Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Personalized Educational & College Admissions Services

South Florida 561.509.0021 
Boulder/Denver 720.737.9944
Online 833.MY.ESSAY   
Experience the Difference!
 Expert Knowledge & Caring Support 

STEM, Business, Humanities, Arts

Joyful? Motivated?

Build your personalized Educational & College Admissions Plan!

Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
guides her clients to define and realize educational and career goals. 

With over thirty years of experience as a university professor & admissions committee member you're invited to leverage her extensive knowledge of university curricula and career opportunities to BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN!.
Pre-College Advising!
Be inspired! 

Congrats!!! A SAMPLE of recent College Acceptances Include:
Carnegie Mellon,Brown, Princeton, Cornell, Georgia Tech (Engineering, Bio-Chem), NYU, Bowdoin, WUSTL, Reed, Michigan (Engineering & Other majors), UPenn, U.Illinois (Engineering & Others), Boston U., UNC, Notre Dame, Miami, Dartmouth, Duke, SCAD, Tulane, Drexel Honors, Parsons, Berklee College of Music, U.Arizona, Penn State, UT Austin, Pittsburgh, SUNY Stonybrook, RIT, UF, plus many more

Your College Admissions Goals Haven't Changed - But Your College Plan May Need Adjustments.
All our appointments are held remotely. Access personalized online college counseling with Bonnie Rabin, PhD.

We're not new to remote college counseling. In fact, we've been serving our clients throughout the US through virtual platforms for years. We're ready to answer all your questions about College Admissions, College Applications and College Essays in these uncertain times.

Testing & College Admissions Planning

Greetings Students & Families

Whether you're a senior '21 set for one more run of your SAT/ACT in December or a Sophomore/Junior beginning test preparation and creating your schedule- this note is for you.

I'll tell you EVERYTHING you need to know about the role of a variety of standardized tests in college admissions and I encourage you to reach out with questions about your specific situation. A few weeks ago, I sent a detailed note: Everything to Know About College Admissions. I'm thrilled to hear how much you appreciate my detailed and informative (and yes lengthy!) resources relevant to families in 8th to 12 grades. Please reach out to schedule your College Admissions Planning Assessment.

 I invite families to schedule a conversation about working togehter to set and realize your educational and college admissions goals.

Despite the ongoing pandemic - and the necessity of social distancing- our Holiday Season has arrived -- YAY! I wish your family a joyous and healthy Thanksgiving! ....

....I'd like to again call attention to an amazing initiative: Giving Tuesday !!
I hope your family will pledge to connect with your community in a way that reflects your values.  Click to Learn More:  GIVING TUESDAY

Before jumping into my discussion about all things related to the SAT and ACT,  I'll take a moment to answer two pressing questions our seniors might be pondering:

"What is the last scheduled fall SAT/ACT seniors can take to meet deadlines for submitting required scores as part of their CommonApp college applications?"  
"Do I need to wait to submit my Common Application until after I take or submit my fall SAT/ACT exam scores?"  

The answer to the first question depends on whether you're an Early Action/Early Decision or Regular Decision applicant.
If you're an ED/EA applicant- the last testing dates have passed in November (and I reminded everyone in my earlier note on ED/EA about testing).

For seniors 2021 who are regular decision applicants, you can comfortably sit for the December test dates (and some colleges are even accepting later dates- but that is still a rare exception). If you're a junior thinking ahead to EA/ED -- heads up-- for many public universities, the October date is typically the last acceptable test date (this year is an exception- November testing was an option for many colleges) for regular admissions and it is the last test date for ED/EA. That said, please check each college's website to review acceptable score report submissions guidelines.  

*** Seniors can and should submit completed college applications even if you anticipate taking late fall exams. Your college application is submitted separately from required external documents including your test scores, high school transcripts and teacher recommendations. Your application isn't evaluated until all required components are received. That said, please submit your application as soon as your portions are complete regardless of whether you have taken all your exams and sent scores. As I've noted in many newsletters and blogs, there's an actual bias against "later" applications. No prizes for submitting in August with the exception of "rolling admissions' -in which case you will hear rather quickly if you are one of the first applicants to submit.

Should I list my scores on the Common App?
Each situation is unique-- please speak with your GC or give me a call to discuss whether doing so will be a useful college application strategy or not. Our current seniors are facing an interesting opportunity as several hundred colleges are test optional this year (more about this policy follows below including whether that will continue for our juniors and sophomores).

Your Common Application has a section where you will list all test dates completed or to be taken. It is totally acceptable to leave that section blank -and should you sit for December - and test scores exceed your expectations- the official score report can be sent to colleges. Also, many but not all high schools automatically include your scores on your official transcript.
*** Seniors - please don't forget to send required mid-year transcripts in January to all colleges.

All families have many questions about testing
  • What's the difference between the SAT and ACT?
  • What's required for college applications?
  • What does "Test Optional" mean exactly?
  • When should a student prepare and test? How many times can you take the SAT/ACT?
  • When and how to send scores? What's Score Choice and Super Score testing all about?
  • What Scholarships are related to my test scores? Is there a minimum score for state plans such as the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship?
  • Under what circumstances should we focus on subject tests and AP/IB/AICE exams over SAT/ACT scores in our college application?
  • How does early college planning increase chances of college acceptance by integrating the high school curriculum with the timing and required admissions exams such as SAT subject tests?

In this very detailed newsletter, I'll answer all these questions and we'll explore how testing is an essential part of forming your balanced list of colleges. Early academic planning can be invaluable to positioning each student to realize educational goals that are affordable.

Highlights of the Differences

If you're engaged in exam preparation with a tutor, it's really important that your coach understand and customize your review to focus on the content that you need the most help mastering. Broad based testing is a waste of time and money. An asssessment BEFORE jumping into your 4 to 8 weeks of review sessions will help define how that review with your tutor is best spent.

If you're approved for testing accommodations (more on those at end of this comprehensive note), your tutor should be incorporating these into the review process. If you need recommendations for review books, online programs or local tutors, please give me a shout out to discuss your learning style, your budget and your test score goals to coordinate how and when you'll review for your SAT and ACT exams. One size does not fit everyone! 


1) Potentially, the SAT / ACT is a required element of your college applications. This VARIES across colleges. Either one is acceptable. I'll discuss format differences below.

2) SAT II Subject Tests may be required (very often for more selective colleges) . These may also be taken in lieu of SAT/ACT exam scores at Test Flexible colleges. Nearly all selective STEM programs require MathIIC plus a science.

3) AP/AICE/IB exam scores are NOT required in college applications . These scores may be subsituted for SAT/ACT exam scores at Test Flexible colleges.

The Subject Tests and AP/AICE/IB scores are content specific and truly cause a ton less angst for students because students feel more prepared given the coursework they complete in their HS curriculum.

There is no blanket one-size-fit-all-colleges answer! That said, it's probably that most of your colleges will require at least one of the categories below.

To determine which exams are required at a particular college, you’ll have to navigate into the “Application Requirements” link likely a challenge to find somewhere within the admissions tab of a college’s website. An easy way to locate this information is to Google: “<Name of University> standardized testing requirements undergraduate admissions”/ Exams can vary across departments and schools within a given university. For example, at Cornell University (during a non-pandemic test optional year) there is a range of required subject tests varying across majors. Georgetown University has not let go of it's 3 subject tests requirement for year -this year is an exception. And, NYU and University of Chicago were among the first to lead in their "test flexible" choice of exam program.

*** Creatives: (Film, Photography, Art, Musician + These are often not a required element or overlooked. In contrast- your portfolio of work is an essential element that takes on a signficant weight in evaluating your portfolio. I like to inform my creatives not to worry about earning a "500" or "25" on math- it just has little impact. (You do need to have a strong language arts score)

 Your GC or private college counselor should work closely with your SAT/ACT tutor to coordinate your exam dates creating a testing schedule that leaves you ready and prepared for all your required exams. TIMING IS EVERYTHING!

Which format: ACT OR SAT?
All colleges will accept either test format. Students are encouraged to explore both exams and take a practice test at home under test conditions. If you’re working with a test preparation service/tutor, you should expect an assessment of testing formats with customized test preparation based on YOUR STUDENT’s needs.

*** If your student finds the ACT acceptable, I prefer the ACT simply for a logistical reason. SAT dates in May and June should be reserved for SATII Subject tests. These subject exams are required at many of the more competitive colleges and the best time to take these is immediately following AP exams/end of the school year. Also, SATII subject tests can be submitted in lieu of SATI scores at test-flexible institutions.

SATII subject test content- outside of mathematics and foreign language may be difficult to retain over the summer- history becomes history - so please aim for May/June for those exams- a great choice for Humanities and Business school students.

The College Board’s SAT is comprised of two sections:
1) Mathematics and
2) Reading & Writing. 
There is also an optional essay section that is required by some colleges. As sophomores and juniors are just starting the research that will eventually lead to a finalized college list of best “fit” universities, you don’t yet know if the essay will be a required element of your college application to a particular university. SO....I strongly recommend taking the essay section with each sitting of the exam.

The multiple-choice section of the exam format is three-hours long. There are scheduled rest-breaks between each section.

Reading & Writing
The complete SAT exam format is described here in the College Board’s Summary of testing requirements and in their detailed 210 Page PDF. I’ll boil it down for you!

The “Reading and Writing” section –also known as the “Language” section –contains 52 questions leaving you with 75 seconds to answer each reading question. In addition to interpretation of written passages, the SAT reading section includes interpretation of graphs or charts.

The passages include a variety of real-world situations that test-takers are expected to analyze and address the actual content. Students should expect that there will be at least one “founding document”—certainly something that would be encountered in classes covering a range of classical and contemporary historical documents or speeches (Abraham Lincoln, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Dr. King). The science section is designed to capture “culturally relevant” content. A recent title “The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City.”

Many of my students comment (complain) that there isn’t enough time and students contemplate whether it might be more effective to read less closely and aim to “speed read”. The short answer- is absolutely not!

This is one area that the SAT differs from the ACT—with 75 seconds per reading question on the SAT and roughly 52 seconds per question on the ACT, speed reading in either format is dangerous. Even with more time per question, most experts agree that SAT passages are more challenging than those of the ACT.

Analysis of the “founding documents” indicates that SAT questions are typically less contemporary often including historical documents much earlier in time.

In contrast to the Reading section, the Writing section includes non-fiction content- including narratives of actual events or information about a specific topic. Passages are provided and students are tested about grammar, vocabulary and language errors. The student “edits” the passages to convey the level of understanding of language.
The best preparation for this section of the exam comes from regular reading.

......For fun and to increase your depth as a person. If your reading level as a senior is at the same level as it was when you began high school- you let yourself down and missed an opportunity.

As a college advisor with thirty years of experience as a Professor, I continue to encourage students throughout middle and high school to read read and read—beyond assigned work. Exploring the logical flow, sentence structure, and choice of vocabulary across a wide range of published fiction and non-fiction work, even including popular periodicals –can develop the ease of language that is being tested in this section of the exam. 

Reading is also part of the process of discovery and allows young adults to engage more effectively and thing outside-the-box with confidence in a variety of professional, academic and personal settings.

And for student's-- if you tell me or a parent -- I cannot find a book I like - well, you just haven't bothered to look. (Recheck my summer reading list for awesome recommendations)

The SAT’s Writing section aims to measure student’s abilities in:
1) English conventions,
2) analysis in history and science,
3) expression of ideas,
4) words in context, and
5) command of evidence.
These are the fundamental concepts essential to preparing written pieces that convey a clear point effectively.

The Math section of the SAT is also designed to reflect test-takers ability to process “real world” problems. There are three main sections. The first section, “Algebra”, includes questions on linear equations and inequalities. The second section on “problem solving and data analysis” measures a student’s understanding of proportional relationships and ratio. The final piece of the math section presents the concepts that must be mastered for a student to “advance to higher level courses.”

This is why it’s essential that your SAT/ACT tutor coordinate your testing schedule with your college counselor. Clearly, taking the SAT too early in high school can create a situation where the math curriculum simply hasn’t yet covered the concepts a student will have encountered and mastered. For this reason, I urge students to wait until Algebra II has been completed and mastered.

The ACT, like the SAT is one of two college entrance exam formats -both are accepted at all universities that require an entrance exam. It’s your choice – although students will generally prefer and/or excel on one format over the other.

The complete ACT exam format is described n the ACT's organization’s 337-page Technical Manual. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the exam format in more details than you’ll need to know. 
Let’s boil this information down into digestible content.

The ACT is a multiple-choice test exam comprised of four distinct parts: Science, Mathematics, Reading, and English. 

Similar to the SAT, the exam can be taken without or without the optional Essay/Writing section. Students do not often know where they’ll be applying at the time they are sitting for the exam and for this reason, you should take all the elements of the exam, including the optional essay writing section.

In contrast to the SAT, the ACT format has always been designed to assess skills or knowledge that should have acquired in the classroom.

There are four distinct parts of the test, each is scored 1 to 36 points and the optional essay is scored from 1 to 12. The exam with essay takes 3 hours and 35 minutes to complete with rest breaks between sections. (Students with approved testing accommodations including extra time or distraction-free testing are seated separately and provided a longer exam format.)

Summary – Length and timing
Science 35 minutes to answer 40 questions including questions on data representation, research summary questions and conflicting viewpoint analysis.
Math 60 minutes to answer 46 questions on elementary & intermediate algebra, coordinate and plane geometry and trigonometry.
Reading 35 minutes to respond to 40 questions on paragraphs covering prose fiction, humanities, science and social studies.
English 35 minutes to respond to 75 questions on usage mechanics and rhetorical skills analyzing paragraphs on a variety of content.

Information is presented in tables, graphs, research summaries or “conflicting viewpoint passages” on a variety of topics including chemistry, physics, biology and earth/science. The section isn’t aiming to assess content knowledge but is focused on assessing the student’s reasoning skills. When the content is familiar, students are more comfortable with this section of the exam.
Some of the questions require interpretation of data as presented in a chart or table or a similar research summary. Other questions present multiple hypotheses and opposing viewpoints where students analyze the conflicting viewpoints on scientific content.
It’s important that students who don’t consider STEM to be their best subjects don’t shy away from the ACT as this section really doesn’t require nor test scientific knowledge directly. Students of all interests and intended college majors can do well on this section of the exam.

In contrast to the SAT, where part of the math section doesn’t allow for calculator usage, the ACT permits a calculator to be utilized for all sections of the math portion. Of the 60 multiple-choice questions, the exam is designed to assess problem-solving skills.

One set of questions explores reasoning through questions on basic functions of real and complex number systems and work on integers, exponents, vectors and matrices.
Knowledge of basic and advanced algebra will be tested through questions on algebraic expressions, linear and polynomial equations, and exponential relationships. Some of the problem solving will involve solving real-world context making the questions more relatable.

A solid understanding of Geometry (i.e.- solve for missing values), functions (i.e. arithmetic sequences) and basic statistics and probability are also needed to comfortably manage the content of the math section of the ACT.  Overall, there is little if any difference between the math of the SAT and ACT – the emphasis on some topics and the types of questions differ ever so slightly. That said, my experience tells me that students seem to have a strong preference for one format over the other.

Overall, whether you are taking the ACT or SAT format, it’s important to have completed the relevant portions of your high school mathematics curriculum that relate to the content coverage. Typically, this is an Algebra II or Trig class. Likewise, advanced students who are many years “ahead” in mathematics may truly need a refresher in geometry content. For example, a junior in Calculus will have taken geometry as many as three years ago- and this content isn’t related to the cumulative sequence of content in algebra I/II, trigonometry, pre-calculus and calculus courses.

The College Board aimed to mirror the ACT in its recent revision of its exam. The ACT has been praised for the variety of pieces and relevancy of subject matter. For example, the literary narratives include contemporary and well-known memoirs and short stories. Social studies and natural science pieces are based on content students will have encountered in a typical high school curriculum.
This section of the exam has two categories including: Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills. There are five essays/passages followed by a sequence of multiple-choice questions to assess the student’s use of standard written language. Students are evaluated on their knowledge of grammar and usage, punctuation, sentence structure organization/logic, style/tone and strategic presentation.  This is one section of the exam that tutoring can be invaluable and content learned that for many students hasn’t always been taught (directly) in middle or high school.
Regardless of which exam format you’ve decided to take, it’s important to know the materials you’ll be tested upon and feel well prepared for your scheduled exam day. Your test preparation is unique and the approach you take (individual prep, one-on-one tutoring or small classes) should reflect your motivation, abilities and family budget. If you need some guidance in reviewing options for exam preparation that will fit your circumstances, please reach out for a conversation.

As I predicted in many of my spring and summer newsletters and blogs- the pandemic has shifted the opportunities for juniors for the traditional October Junior year PSAT. This year, students were given a choice to take the exam in October or January. I hope you didn't rush - because having 3 more months of mathematics and prep time behind you was an opportunity. You cannot retake the PSAT - it's one time only.
Don't worry- because the PSAT isn’t something to be terribly concerned about because this exam serves very little purpose beyond qualifying an exceedingly small number of high performing students as National Merit Finalists. Please don’t fret about this exam.  

Do know that the ACT has a "junior" version of their exam called the PLAN and the PLAN is an acceptable qualifying exam for the NMQ scholarship. Sadly, and oddly- many high schools don't offer the PLAN.

The PSAT score isn’t reported in your college applications. However, if you are an 8th to 11th grade student, the PSAT is often and acceptable standardized test to submit for any competitive collegiate summer programs.

Those applications are due November to February. If you need guidance for recommendations that will help you discover or deepen an academic interest, or increase your chances of college admissions acceptance, please reach out for a conversation. I typically send out a detailed note in January about the role of these programs in the college admissions process. I customize my recommendations for students based on interests and opportunities and family budget.

Don't Worry!
We can all agree that the College Admissions process is complex and your application will most certainly be evaluated on several comprehensive criteria.  There are now over 1000 Accredited Colleges and Universities  DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor-Degree Programs.  This list can be found here at  FAIRTEST and I will discuss TEST OPTIONAL policies fully- below please stay with me.

Super Scoring and Score Choice 
options should relieve some of the stress over SAT/ACT scores.  

Details in my blog that all Juniors and Seniors should understand are found here:

Many colleges "superscore" which means that your application is evaluated on a composite score based on the best sub-scores across different test dates. This list can be found here:

To repeat, If you've completed Alegbra II you have covered all the math that will be on the SAT/ACT-- if not, you need to wait until the end of the Junior year/start of Senior Year to begin testing. Please do NOT take an exam covering materials you haven't yet learned fulled-- what's the point? Some universities do NOT participate in SCORE CHOICE and all scores are required- "practice" tests should be completed at home or with your tutor- not in a real setting!


Well by now, you've likely heard the news-there are some interesting changes implemented this year. The ACT Organization recently implemented a single-section retake policy in September 2020. The link to that policy is here.

Students can retake single sections of the five-part three-hour exam rather than sitting for all sections a second, third or even fourth time!  In theory, this enables students to avoid the risk of getting a lower score on a section they have already taken and feel the score is sufficient for their college admissions goals.


There's two ways of looking at this new option. On the one hand, the ACT exam may have become a whole lot easier - allowing students to focus more closely on preparing fr one or more parts in a single sitting (after an initial full test option). On the hand, the pressure to retake the exam may appeal to perfectionists- similar to the artist who can never finish a perfect painting or the person who changes their shirt a half a dozen times before leaving home.

Personally, I think the college admissions process is stressful enough and I'd rather have heard news that more colleges are now on the TEST OPTIONAL LIST (see list above). You decide-- the option to retest on a single part of the ACT may result in repetitive drawn out testing attempts (fortifying an already overdone industry of expensive test prep services).

The new policy just added more to an already heightened debate over role of standardized testing in the college admissions process. A growing number of universities have adopted a test optional/flexible policy (the list of top-tier colleges in 2020-21 including all Ivy League is impressive- but very likely temporary). There's no denying that still many colleges, including larger public state university systems place heavy emphasis on these scores. Parents and students feel lots of pressure to do well on the the ACT and SAT exams, and this often results in time-consuming and expensive test services.

Begin my knowing university policy- does a target college Super Score or utilize Score Choice?  

I suggest allocating a dedicated four-to-eight week time period for regular and disciplined test preparation. Ideally, students should have completed Aleg 1, & II and Geometry prior to taking either the ACT or SAT. For more about the contents of the exam, please read my earlier blogs noted above.

When to Test? Should You Retest?

First, let's be clear, the SAT isn't yet on board with this single-section testing option. If you are taking the ACT- this option may be in your interest. Speaking with your college counselor about your study habits, time management and other issues to carefully map out a test preparation timeline not later than the middle of 10th grade. I said set your timeline-but for some students - the actual prep may not be until 11th. Have a plan in place.

Knowing when you will be prepared for the content of these exams and have the time to do so depends on - all the other demands of challenging courses, AP/IB/AICE exams, subject tests and your busy extracurricular schedule (Robotics, Theater, Sports, Music, Math Team??). 

The new ACT testing policy has many parents, teachers and college advisors concerned that the policy will just fuel the college admissions frenzy-and yes, further disadvantaging students who lack the financial resources for access to SAT/ACT preparation.

Just because the ACT will provide a superscore option, doesn't yet mean that universities will accept and evaluate this differently. I caution students to be aware of each college's policy on SuperScore and ScoreChoices - two different issues.

So what's your strategy. There's an old adage-measure twice, cut once and I think that applies here. 

Prepare to do your best on the exam at your first attempt-studying carefully for all sections.  I fear students will now consider taking the exam four times - focused on one section at a time- I cannot imagine a more protracted agony!

My other concern is that students with highly selective college goals will test, retest and retest bumping sub-sections from 33 until they reach 35/36 - sadly redirecting limited and valuable time which could be spent more joyfully on extracurricular activities- turning test prep into a time-consuming obsession.

Whether you find this humorous or intriguing- did you know that students can take the ACT exam up to 12 times! According to the ACT research, "students who take the test more than once have increased first-year college grades than those who take the test a single sitting". ACT suggested this is a reflection of student motivation- I beg to differ.

Currently the ACT costs $52 without the optional writing section, and $68 with writing. You can bet this is going to be a huge revenue boost for the organization and for test-preparation services. The current battle for market share-1.9 million ACT takers and 2.1 SAT takers annually.  

Again- disciplined test prep - measure twice, cut once. High school is about discovery and joy. Our students face so much unneeded pressure - so let's do what we can so they don't have to jump through hoops and hurdles that rob them of peace. Everyone finds their path- one test isn't the defining aspect for our amazing and wonderful young adults will lead. Parents-what was your SAT/ACT score- did it define or change your life? Probably not!  That said, please don't misinterpret my message- -the exam is relevant and should be taken seriously- but taking the exam over and over and over-that's just not a strategy I support nor encourage even under the new ACT policy.

Need some guidance on your test preparation and test taking strategies - click to reach out and schedule with Bonnie Rabin, PhD.

We can all agree that the College Admissions process is complex and your application will most certainly be evaluated on several comprehensive criteria. This was true pre-COVID and this year is certainly quite unique. 

Given the pandemic - most locations were on lock-down much of the spring leaving students -- especially our Seniors '21--without any viable testing centers or dates.  There are now more than 800 selective and Accredited Colleges and Universities  DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores and that includes every Ivy League and nearly every single top 100 university.

So for a minute- this is great news for 90% of students. If you score in the top 10% - this policy doesn't offer you any benefit. However -- the seniors who are in the 90% or lower - this is a unique year- as scores are OPTIONAL. Let's discover what that means exactly and whether this policy is going to be permanent or not (Probably not!).

Test optional means the student has the choice as to whether to include test scores for evaluation of the college application - and there is no penalty for deciding not to report scores. This policy has been around for a while. Typically, anything labelled as "optional" (including essays) isn't really an option- the omission of the score or an essay can potentially suggest "disinterest". That has all changed for the 2020-21 application cycle. This year- the list of colleges and universities on the list Test Optional List has doubled. Universities realize that options to sit for an exam have been limited if not impossible.

But let's look at three different variations of "test optional"

The University of Chicago has been Test Optional for years. You can find a link to their very wordy policy for 2020-21 here:
I'll highlight a few core words at UChicago:
We encourage students to take standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, and to share your scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential. Given that many of our peers do require testing, we anticipate that the vast majority of students will continue to take tests and may still submit their test scores to UChicago.

Let's look at Columbia University- one of the last Ivy League schools to announce it's Test Optional - That policy is here
  A few core words from Columbia:
If students have completed testing and can submit SAT or ACT results, we encourage them to do so as we believe this information can be a valuable addition in our review process. However, testing is no longer a required component for the first-year 2020-2021 application cycle, and students who are unable or choose not to submit test scores will not be disadvantaged. 

In contrast-- and I hope you see the striking contrast-- Let's look at Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Drexel's stated policy on Test Optional Reporting

Cornell: Link here
We can't pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like. We don't plan to require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results.
Students who have taken a test, or even more than one test, but would still prefer not to submit those results, can make that choice.
f you are considering or planning to take the SAT or ACT for the first time or to repeat testing again this year (2020), please do not feel you need to do this unless you are able to take the exam locally near your home and you feel safe in doing so. As a reminder, we will evaluate your application without standardized testing.

Carnegie Mellon here:

For those applying to join the Fall 2021 first-year class and beyond, SAT Subject Tests are neither required nor recommended, and these scores won't be considered in our admission review process.

???? So What Exactly Should A Senior DO ???

Bottom line- you must evaluate your balanced college list and your overall holistic accomplishments both within and outside the classroom. If all of the universities on your list are "Test Optional" yet the language is suggestive of score reporting- you should still test or retest if you are able. Very likely there were exam dates within your community sometime this fall. Sadly, we all expected to be able to test in December- and well, with rising COVID positivity rates in nearly every part of the US, should another lockdown occur- the December test dates can very well be eliminated.

Your peers may test, and on balance, anything that could have been included in your application that is missing could be an unfavorable tipping factor. With limited test dates-- test optional policies give you a variety of choices - perhaps you are best served taking an SATII Subject Test or submitting high AP Scores. Before making a decision -- please have the conversation with someone with experience to help you evaluation your overall college application.

Should I send an official score? How Do I report my score unofficially?

Moreover- by all means if you have a great score- submit it officially, list it on your Common App and retain that score on your high school transcript. Please note, even if reported on the Common App, you'll observe that some test optional colleges- such as UPenn and others - supress the score and will not see that section of your self-report on the common app.

If your score is BELOW the reported 25th percentile of typically accepted applicants- don't report- you're better served without that score on your application and high school transcript.

Scores are submitted in three potential ways:
1) Unofficially as a self-report on the Common App
2) In some high schools these are on your official transcript (and you can request these are removed)
3) Official scores are ordered through the College Board or ACT - do NOT DO NOT DO NOT send the three free scores available to you when you register- what if the score is "awful" -? Wait to see the score before you send the score--PERIOD!

My score isn't great- in fact it's truly inconsistent with my GPA and other accomplishments- how can I eliminate this score from consideration?
   First and foremost- don't send it. Please don't list it on your Common Application and request that your score be removed from your official high school transcript.


Many of the universities have already noted that Test Optional Policies are temporary. You should therefore begin your test preparation anticipating that the College Applications cycle of 2021-22 will see a return to the use of Standardized testing.


Super Scoring and Score Choice options should relieve some of the stress over your SAT/ACT scores. Many colleges “superscore” which means that your application is evaluated on a composite score based on the best sub-scores across different test dates. This list can be found here:COLLEGE BOARD LIST OF SUPERSCORE UNIVERSITIES

If you don’t see a university on the list, the second way to absolutely confirm is to explore the admissions tab and application requirements at a specific university by locating (use Google – much faster than the navigational challenges of most college websites) college admissions testing requirements.

Even if a college isn’t on the superscore list- your college admissions officer is human- and all the scores displaying in your application are taken into full consideration. No university has a “cutoff” that eliminates you from receiving an acceptance letter. College admissions is truly holistic–

As part of your college application process, you’ll be submitting your test scores. It’s not as uncomplicated as it sounds-but the reality, different universities have unique policies on which test scores are required and how these are to be reviewed as part of your college application.
The Basics
Score Choice is a policy offered through the CollegeBoard that allows the student to determine which scores to share with colleges and which scores to exclude when reporting actual test scores as part of your college application. The ACT has a similar option for sending your scores. This is an awesome opportunity to highlight the best SAT/ACT scores and SAT II subject tests and omit any disappointing or “practice” tests you have taken (or for that matter- scores earned when you weren’t at your best- perhaps a day of – allergies? )

That said, while the College Board allows a student to select scores, not all universities adhere to a Score Choice policy. Moreover, and unknown to most families is that your high school transcript may already have included all your test scores. The College Board and ACT do report your scores to your high school. Your high school very likely has these scores reported on your official high school transcript. Private high schools have a wide range of policies to honor and support students’ requests to remove disappointing test scores from their official high school transcript. Public high schools typically are responsive to family requests to exclude the exam scores from your transcript- but sometimes this takes a bit of little work to get through the well-intentioned red-tape.

As part of your test preparation, your tutor and you may have decided to experiment – test the waters. You may have sat for a baseline exam prior to beginning serious test preparation and the scores earned simply aren’t an accurate reflection of your abilities. Or maybe, you were sick the day of the exam and didn’t realize that you could skip the exam and the test fee (less a change date) could be applied to another testing date. Score choice is truly an invaluable option for test takers who experienced a huge improvement with more serious test preparation.

If the colleges you’re applying to participate in Score Choice- by all means be careful about choices of scores.
There’s a section of the Common App that asks whether you’ve taken any exams and have any scores to report. Here you will list test dates. So should you “omit” a date from the question if you don’t plan to report all your actual scores officially? This is a conversation to have with your college advisor. There is a final question on the Common Applicaiton — one you must agree to before you press the submit button– this question is an ‘honesty’- attestation-indicating you’ve answered all questions truthfully. So please make sure that your responses align and don’t try to deceive anyone. You must answer the Common App question about test dates- but you don’t have to share those scores. That’s why Score Choice exists.

That said, not all of your colleges will participate and many require you to submit ALL YOUR TEST SCORES. .
Here’s a sample of colleges that DO NOT allow for score choice. These colleges require that you submit all your test scores in years where the Test Optional policies of our current pandemic are robust..
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Clarkson University
  • Coker College
  • College of Charleston
  • College of St. Benedict
  • Duquesne University
  • East Georgia State College
  • Elon University
  • Georgetown University
  • Gonzaga University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Loyola University, New Orleans
  • Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Seattle University
  • Shorter University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of South Carolina
  • Yale University
It’s really important to stay up-to-date and check college admissions websites for the specific requirements on reporting tests scores, whether SATII subject tests are required and the dates by which scores are to be received.
What About Those SATII Subject Tests?

What's the relationship between AP exams and those required SAT II Subject Tests?

***TIP!!  While you may not yet know the colleges you'll be applying to in your senior year, we do know that many of the most selective universities require SATII subject tests. Also, some of the test-flexible universities will accept subject tests/AP exams in lieu of ACT/SAT1 scores (i.e. NYU).
As noted, TESTING requirements for all colleges can be located on the Admissions tab of a given college website. Please don't be short-sighted- 9th, 10th grade students completing a content-based AP class with a corresponding SATII subject test should take the exams while material in History or Science topics are "fresh". Typically, these exams are taken in May and June.

These one-hour long multiple choice exams are the "easier" version of materials mastered for your AP exams. 
  • If you have finished pre-calculus, take the MATHIIC exam as soon as you are ready. If you're not a STEM focused student, Math IC is also a great option. Don't take both MathIC and IIC- most colleges even instruct against doing so.
  • If you are taking AP BIO or AP CHEM-you should be taking the SATII Subject test in BIO or Chem
  • If you are taking AP World or US- you should be taking the SATII Subject World or US
  • If you are bi-lingual and can read and write in your native language-take the SATII language exam! Depending on the depth of your language proficiency, you may also consider taking the AP exam as well. That said, STEM students - these are not useful- you need MathIIC plus science. Finally, if you are bilingual - a selective school will not look favorably upon taking this exam in lieu of two content- based exams-- make it a third exam at best.
AP coursework has become the gold-standard of an academically rigorous curriculum. Earning a high grade on an AP exam can overshadow the high school transcript. For STEM students to be competitive in the admissions process, AP Calculus, AP Bio/Chem and/or Physics, APCS are invaluable and often expected on a student's transcript to be a viable candidate in the most selective of universities. Avoiding challenging courses as a STEM applicant is not only reducing your chances of admissions at selective universities. Doing so will impact your preparation in the demanding undergraduate coursework ahead.

Are AP scores required on college applications?
Are AP scores considered by admissions officers in reviewing your college application as part of the college admissions process?
When/where do I submit my AP scores -on the Common Application or Coalition Applications?

Your AP exam scores allow college admissions officers to objectively compare students across high schools throughout the US and abroad. AP exam scores are NOT a required element on your college application. That said, excluding your scores in the space provided on the Common Application hints indirectly at your score. No one fails to share a "4" or a "5" on their college application.  BEWARE: some high schools actually report your AP score on your transcript and you need to request their removal. Some high schools may refuse your request. Ask me more about this issue.
As noted, AP exam scores may also substitute for SAT/ACT scores at Test-Flexible universities. For example, including three exams of your choice allows subject-specific test takers to reduce test anxiety and increase their chances of college admissions. You do have more control over content and knowledge-based materials related to specific courses in these exams.
While AP exam scores aren't a required element on college applications - the optional reporting of scores on your Common Application is an opportunity to demonstrate you've mastered materials and can even overshadow the high school transcript. AP exam scores level the playing field across students from a variety of public and private high schools. Thinking about this in another way- optional reporting that is left blank suggests to the admissions reader of your file that you did NOT do well on your exam. So what to do about those "1s" and "2s"? Ask me - as each situation is unique and there may be a potential explanation for the poor score.
AP coursework has become the gold-standard of an academically rigorous curriculum. Earning a high grade on an AP exam can overshadow the high school transcript. For STEM students to be competitive in the admissions process, AP Calculus, AP Bio/Chem and/or Physics, APCS are invaluable and often expected on a student's transcript to be a viable candidate in the most selective of universities. Avoiding challenging courses as a STEM applicant is not only reducing your chances of admissions at selective universities. Doing so will impact your preparation in the demanding undergraduate coursework ahead.
Likewise, courses in AP History or AP Economics or AP Lang/Lit will be invaluable to preparation for many Humanities and Business students.

College Admissions TIP:  As noted, many selective colleges require SATII subject tests. AP exams better prepare students for these exams than do AICE or IB classes. In some sense, this isn't unexpected, as both the AP and Subject tests are administered by the same organization - the College Board.

Understanding AP exam scoring - What Do Your AP exam scores convey?

Your scores matter! Having made the decision to complete an AP course is a reflection of a student's interest in the material and concepts. The actual score is an indicator of whether you've mastered the content providing a foundation to subsequent and more challenging coursework. Regardless of whether you decide to earn the college credit (and colleges have their own requirements for granting credit that varies widely - the less competitive universities accept a "3" and most selective programs require a "5"), taking the class already has increased your chances of college acceptance as AP classes weigh more heavily than other high school classes on your high school transcript in computing class rank and your weighted GPA.
AP Exam scores range from 1-5. The composite score is based on results from all portions of the exam including multiple-choice, free-response short and longer essays and portfolio/projects completed outside of the actual time students sit for exams. With a variety of subjects- math, foreign language and art - the scores reflect the unique requirements that students must complete to convey mastery of the curriculum.
First and foremost- don't' think of this as "passing" or "failing" your exam because the university you ultimately attend will make that determination. The College Board simply makes a blanket recommendation- 1 and 2 are a recommendation against earning college credit. 3, 4 and 5 indicate the student qualifies for credit - but again, depending on the university and the actual course, the requirements vary widely.

Testing Accommodations
The College Board received 158,000 requests for testing accommodations in 2019. I recommend that students apply for their accommodation as soon as possible as this covers not only the SAT/ACT but your AP exams.

If you're approved for a testing accommodation, it's important that your tutor administer a diagnostic tool to determine which exam format is most suitable for you, as some exam formats align more effectively with specific learning disabilities. Your test preparation should incorporate and adjust for your accommodations. For example, if you have extra time, your tutor should be teaching you how to effectively leverage this accommodation to realize your full potential.

Please be aware that the ACT organization will only approve accommodations if the student has been professionally diagnosed and if the student receives the same accommodations at high school. ACT also requires students to register for a specific test date at the time you apply for the accommodations. 


Testing anxiety is a genuine concern. For some students, an accommodation can be invaluable to addressing and resolving test anxiety. Please speak to your family physician for a referral to a licensed psychologist specializing in evaluation and providing the support you need to create the appropriate accommodations not only for testing but for success throughout high school.

Accommodations such as extended time, isolated test taking or keyboarding are provided for a variety of situations including ADHD, executive function disorders, physical disabilities such as visual processing or handwriting, and mood/anxiety disorders including test taking anxiety.

It's certainly not uncommon for students to feel uneasy at exam time; but some students have experienced actual test anxiety which inhibits the student from performing to the best of their abilities as a result of cognitive and/or physiological responses to their anxiety. A licensed psychologist should be consulted to diagnose testing anxiety and create a plan for treatment allowing the student to feel empowered about the outcome and situation. Preparing for exams and relaxation strategies will help students with test anxiety. Your psychologist should and can coordinate with your tutor.





I WISH ALL HIGH SCHOOL AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS CONTINUED SUCCESS - defined by a joyful and meaningful year both within and outside the classroom.

Define and Set Your Goals with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD

Post-Pandemic In-Person
South Florida 561.509.0021
Boulder/Denver and Metro NYC 720.737.9944

STEM, Business, Humanities, Creative Arts - Find Your Passion and Be Unique!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Request your complimentary consultation.