optional' schools.

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 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.

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.






SAT Subject Tests

What are the Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject Tests are hour-long, multiple choice, subject-based tests. Many colleges ask students to submit scores from two SAT Subject Tests. Branson students should select SAT Subject Tests that best showcase their academic strengths.

When do students take Subject Tests?

The vast majority of Branson students will take their first Subject Tests in the spring of their junior year. Sophomores DO NOT NEED to take a Subject Test, as they will have ample time later, but some sophomores should consider sitting for a Subject Test in either World History or Chemistry.

If a sophomore decides to take an SAT Subject Test, the June testing date is recommended.

Which Subject Test should I take?

Before deciding which Subject Test to take, students should consult with their teachers and the college counseling office.

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 may take the Level 2 test.

English: Students may take the Literature test at the end of junior year.

History: Some sophomores may consider taking the World History test at the end of sophomore year (see below for guidelines). Juniors may consider taking the US History test.

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

Language: Students may take Spanish, Latin, Mandarin, or Italian. 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 test into their overall testing calendar.

How do I know if I am prepared for a Subject Test?

Students should ask themselves two questions as they consider Subject Test preparation and options:

  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?

We also encourage students to take a practice Subject Test at home to help them determine readiness.

How do I know if I should consider a Subject Test as a 10th grader?

Sophomores performing exceedingly well in World History and Chemistry will be identified by their teachers in early April. Those names will be passed along to the College Counselors, who in turn will communicate with students about next steps. Again, students who feel that they would rather wait until junior year to take their official Subject Tests should feel comfortable with that choice.

It is very rare for sophomores to take Subject Tests in math or foreign language. Sophomores contemplating a Subject Test in math should be enrolled in precalculus. Sophomores contemplating a Subject Test in foreign language should be in the AP or 4th year of the corresponding foreign language. Please consult your teachers before making the choice to take Subject Tests in these areas.

If a student is interested in the English Literature exam, it is recommended that all Branson students wait to take the Subject Test at the end of junior year.

What if I am not recommended for a Subject Test but just want to ‘try?’

Sophomores should never take these tests “just to try” or because they “need to start the college process NOW.” Students who elect to take these tests should be those that have a strong record in standardized testing, are willing to take a practice test, and who are confident in the material.

If a student is not recommended but believes that they are a good candidate to take the Subject Test anyway, we strongly recommend they first take a timed practice Subject Test at home in April. If their score exceeds the 650 mark, then it is appropriate to register for the test formally.

How do I determine the best way to prepare for the Subject Test?

There are online and print resources in the College Counseling office to help guide students on the content and format of each individual Subject Test.

Additionally, teachers of the corresponding course will be able to provide guidance around what content areas, if any, are not covered in the course.

We encourage all interested students to take timed practice tests in advance of the official sitting.

Are Subject Test scores automatically reported to schools or can I choose which scores to report?

Most schools will let students pick which Subject Test scores will be submitted, but some schools (typically the most selective) will ask for a student’s entire testing record.

How do I register for Subject Tests?

Students register themselves online through the College Board website.