Standardized TestingStandardized Tests are:
Tests that are administered and scored under uniform (standardized) conditions... Also, tests that are usually commercially prepared for nationwide use to provide accurate and meaningful information on student's level of performance relative to others at their age or grade levels. (education.com)
Typical standardized tests that our students will encounter are:
Although a number of schools are moving away from using standardized tests as an admission criterion, in a competitive national applicant pool standardized testing plays a supporting role in the selection process. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, among other factors influencing admission decisions, standardized tests were among the most important criterion for admission following grades in college preparatory courses.
Admission officers see test scores as a leveler in that they provide a uniform nationwide basis for comparing applicants. Not all high school courses are equal, not all grade point average are equal. Test scores are used as confirming evidence of the applicant’s record. Many colleges recognize that some students do not test to their true capability. A strong academic record can often off set a three or four hour testing experience. However, high scores and a weak academic record often indicate a student who may be perceived by the admission committee as a risk.
Which test should I take?Typically two tests are offered for admissions: the ACT and the SAT. Both are universally accepted. The ACT is curriculum based and tests English, mathematics, reading, and science. The writing test on the ACT is optional. The SAT measures critical reading and mathematical abilities and also has a writing test. The state of Michigan will provide all Juniors free of charge the SAT in April. This is a college reportable score. Most colleges will accept either the ACT or the SAT. In addition, some top tier schools require two or three Subject Tests one of which must be math. Students should always check to see if a school requires the Subject Test before subjecting themselves to another test. Students should play to their strengths and select the test that will best represent them to colleges. Reviewing percentile scores for PLAN (pre-ACT) and PSAT are a great indicator for this selection.
When should I take the ACT or SAT? What about the Subject Tests?
All students will take the SAT in April as part of state testing. It is typical that students’ scores will rise a bit in subsequent administrations so we strongly encourage students to take the test twice. Many will choose to take it a third time. More than three times is not typically necessary. Review the testing calendar along with the academic calendar to decide on a strategy for testing and register in a timely fashion in order to take the test at Grosse Pointe North. If a college requires a Subject Test they should be taken close to the end of the course while the information is fresh in the student’s mind. All Subject Tests are one hour in length. The most efficient way to register for a test is on-line at www.collegeboard.org or www.actstudent.org
What if I cannot afford to pay these test registration fees?
Students who are eligible for the free or reduced lunch program as well as families experiencing financial hardship may be eligible for a fee waiver. Students should speak with their counselor for more information.
If I take multiple tests, do the colleges see all my scores?
When sending ACT, SAT or Subject Test scores you will have the option of choosing which scores to send to the colleges. Most colleges state that if they receive multiple scores they will only use the highest score when evaluating applications. Some colleges will actually combine sub-scores from multiple test sittings in order to create a higher composite score (super score). It is important to check with each college to determine if this is their policy. If so, it may be to the student’s advantage to send more than just the test with the highest composite score. A small number of highly selective institutions are requiring students to submit the results of ALL tests taken.
How do I let the colleges know my scores?
Once you decide which scores you want to send to a college, you must arrange to do so directly with the testing agency. Test scores no longer appear on your high school transcript since colleges state that official scores must be submitted by the appropriate testing agency. At the time of test registration, you can specify to which schools you want your test sent or after you have taken the exam and have received your scores you can report the scores via the internet.
At the time of registration you can report up to four colleges at no extra cost. Students may send scores to colleges long before they submit their applications. Because later score reporting costs a fee per college, this first method is less expensive. The second method, although more costly, is sometimes preferred by students because it allows the student to know all of his/her scores before deciding which should be used.
Should I utilize some form of test prep?
The best preparation for doing well on college entrance tests is to take a strong high school program. However, if you believe your scores suggest you test poorly or that you are not as prepared as you would like in specific subject areas you might want to consider test preparation. Khan Academy offers free and official test preparation for the SAT. Students can link the results of their PSAT with Khan so that they can have personalized preparation plan best on their previous results. Grosse Pointe South does not endorse any specific outside services, but a list of options is available in the counseling center.
What about the SAT students take for state testing?The SAT is the test that South will administer free of charge to Juniors in April as part of state required testing. This is an official score that is reportable to all colleges for admission.Test Descriptions:
- ACT: The ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in:
The ACT Plus Writing includes the four subject area tests plus a 30-minute Writing Test.
ACT results are accepted by all 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S.
The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).
The ACT is administered on six test dates within the United States, U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, and Canada—September, October, December, February, April, and June. In other locations, the ACT is administered on all of the above dates except September.
The basic registration fee includes score reports for up to four college choices, if you list valid codes when you register.
The ACT tests are prepared according to the:
- Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education (1999).
- Code of Professional Responsibilities in Educational Measurement, National Council on Measurement in Education (1995).
- Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education, Joint Committee on Testing Practices (2004).
- SAT: The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.Taking the SAT is the first step in finding the right college for you — the place where you can further develop your skills and pursue your passions. But SAT scores are just one of many factors that colleges consider when making their admission decisions. High school grades are also very important. In fact, the combination of high school grades and SAT scores is the best predictor of your academic success in college.
- PSAT:The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT®. It also gives you a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and gain access to college and career planning tools.
The PSAT/NMSQT measures:
- Critical reading skills
- Math problem-solving skills
- Writing skills
You have developed these skills over many years, both in and out of school. This test doesn't require you to recall specific facts from your classes.
The most common reasons for taking the PSAT/NMSQT are to:
- Receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study. You can then focus your preparation on those areas that could most benefit from additional study or practice.
- See how your performance on an admissions test might compare with that of others applying to college.
- Enter the competition for scholarships from NMSC (grade 11).
- Help prepare for the SAT. You can become familiar with the kinds of questions and the exact directions you will see on the SAT.
- Receive information from colleges when you check "yes" to Student Search Service.
- HOW TO READ the PSAT results
Answers to your questions about how the PSAT/NMSQT is scored
The lowest possible score on each section of the PSAT/NMSQT is a 20; the highest is an 80. To score the test, first, a raw score is computed:
- Students receive one point for each correct answer, regardless of difficulty.
- For incorrect answers to multiple-choice questions, a quarter (1/4) of a point is deducted. Nothing is deducted for unanswered questions or for incorrect answers to student-produced response (grid-in) questions.
- Next, the raw score is converted to a score on the PSAT/NMSQT scale of 20 to 80 points. This statistical procedure, called equating, adjusts for differences in difficulty between various forms, or editions, of the test. Equating:
- Makes it possible to compare the scores of students who have taken different editions of the test
- Makes the scores from last year's test comparable to those from this year's PSAT/NMSQT
Do PSAT/NMSQT scores fairly reflect students' skills?
Concern for fairness is an integral part of the development of the PSAT/NMSQT. Comprehensive reviews and analyses ensure that questions and tests are fair for different groups of students. Although differences in test performance may be the result of many factors, long-term educational preparation is the primary cause. The test itself reflects such differences but does not cause them.
When are score differences significant?
Student score reports show a numerical score for each skill area, as well as a range that extends from a few points below the score to a few points above. This range shows the extent to which an individual student's score might differ with repeated testing, assuming that the student's skill level remains the same.
When comparing scores between students in the same skill area, true differences in skill levels can be determined using the standard error of the difference (SED). Differences of fewer than 8 points (or 1.5 SED) are not significant, while differences of 8 points or more reflect true differences in skills.
How should schools use PSAT/NMSQT scores and results?
PSAT/NMSQT score reports should be used to help students:
- Evaluate skill levels
- Prepare for the SAT Reasoning Test
- Compare their readiness for college-level work with that of their peers
- Get information on their educational plans
PSAT/NMSQT scores are not for use by colleges as part of their admission criteria. Scores should not be included on student transcripts that will be reproduced and sent to colleges unless the student (age 18 or older) or parent/guardian has granted permission. Inform students of their right to withhold these scores from admission or athletic offices, even when requested.
How can students compare how they did in relation to other test-takers?
On the score report, percentiles for juniors compare their performance with that of other juniors who took the test. For sophomores or younger students, percentiles compare their performance with that of sophomores. Percentiles are based on the critical reading, math, and writing skills scores earned by a sample of college-bound juniors or sophomores who took the PSAT/NMSQT. Learn more about 2009 Percentiles and Mean Scores (.pdf/74K). Requires Adobe Reader (latest version recommended).
What skills are reported on the PSAT/NMSQT student score report?
The "Your Skills" section of the PSAT/NMSQT Score Report shows students how they performed on each of the skills measured by the PSAT/NMSQT. This information gives students a complete picture of their relative strengths and weakness, allowing them to see which areas they should focus on improving.
Students can then log on to My College QuickStart™, using the access code provided on their paper score report. There they will find personalized improvement advice and hundreds of practice questions to help them improve the skills that they need to develop.
How can the PSAT/NMSQT be used to estimate SAT® scores?
The PSAT/NMSQT point scale of 20 to 80 is comparable to the SAT point scale of 200 to 800. A quick way to estimate a comparable SAT score is to add a zero to the end of a PSAT/NMSQT score. For example, a 42 on the PSAT/NMSQT critical reading section is roughly equivalent to a 420 on the SAT critical reading section.
Juniors frequently take the SAT six or seven months after taking the PSAT/NMSQT. Sophomores will not take the SAT for 18 months, so there may be a greater likelihood that these intervening activities will influence sophomores' SAT scores. Estimating Junior-Year SAT Scores (.pdf/89K) shows how scores change for students who take the PSAT/NMSQT in October and the SAT Reasoning Test the following spring.
How much do PSAT/NMSQT scores improve if a student takes the test as a sophomore and again as a junior?
A study of 710,595 students who took the PSAT/NMSQT in October 2007 as sophomores and again in October 2008 as juniors found an average gain of 3.3 points higher in critical reading, 4.0 points in math, and 3.3 points in writing skills based on a score of 20 to 80.
Keep in mind that these are averages: some students earn scores in their junior year that are significantly higher; others receive lower scores. In general, juniors with low sophomore scores have larger score gains than do those with high sophomore scores.
The data does not show to what extent average gains from one year to the next might be due to learning and consequent growth in the skills measured by the test, and to what extent average gains might be due to the practice effect of taking the test for a second time.
Learn more about PSAT/NMSQT Score Change from Sophomore to Junior Year (.pdf/53K).
What is the Selection Index?
The Selection Index is:
- Used by National Merit Scholarship Corporation as an initial screen of program entrants and to designate groups of students to receive recognition
- Reported on a scale ranging from 60 to 240
- The sum of a student's critical reading, math, and writing skills scores. For example, a critical reading score of 56, a math score of 62, and a writing skills score of 59 would result in a Selection Index of 177 (56 + 62 + 59)
Should students be able to finish all questions on the test?The PSAT/NMSQT is developed so that almost all students complete 75 percent of the questions. Approximately 80 percent of the students reach the last question. If there are particularly difficult questions at the end of a section, sometimes the percentage of students completing the section is lower than intended. Students do not need to attempt all questions in order to earn an average or above-average score.Helpful Links:
- My College QuickStart - this is a fantastic resource that includes college matches, career matches, SAT study plan and a personality profile. Also links to creating a Junior Action Plan, Scholarship Search, Financial Aid planner and Academic Tracker. Students will need the Access Code found on their PSAT Score results to access this info.
- Most four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of AP Exam scores. By entering college with AP credits, you'll have the time to move into upper level courses, pursue a double-major or study abroad. AP exams are taken in May at Grosse Pointe South. Students will register through their AP classes with fees collected by the registrar's office at the school. AP Score Reports are sent in July to the college or university you designated on your answer sheet, to you, and to your high school. Each report is cumulative and includes scores for all the AP Exams you have ever taken, unless you have requested that one or more scores be withheld from a college or canceled.
Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. These are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests.
SAT Subject Tests allow you to differentiate yourself in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding your readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. In conjunction with your other admission credentials (your high school record, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, etc.), they provide a more complete picture of your academic background and interests.
Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. Based on your performance on the test(s), you could potentially fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses.
There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. Try the free practice questions or download the Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Tests practice booklet.Also, check out our Frequently Asked Questions to get answers to more specific questions about Subject Tests.
In March 2007, Michigan high school students said goodbye to the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Plan) and hello to the Michigan Merit Exam (MME). Unlike the MEAP, this new test not only combines items from several tests, it will save students and families time and money. The exam will provide students with:
• A free ACT college entrance exam score that can be used to apply to college. In other words, you no longer have to pay to have your child take the ACT. Students will be allowed one free retake of the MME if they did not qualify for the Michigan Promise scholarship.
• A free WorkKeys assessment that connects work skills training, and testing to improve students’ education and job opportunities.
- Michigan assessments that measure what students know that parents, educators and employers say is important in core subject areas and not covered in the ACT and WorkKeys.