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Articles / Applying to College / SAT's for Soph?

April 1, 2010

SAT's for Soph?

Question: I read that you recommend us sophomores taking the SAT test once during May to improve our weaknesses. I was going to do what you said by registering for the upcoming SAT test on May, but I was wondering about the results. When I get my scores, will colleges see that I took the test since it will be recorded into my SAT record? What happens if I don't send the scores to them? Should I send it to them?

I am still deciding on whether to just take the SAT practice test from one of those study guides or to take it at my high school by registering online. If I take it at my school, will colleges see it and be like, "Oh, this student took it during sophomore year, she must be really dedicated into doing good on the test!"? Please help me!


I used to recommend that 10th graders try the SAT in the spring as a "warm up" for future tests to come and as a way of identifying weak areas while there's still plenty of time to work on them. But in my old age, I'm starting to 180 on that advice.

I feel that students are way too over-tested already. Instead, the PSAT (which you'll take in October of your junior year, and which some high schools also provide to sophomores) is a reasonable warm-up. And for those of you who don't want to wait that long to see where your trouble spots are, you can find plenty of practice SAT's in books or Web sites that enable you to take an entire timed test in the privacy of your own home.

Although there is rarely an exact correlation between practice-test results and the real ones (the practice test scores tend to be higher), at least this will help you to identify the types of test questions you're likely to flub up. So my vote for you would be to go with the study-guide test you've proposed.

But, if you do decide to take the real SAT's as a sophomore, then you may want to forfeit the four "free" score reports that come with each registration. Wait and see your scores first before you decide if you want admission officials to see them, too. You can always send them later, when it's time to apply to colleges (for a fee, of course :-( )

The College Board now offers "Score Choice" which means that you can determine which of your test scores you want colleges to see ... or not. Note, however, that some colleges (including many of the most selective ones) do not use score choice and will ask their applicants to submit all scores. (This is done via the honor system. They really have no way of knowing how many tests you took.) Yet even if you try the SAT's this year and don't do well, colleges that see your sophomore scores will officially "use" the better ones that you get as a junior or senior and will understand that the 10th-grade results are of limited value. But you won't get any extra "brownie points" from colleges for being a go-getter and trying the tests early. So definitely don't take them this spring for that reason.

On the other hand, one type of SAT test that may be worth taking "for real" as a sophomore is the Subject Test (often called "SAT II"). If you are in a class right now that you like and feel confident about but in a subject that you will not take again in 11th or 12th grade, then you might be wise to try the related Subject Test this June (as close to the end of the course as possible).

Subject Tests commonly taken by 10th graders include: History (U.S. or World, depending on what you're taking now), science (chem, physics, or bio ... but only if you won't take a more advanced class in this field later on), or a foreign language (if you won't be continuing next year). For a list of all Subject Tests offered, go to: http://sat.collegeboard.com/why-sat/topic/subjectTest/why-take-sat-subject-tests

If you do try a Subject Test this spring, the same "Score Choice" option prevails (for those colleges that accept it). And if you take more than one test (up to three are permitted on the same test date), you can elect to send colleges all of your results or just one or two ... or none.

Good luck to you, whatever you decide.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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