Should I take the test?

SATs and ACTs can be a really helpful way to make your college application even better.


Will Bryant

A student double checking their work on a standardized test.

Applying to college can be stressful. Scratch that… it IS stressful. Finding all the right words to describe yourself, compiling as many activities on your resume as possible, making sure you have good grades, presenting yourself in the best possible light, the list goes on.

At the end of it all, all you can do is hope that your application is good enough. Just enough to get you into your dream school so you can get your dream job. So what can you do to get there? What is can make your application stand out? One answer: Tests.

Many colleges are looking to see that you took one of two tests: the ACT or the SAT. They want to see that you can overcome both the physical test and push through the mental toughness of them.

Let’s start with the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or more commonly known as, the SAT.

The SAT is a Math and English test (with an optional essay portion) that scores out of 1600, and every question you get correct adds to that score. This form of test is helpful for college because it shows them how strong you are in every subject you take the test for. The average overall SAT score is about 1000.

SATs also have subject tests that you can take, which are especially helpful if you test on a subject you plan to pursue after high school.

“Not everyone takes the subject tests and it’s required for some of the majors,” senior Annette Strube said about the usefulness of the subject tests. Taking these course specific tests can add another layer of depth into your application, and make you stand out all the more.

The American Common Testing program, or ACTs, however, work differently. First of all, ACTs— instead of giving you a cumulative score like the SATs— give you an average score. They take your scores in each of the four subjects that the test covers, and find a mean. So if you struggle in one of their four subjects (reading, writing, math and science), you can still get a good grade on the test as a whole if your other portions on the test are higher.

Many students would agree that taking at least one of these tests is worth the money. However, that all depends on what you want to do.

“For some colleges [subject tests] will help, not for all,” said senior Jung-Jin Choi.

If you want to go to college to study English, then a physics SAT subject test may not help you. It all depends on what you want to do.

Every college is different when it comes to these standardized tests. Some colleges and universities might superscore your tests.  Superscoring is when colleges look at your best scores in each of the categories and use them to calculate your highest score.

There are even some colleges that are test-optional. So if you aren’t the best test-taker in the world, or don’t have the money to pay for it, this could be a good option too.

In the end, however, the decision on which test to take, if any, is up to you.

My advice: Go for it. Take the tests.

You can never know what you can do, unless you go out and do it. Take the SAT or ACT until you feel comfortable with your score. Show the the college board just how awesome you are.