Standardized Testing

Standardized testing is an intractable part of college admissions, apart from the 700+ colleges and universities which have decided to become “test-optional” (see www.fairtest.org to learn more—you’ll be surprised at how many of these schools you know). There is also a multi-billion dollar industry thriving on the fears and insecurities of young people facing these tests. Our goal in the college office is to help you separate the hype and mania from what’s best for you, and to help you find a path through your testing that will be both effective and balanced.

Students will be encouraged to take both an ACT and an SAT Reasoning Test, and many will also be encouraged to take SAT Subject Tests, depending on the student's academic record and list of colleges. Our general recommendation is that students take an SAT, ACT, and recommended SAT Subject Tests during the fifth-form spring (we offer an April sitting of the ACT and May and June sittings for the SAT), then take another SAT or ACT, and any remaining necessary Subject Tests, during fall of their sixth-form year, depending on spring results. We will guide students and families through the decision and registration process as part of our early work with the fifth-form class, and we’ll make updating testing plans an agenda item in each individual meeting.

ACT: American College Test
College Board: SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests, the PSAT
ACT/SAT Concordance Table
SAT Subject Test Guideline

Brooks School offers school-subsidized online SAT and ACT test preparation resources through Academic Approach (www.academicapproach.com) to every student from the fifth-form winter through the sixth-form winter, at no cost to our students. We also offer a diagnostic SAT in January of the fifth-form year, which helps maximize the benefits of those online resources. Many students will opt to do more individualized test preparation, especially during the summer between fifth- and sixth-form years, but the school is committed to providing appropriate, useful prep resources to all students during their application cycle.

There has been significant research over the last few years to suggest that testing beyond a second time on any of these tests rarely produces an increase in scores, and that over-testing can actually cause immense stress and demotivation for students. Our prescribed path calls for anywhere between four and seven Saturday mornings to be spent testing over twelve months. It is our feeling that this is plenty. With that in mind, please see our following statement about the use of SAT’s “Score Choice” option. Obviously, each student’s path is their own; feel free to be in touch with questions about this, or any other question related to testing.

Brooks School College Office Statement Regarding SAT “Score Choice”

The College Board introduced a “Score Choice” option for 2009-2010, through which students can choose individual Subject Tests and individual single dates of the SAT Reasoning Test to send to colleges. While this option could be perceived as a way to remove some stress from your testing, we strongly caution students and families to be thoughtful about this option.

Some students and families have taken the policy to mean that they should test more often, assuming that more testing equals higher scores. Even the College Board themselves dispute this notion; there is little or no evidence that testing beyond a second time increases scores, and there is ample evidence that excessive testing leads to tremendous stress and unhappiness for kids. Often, scores drop beyond a second test. Also, several colleges require students to submit all testing, despite the Score Choice option.

Our recommended testing path for students includes an SAT Reasoning Test and an ACT in the spring of fifth-form year, and one more of either or both during the fall of sixth-form year. We strongly recommend against testing more often than this. SAT Subject Test requirements and recommendations are dependent on classes taken, performance in those classes, and requirements of the colleges students will apply to; we will make those recommendations on a case-by-case basis. As always, feel free to be in touch with our office with any questions.