Colleges use SAT, ACT, and other standardized test scores in different ways, some in the admission process and some for placement.
While the application essay is an important sample of the student’s writing ability, the SAT and ACT writing sections demonstrate other writing skills. The test sections are timed and show the student’s ability to write a cohesive, intelligent first draft. Since writing skills are crucial to succeeding in college, the writing test score is helpful in the admission process.
If you take the SAT multiple times, you can choose which score you send to your colleges and universities. However, if you do not highlight a particular score, the College Board will report all your scores to your schools. It takes the College Board five weeks to send your test scores, but you can request “rush reporting” if necessary, which takes two business days and costs extra. Keep in mind not all colleges and universities accept rush reporting.
Some schools, particularly selective institutions, also require SAT Subject Tests, which focus on specific areas like world history, literature, mathematics, and foreign languages. Colleges and universities will typically ask for two SAT Subject Tests, and you should take the test in your strongest subjects. Just make sure you know which schools do and do not need to see your SAT Subject Test scores; you get four freebies, but after that, it costs more.
You may also encounter some test-optional schools, a growing list of colleges and universities that do not require standardized test scores. (For a full list, visit the National Center for Fair and Open Testing at www.fairtest.org.) However, these schools may still “recommend” you send in your scores or may require supplemental materials in lieu of scores.