Most colleges and universities require the submission of standardized test scores as part of the application process. The testing process can be stressful for students, but with information and preparation, the tests may seem more manageable.

Tests include the PSAT, the SAT, Subject Tests, the ACT, and APs. There are two major testing agencies: the College Board and ACT. The College Board administers the PSAT, the SAT, Subject Tests, and AP exams. ACT administers only the ACT test. Not all tests are appropriate or necessary for all students. Each test has its own registration and reporting procedures, so it is important to review the information provided by the individual testing agencies. 

It is worth noting that more and more schools are becoming "test-optional;" in other words, students may choose whether to disclose their scores.

The Tests

PSAT/NMSQT

PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. This test serves two purposes. First, it helps to prepare students for the SAT exam. Second, it gives students the opportunity to qualify for National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarships.

Park School administers a practice PSAT for all students in the spring of the sophomore year. The official PSAT is given in the fall of the junior year. Park School registers the entire junior class for this examination; families are not involved in the registration process.

SAT

The SAT is test of reading, writing, and math skills and understanding. This is an analysis-based test. The test is comprised of two required multiple-choice sections: Evidence-Based Reading & Writing and Mathematics. The SAT now includes the interpretation of charts and graphs from the sciences and social sciences and passages from history, social sciences, and the humanities. There is also an optional Essay section, which is required at a small number of colleges.

Most Park students take the SAT. They usually take the test for the first time in the winter or spring of their junior year. Most students take this test twice. 

This test is administered at multiple sites in the Baltimore area; students must register themselves for this test online at collegeboard.com

Please note: A new version of the SAT was launched in March 2016. Scores on this new test do not correlate to the same scores on the old test. Scores on the new test are higher. It is important to keep this in mind when comparing scores earned on the new SAT to reported data for applicants who took the previous version.

Subject Tests

The Subject Tests, once known as the SAT IIs, measure students' knowledge in specific areas. These tests fall into five general categories: English, History, Science, Math, and Foreign Language. All of the tests are multiple-choice. Some of the Language exams also have listening sections.

Park students usually take the Subject Tests at the end of their junior year. Some students take Subject Tests at the end of their sophomore year, but usually consult with their teachers before doing so.

Only a small number of competitive colleges require that students take Subject Tests. Most of these schools ask that students complete two Subject Tests. 

This test is administered at multiple sites in the Baltimore area; students must register themselves for this test on line at collegeboard.com.

ACT

The ACT is an achievement test that looks at students' reasoning, problem-solving, and application skills in four areas. The test has multiple-choice questions in English, Math, Reading, and Science.  The ACT also has an optional Writing section, which is required at a small number of colleges. Like the SAT, the ACT is analysis-based; students do not need any content knowledge in order to complete the exam.

Most students take the ACT for the first time in the winter or spring of their junior year.

Students have a choice of whether to send ACT or SAT scores to colleges — all schools accept either test. The ACT can be a better test for some students. We recommend that students take practice SAT and ACT tests before deciding which one is best for them. 

This test is administered at multiple sites in the Baltimore area; students must register themselves for this test on line at act.org.

Students can compare their SAT and ACT scores using a concordance table provided by the SAT: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/scores/understanding-scores/sat-score-converter

Advanced Placement (AP)

The Advanced Placement exams, or APs, are content-based tests offered in many subject areas. The AP exams are rigorous; they usually include both multiple choice sections and essay-writing or problem solving.

The APs offer students two potential benefits. First, some colleges may view high AP scores as a plus in the admissions process. Second, students with high scores on these exams may be awarded college credit or be given exemption from required college courses.

Students who take these exams typically do so in junior (and sometimes senior) year. The exams are offered once a year in May.

AP exams are not required for admission to any college.

AP exams are administered at Park School; students register for AP exams at Park in March.