Confused by state-administered SATs/ACTs? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, you’ll find information about the tests themselves, how they affect the college admissions process, and how your child should prepare for them. After reading this post, you’ll understand how to approach state-administered SATs and ACTs and how to incorporate them into your child’s college application plans.
What Are State-administered SATs and ACTs?
The state-administered SAT/ACTs are relatively straightforward. These exams are the standard versions of the SAT and ACT. However, they are paid-for and administered by the respective State Boards of Education, and the results are used to determine statewide scholastic achievement.
This state mandate means that all state-administered SATs/ACTs are mandatory for eleventh-grade students. However, the good news is that they are free for all students! This means that you can avoid the registration fee ($60 for the SAT with Essay, $62.50 for the ACT with Writing section) when your child takes the exam. Even better, your child’s SAT/ACT scores can be used for college admissions. With planning and methodical prep, your child can earn a great SAT/ACT score and you can avoid paying registration fees.
Does My Child Have a State-administered Test?
If your child attends public high school and lives in one of the following states, they have a required test.
States that require the ACT:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
States that require the SAT:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
Most of the states above administer the SAT/ACT in the spring semester (often in April). However, I recommend that you consult the website of the high school that your student attends to find the test date for 2017-18.
My child has to take the SAT/ACT. Does that mean they should stick with that test for college admissions?
The SAT and ACT are both accepted by every four-year US college. And colleges typically don’t prefer that applicants submit scores from one over the other. So which test should your child take?
If your child must take one of the two tests as a state-administered exam, I recommend sticking with it. Why? While the two tests differ slightly in terms of what’s tested and how it’s formatted, students typically perform the same on both. By simply committing to one test as quickly as possible, your child is more likely to reach his or her full potential score, no matter which test he or she chooses.
Why Do States Administer the SAT/ACT?
Each U.S. state has a Board of Education that monitors student achievement using standardized tests. In the past decades, states have used exams such as the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) to measure how well high school students meet the academic standards set by the Boards of Education. However, the SAT/ACT can be used in a similar way to gather data about student success. In addition, free (but mandatory) state-administered SATs/ACTs compel all eleventh-grade students to take a college-entrance exam, which might inspire some students to consider applying to college. Essentially, state-administered SATs/ACTs eliminate an “extra” standardized test and make it easier (and cheaper) to apply to college.
Illinois is a good example of a state that has subscribed to this approach to standardized tests. In 2016-17, Illinois opted to switch to the state-administered SAT. This means that all eleventh-grade students attending public high school in Illinois are now required to take the SAT in the spring so that the state can demonstrate overall progress toward meeting learning standards. In the past, students have taken the PARCC test to fulfill this obligation. However, the Illinois State Board of Education decided to drop this test for eleventh-grade students and switch to using the SAT as the state accountability exam. As a result, the state still gathers educational data and eleventh-grade students are more prepared to apply to college.
How Do These Tests Affect College Admissions?
The SAT/ACT are official tests, so students can submit these scores as part of their application to any school that requires standardized test scores. If your student does not do well on the mandatory test, he or she can take the test again and send the scores from that new test to colleges. But if they do not take additional SAT/ACT tests, the scores from the mandatory test will need to be sent to any college that requires SAT/ACT scores as part of the application.
This means that you control your own destiny! If your child prepares to succeed on a state-administered SAT/ACT, your family can save time and money. However, students have the option to retake the exam and not send their state-administered SAT/ACT score as part of their college admissions package.
An overview of standardized test scores can help put test preparation in perspective.
SAT/ACT scores are one part of a student’s application that colleges use in making their admissions decision. Grades and standardized test scores are the objective components of a college application and are the two biggest drivers of admissions success at competitive colleges. Standardized test scores are often used to differentiate candidates and can play an important role in your student’s overall application package. For students whose grades may not reflect their abilities, high standardized test scores are often an effective tool that can compensate for weaknesses in their academic record.
Overwhelmed by the SAT and ACT process in general? Tom Rose, Testive Co-founder, is helping parents check off all the boxes for test prep in an upcoming webinar, How to Prepare Your Child for the SAT or ACT.
What is Score Choice and how can my child use it?
Score Choice is a feature that College Board and the ACT Company have recently started to allow. Score Choice refers to a student’s ability to select which set of scores to send to a college. It is important to remember that scores for all sections are sent when test results are sent to a college, so if a student has a bad testing day he can choose not to send those scores to any college. Most schools allow Score Choice, while some do not.
There is an enormous strategic implication of Score Choice. Now that students can choose which scores to send to colleges, there is no down-side of taking the SAT/ACT multiple times. Before Score Choice, there was a strategic question about whether to take the test again because getting lower scores might hurt your application. Now, you don’t have to worry about that! If your student gets a score that he or she is unhappy with, don’t send it with his or her college application.
When Should My Child Start Prepping for the State-administered SAT or ACT?
As I mentioned, if your child has to take a standardized test, they might as well do a great job. That means putting in two or three months of consistent practice, leading up to the test.
Here’s what that timeline might look like if your child is a junior. For a more personalized timeline, take the test prep timeline quiz.
Mid-January: Start prepping.
- What’s the best way to start prepping? Testive students kick off their 1-on-1 Coaching Programs by taking a full-length practice test.
- With Testive Learning Software, we identify areas of weakness based on the practice test scores, and their Coach creates a curriculum to address them.
February – April: Consistent practice and review
- What’s the best way to prep? Doing the work. Throughout the two- to three-month period of prep, successful students at Testive practice for 30 minutes per day, 4 days per week.
- The key to score improvement is practicing the right questions and reviewing wrong answers. Testive Learning Software is adaptive. That means students only see practice questions that are right above their comfort zone, leading to meaningful learning moments and reflection.
Early April: Test Day
- Mark your calendar for the test!
- Create a College Board account to access scores when they come out.
- Stop prepping! Take a much-needed break from SAT or ACT prep at least until scores come back.
Score Release (To Be Announced)
- Your child will get their SAT or ACT scores back. This is a time to celebrate all the hard work your child put in!
- Does your child still have room to improve? A “good score” is different for every student. Here’s how to think about what a “good score” or “target score” might be for your child.
- Testive students meet with their Coaches via video chat to discuss whether or not they should keep on trucking for another test. Learn how Testive Coaching works.
- If your child wants to take the test again, I recommend starting prep soon. It’s best to carry momentum from the last two- to three-months than take a long period of time off.
State-administered SATs/ACTs are a great way for your child to both meet your state’s educational requirements and prepare their college admissions application. These tests are currently offered in about 25 states, and they are free of charge (but mandatory)! While you will have access to Score Choice, it is wise to simply “kill two birds with one stone” and earn a great score! Since the state-administered SAT/ACT are identical to the regular tests, Testive is a great way for your child to prepare. Start prepping today!
- State-administered SATs and ACTs are required for public school juniors, held in April and paid-for and administered by the respective State Boards of Education. The results are used to determine statewide scholastic achievement.
- Students can use scores from their state-administered test for college admissions.
- If they don’t get the score the way, students can take the SAT or ACT again.
- This is a free test, and it’s required. We recommend that your child kills two birds with one stone and preps for this test, starting two- to three-months before test day.