A Breakdown of the New SAT and How You Can Nail It

A Breakdown of the New SAT and How You Can Nail It

The SAT has gone through some renovation, and it’s pretty obvious that the new SAT is very different from the old SAT. There aren’t any penalties for wrong answers, there are four options for the multiple-choice answers instead of five, and there are fewer but longer sections. These sections are Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and the now-optional essay.

Within the Math Test, there is a 55-minute part where you can use a calculator and a 25-minute section without a calculator. Within the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Test there is a 65-minute reading section and a 35-minute language and writing section. The optional essay (which you will probably want to take) is now 50 minutes. The new SAT is trying to move away from being a test on how well you can take the SAT and become one that tests you on what you know.

How the New SAT is Graded

The new SAT is on a 1600-point scale rather than a 2400-point scale. There are 800 points for Math and 800 points for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing. The optional essay is scored separately. Every time a test occurs, it is graded independently of other tests. This means that you are only compared to the people that took the test on the same day as you.

Test Tips

  1. Take Practice Tests

The best thing you can do for yourself is take a full-on practice test emulating the settings and the breaks of the real test before you start your studying. That way, you can easily identify your weaknesses right off the bat. After you practice, it’s a good idea to take another full practice test before the actual test, so you can see what kind of score you can expect.

  1. Figure out what makes you uncomfortable

Beyond the types of questions that were hard, take a look at the whole experience. Were you crunched for time? Were you burnt out by the end of the test? Were you completely flummoxed? If you felt uncomfortable with the whole ordeal, take another practice test and compare your answers. Find specific areas to focus on so you don’t overwhelm yourself.

  1. Practice!

The most obvious but the hardest thing to do when studying for a big test is to practice the problems that you aren’t good at. To make it easier, make a schedule for yourself. Spread your studying out over the week so you aren’t spending too much time on it every day, but you are completing all the you need to do in order to feel confident for your test. Each sitting, focus on one section or one type of problem. That way, you’ll make the most of your study time.

  1. Make sure you are getting the right information

With the new SAT, you are going to get a lot of wrong information from your parents, your older friends, and your siblings. Make sure to double check what you hear with the reliable sources like The College Board, Chegg, or Kaplan.

  1. Stay Healthy

At least 2 weeks before the test, get in the habit of eating good food, getting a full night’s sleep, and drinking lots of water. Most importantly: breathe. The SAT is scary but it isn’t the end of the world. Try your best, and if it goes worse than you expect you can always take it again!

You spend lots of time practicing and preparing for the exam, so get excited! This is your chance to show The College Board just how smart you are and how much you deserve a good score. You are so ready! Go get ‘em!


Timeline: Key Steps for Completing College Applications Successfully


Rising seniors should map out deadlines early to help them stay on track with their college applications.

Students should prep for college throughout high school, but for rising seniors time is limited. Applying to college can be stressful, but proper planning can help alleviate some of the pressure on students and their families.

Students can use the following timeline to map out their college application process. For a general timeline on when to apply for financial aid, students should refer to our college savings plan for 2014.

12:00 AM
June 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
June 30, 2014

Ask for Recommendation Letters

Students who want recommendation letters from their junior year teachers should reach out to them before the school year ends.

“It’s really ideal if you ask before the start of the summer because if you have a teacher who is on top of things he or she might actually write the letter over the summer, so you’ll have it when you come back to school in September,” says Elizabeth Heaton, senior director of educational consulting at College Coach.

12:00 AM
July 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2014

Start Test Prep

“As you’re putting your list of colleges together, you want to make sure you’re making note of the different testing requirements at each school,” Heaton says. Most schools accept either the ACT or SAT, but some institutions require additional testing or make standardized testing optional.

12:00 AM
August 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2014

Write Your College Essay

Application essays are one of the most daunting parts of the college application process, but students can get that part done during the summer. The Common Application has announced that essay prompts will remain the same for the 2014-2015 school year. The application will be available to students on Aug. 1. For schools that don’t use the Common App, Heaton says students can reach out to those institutions directly to ask about the prompts.

12:00 AM
August 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
October 30, 2014

Go On A College Tour

Summer can be a great opportunity for students to see schools on their application list. Many schools have programs and students on campus during the summer, so prospective students can still get a feel for campus culture and life.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
October 30, 2014

Take the SAT or ACT

Fall is the best time to retake the SAT or ACT because it allows students to get their scores ahead of early decision application deadlines.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
December 31, 2014

Search for Scholarships

It’s never too early to start searching for scholarships. Many national scholarships have fall deadlines, so if you haven’t started your search already, now is a good time to start.

12:00 AM
September 1, 2014 — 12:00 AM
September 30, 2014

Create an Application Timeline

Heaton encourages students to map out their deadlines for the rest of the year. With school in session, managing time becomes more important, she says.

12:00 AM
January 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
January 31, 2015

Fill Out the FAFSA

Everyone who is planning on attending school should fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The application is used to determine what loans students can receive and award applicants with need-based scholarships. Learn more about some of the most common FAFSA mistakes.

U.S. News Education

12:00 AM
January 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
March 3, 2015

Apply for Summer Jobs

A summer job is a great way to build your resume and assist with some of your college expenses. Many summer jobs and internships start accepting applications for summer jobs in the beginning of a new year. Start searching now to hopefully have something secured by graduation.

12:00 AM
April 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
May 1, 2015

Make Your College Decision

By now you’ve likely researched your top choices, gone on tours and analyzed your financial aid packages. The national response deadline for accepting a college is May 1.

12:00 AM
May 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
May 31, 2015

Apply for Late Admissions to Schools if Necessary

Students who haven’t secured a spot at an institution still have hope. Some schools still have places open after the May 1 national response date, but space is limited.

12:00 AM
June 1, 2015 — 12:00 AM
August 31, 2015

Prepare for Freshman Year

From selecting dorms to negotiating financial aid, there’s a lot more to do after you’ve been admitted. Stay up-to-date on all of your paperwork, enjoy the summer and prepare for the new school year.

Images from iStockphoto and Getty
pic3Briana Boyington is an education Web producer at U.S. News. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at bboyington@usnews.com.

What Is a Good SAT Subject Test Score?


| Posted by Rebecca Safier

Simple question; complicated answer.

This sounds like a straightforward question, but actually it’s a little more complicated than it looks. What makes a good score varies by subject test, since populations and number of test-takers differ from test to test. Last year, for instance, over 140,000 students took the Math Level II Test, 67,000 students took the Literature Subject Test, and only 635 took the Subject Test in Italian.

As you’ll see below, most good scores for Subject Tests are in the 700s, but there are some other factors to consider as you set your target scores. Let’s take a look at the average scores and score percentiles for each SAT Subject Test, so you can know what’s a good score for each individual Subject Test.

While we’ll be looking at statistics and college requirements to answer this question, it’s also important for you to define what “good” means to you – with effort and preparation, you should be proud of the scores you ultimately achieve!

What Are the Average Scores?

Good SAT Subject Test scores tend to be a good deal higher than good scores on the general SAT, since highly academically achieving students tend to take the Subject Tests. This chart shows the average scores for each Subject Test. For a full breakdown of what these average scores mean, check out this article.

Subject Test Mean Score
Korean with Listening 767
Chinese with Listening 759
Japanese with Listening 688
Math Level 2 686
Italian 684
Spanish with Listening 668
Physics 667
Chemistry 666
Spanish 656
Biology M 655
French with Listening 654
U.S. History 651
French 635
Biology E 626
World History 624
German with Listening 624
German 622
Math Level 1 621
Modern Hebrew 620
Latin 615
Literature 613

See how the average score for the Korean with Listening is an incredibly high 767? The average for Literature looks like a more reasonable 613.

So a “good” score would be higher than average, maybe even in the top 25% of test-takers, or top 5% if you’re shooting for the Ivy League.

Based on these averages, a score of 700 could mean completely different things depending on the test. It would be a strong score on the Literature test, but only slightly above average on the Math Level 2. And on the Korean with Listening test? A 700 would be way below average.

Now that you have a sense of the average scores for each test, and why they matter for your percentile, let’s look at the score percentiles for the Class of 2014.

What Are the Score Percentiles?

Along with getting a score somewhere between 200 and 800, you also get a score percentile, which compares you to other students who took the test. Scoring in the 80th percentile, for example, means that you scored higher than 80% of other students.

This chart shows how scores became percentiles for last year’s test-takers.

Literature, History, Math, and Science Subject Tests

Score Literature U.S. History World History Math Level I Math Level II Biology E Biology M Chemistry Physics Score
800 98 97 85 99 81 98 95 90 89 800
790 97 95 93 98 78 96 93 87 86 790
780 95 93 91 98 74 95 90 83 83 780
770 94 91 89 96 70 93 87 80 80 770
760 92 88 87 94 66 91 83 76 76 760
750 91 84 84 92 62 88 80 72 73 750
740 87 81 81 89 59 85 76 68 70 740
730 83 77 79 86 55 82 72 65 66 730
720 80 73 75 82 52 78 68 62 63 720
710 76 69 72 78 49 76 63 57 59 710
700 73 64 70 74 46 71 60 54 56 700
690 70 61 67 71 43 68 56 50 52 690
680 66 57 63 67 41 64 52 47 48 680
670 62 53 61 63 38 60 48 43 45 670
660 58 49 57 58 35 57 45 40 42 660
650 53 45 54 55 31 52 42 37 39 650
640 50 42 51 51 28 49 38 35 36 640

Language Subject Tests

Score Chinese* French* German* Japanese* Korean* Spanish* French German Modern Hebrew Italian Latin Spanish Score
800 64 82 95 88 64 94 87 87 84 81 94 92 800
790 50 80 93 76 45 90 85 82 80 71 93 90 790
780 40 78 91 71 34 86 83 81 77 68 91 87 780
770 32 76 88 68 26 80 80 78 76 63 89 85 770
760 27 73 85 60 22 76 78 76 74 59 87 80 760
750 24 70 83 57 19 69 76 73 71 54 83 76 750
740 21 67 78 50 15 67 73 70 71 51 81 73 740
730 17 66 75 47 14 61 71 67 69 47 78 69 730
720 15 62 72 43 12 58 68 65 66 43 74 66 720
710 14 59 68 39 10 56 65 63 66 41 72 63 710
700 12 57 66 35 9 53 64 59 65 38 68 58 700
690 11 53 60 33 8 50 61 58 63 36 66 55 690
680 10 51 59 31 7 47 58 55 60 33 64 52 680
670 9 46 57 29 6 46 56 53 60 30 59 49 670
660 8 43 55 28 5 42 53 50 58 28 58 46 660
650 7 40 52 25 5 39 51 46 56 25 53 43 650
640 6 38 50 24 4 38 49 43 54 24 51 39 640

*with Listening

As you can see, there’s a lot of variation among the Subject Tests. That’s what makes answering the question, “What’s a good SAT Subject Test score?” a bit more complicated. Some tests are considered easier than others – check out the Easiest SAT Subject Tests here – and the grading curve can be more competitive depending on the population of test-takers.

Based on this data, here are my suggestions for good and excellent scores for each test. These are the scores you should aim for if you want to achieve in the 70th percentile or above, the 80th percentile or above, or the 90th percentile or above.


Good and Excellent SAT Subject Test Scores

Finally, the last way to identify a great SAT subject test score is to find which score you need to score at a certain percentile. We’ve compiled all of the scores you need to reach 70th, 80th, and 90th percentiles below:

Subject Test 70th %ile+ 80th %ile+ 90th %ile+
Literature 690 720 750
Biology E 700 720-730 760
Biology M 720-730 750 780
Chemistry 740-750 770 800
Physics 740 770 800
U.S. History 710-720 740 770
World History 700 740 770-780
Math Level 1 690 710-720 740-750
Math Level 2 770 790-800 800
French 720-730 770 800
German 740 780 800
Spanish 730-740 760 790
Modern Hebrew 730-740 790 800
Italian 780-790 790-800 800
Latin 700-710 740 780
French with Listening 750 790 800
German with Listening 710-720 740-750 780
Spanish with Listening 750-760 770 790
Chinese with Listening 800 800 800
Japanese with Listening 770-780 790-800 800
Korean with Listening 800 800 800

Some tests, like Math Level II, Physics, Chemistry, Chinese with Listening, Korean with Listening, and Italian, require almost perfect scores to get a high percentile! Don’t feel overwhelmed by this, however. A lot of these tests have high averages and low standard deviations, meaning most well-prepared students are able to get a high score near or above the average. So if these subjects are your strong suit, then you are statistically likely to be able to achieve a very high score.

On the flip side, if you’re not so strong in math, physics, or these other subjects, keep in mind that the grading curve is very competitive – you’ll be competing with students likely bound for top engineering and technical schools like CalTech and MIT. Reflect on your academic strengths and subject mastery to determine if one of these tests is right for you.

As mentioned earlier, good SAT Subject Test scores are higher than good scores on the general SAT. As you can see, to score in the 70th percentile or higher, you have to get in the 700s for almost all of the subject tests. The two exceptions are Literature and Math Level I, which are still pretty high around 690.

There is one more consideration when determining good scores on the SAT Subject Tests: the colleges you’re applying to. Your percentiles are comparing you to all students who took the test. But not all of these students are applying to the same colleges as you.

It’s helpful to get a sense of what the average Subject Test scores are for your colleges. What do they expect to see? Do admitted students usually score in the low 700s or high 700s? Will the college overlook a low percentile on a Subject Test if they know the grading curve for that test was particularly competitive?

Let’s consider these questions a little more in depth.

Uncovering your college’s requirements might take a bit of detective work.

Investigate Your Colleges

As with all the other parts of your application, you want to know what your colleges are looking for. What SAT scores do you need? What do they consider a strong GPA? Unfortunately, colleges can be pretty evasive when it comes to giving you an exact answer to what you want to know. Instead, they stress that it’s a holistic process, that admissions officers are looking at all elements of your application to get a sense of you as a person.

While this is all well and good, and you wouldn’t want your candidacy to be boiled down only to facts and figures, it still leaves you a bit stuck when it comes to the SAT and SAT Subject Tests.

The first step you can take is researching the admissions websites of your colleges. Simply Google the name of the college, along with SAT Subject Tests or average SAT Subject Test scores, and you may find exactly what you’re looking for. If this is a dead end, you might try calling the admissions officers and asking if they will share this data, or at least their recommendations.

If you’re concerned about bothering them, don’t be! Lots of admissions officers have tons of valuable information and are happy to share – plus demonstrating that you have a vested interest in the college – by speaking to people on campus, going on visits, even just putting your name on email lists – will further strengthen your application. With the college process, there’s nothing helpful about playing hard to get. Put yourself out there!

Here is some information I’ve found on Subject Test scores for specific colleges. Based on this, you can assume that schools with similar selectivity and rankings will have similar expectations. Let me know in the comments if you know of any more schools I can add.

  • MIT – admitted students score between 720 and 800 on their science Subject Test.
  • Middlebury – students tend to score in the low to mid 700s on the Subject Tests.
  • Princeton – average Subject Test scores are between 710 and 790.
  • UCLA – the average best Subject Test score for students was 734.
  • Williams – the top third of students scored between 750 and 800.

If your sights are set on the Ivy League, check out this article on the Subject Test scores and requirements for the Ivy League (coming soon).

Finally, let’s step outside the statistics and requirements and consider your own personal goals.


Did you celebrate 3/14 this year? Show off your affinity for math by scoring high on the Math Subject Test.

Customize Your Target Scores For You

What are your personal goals for the Subject Tests? Have you memorized the first hundred digits of pi, or are you always the one who calculates the tip at dinner? If you consider yourself a math whiz, then it might be very important for you to score highly on the Math Subject Test, not only to demonstrate your abilities to college, but because you know you can.

When I was in high school, I absolutely loved English class. Reading and analyzing books revealed new ways of thinking about the world and human relationships. Even when it was hard work, it was work I wanted to do.

This doesn’t mean I naturally was able to score a perfect score on the Subject Test. The Subject Test was a much different way to demonstrate subject mastery than my normal classwork, considering its strict time limits. But I felt driven to score well in this particular subject, so I studied practice questions and trained myself to read passages and answer questions under strict time limits.

By reflecting on your strengths and interests, as well as by taking practice tests and scoring them yourself, you can develop your own sense of what’s a good score for you. Once you’ve set your target scores, tape them to your wall so you see them everyday. Sharing your goals with friends, study buddies, or family is another good way to stay accountable.

Once you’ve set your goals based on this information and your colleges’ expectations, you can start preparing for the SAT Subject Tests you’ve chosen. College Board has a helpful breakdown of each Subject Test, as well as practice questions, here. Check out our other resources below to answer any other questions you have about the Subject Tests or the SAT.

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.



The Complete List of SAT Subject Tests

Home_Illustration_2 | Posted by Rebecca Safier


The SAT Subject Tests are a chance for you to show where you have specialized knowledge. With these tests, you can show which subjects interest you and which you’ve taken the time to get to know well.

With that being said, how can you decide which SAT Subject Test to take? First, let’s take a look at all the SAT Subject Tests from which you can choose.

List of SAT Subject Tests

There are 21 SAT Subject Tests (we’re counting Biology E and Biology M as two separate tests). They cover four core subject areas – English literature, history, math, and science – with 9 variations within these domains: Literature, U.S. History, World History, Math Level 1, Math Level 2, Biology Ecological, Biology Molecular, Chemistry, and Physics.

There are an additional 12 Subject Tests that cover 9 different languages: French, French with Listening, German, German with Listening, Spanish, Spanish with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Chinese with Listening, Japanese with Listening, and Korean with Listening.

To put it another way, there are 21 different variations of tests to choose from. All SAT Subject tests cover 13 subject areas – 4 core courses and 9 languages.

Let’s take a look at how many students take each SAT Subject Test, from most to least. We’ll also show you the average scores these students achieve.

Subject Test Mean Score # of Test-takers
Math Level 2 686 140,690
U.S. History 651 84,455
Biology E/M E – 626
M – 655
74,157 (32, 662 – E and 41,495 – M)
Math Level 1 621 72,828
Chemistry 666 72,250
Literature 613 67,132
Physics 667 52,323
Spanish 656 22,453
World History 624 18,172
French 635 8,635
Chinese with Listening 759 6,167
Spanish with Listening 668 3,868
Korean with Listening 767 2,986
Latin 615 2,960
French with Listening 654 1,972
Japanese with Listening 688 1,521
German 622 758
German with Listening 624 675
Italian 684 635
Modern Hebrew 620 412

As you can see, the core courses, like literature, math, history, and science, attract the largest number of students. When it comes to tests that have Listening and non-Listening options, more students tend to opt for the non-Listening option.

You’ll notice a large variation in average scores of tests. A higher mean score does not necessarily mean that a Subject Test is easier – instead, it likely means that people who opt for that test know that subject really, really well. Check out our further analysis of which SAT Subject Tests are the easiest based on their mean scores and other factors. (coming soon)

Now that you know all the options, how can you decide which Subject Test to take?


How to Decide Which Subject Tests To Take

What Do the Colleges Want?

First off, you need to know the requirements of your college. How many Subject Tests does the college want you to take? Is the college a technology school that will take a close look at your knowledge in math and science? Or is it a liberal arts school that wants you to demonstrate a range of abilities, like one test in English literature and another in math?

Some colleges have adopted a test optional or test flexible policy, which may give you the option of sending SAT Subject Tests in place of the general SAT or ACT. Check out our article for the full list of colleges with these policies. These approaches could be really helpful for you to know, as they let you shape your application in the way that’s best for you.

Another consideration is placement in college classes. Some colleges may prefer Listening language tests to non-Listening language tests, for example, because they demonstrate that extra dimension of fluency. If you’re a native speaker, the Listening language test is likely to be easy for you to achieve a great score on. If you’re not, you want to make sure your language skills have reached a very high level before taking a Language Subject Test.

College requirements and expectations play the biggest role in which ones out of all the Subject Tests you decide to take, but within those requirements, you may still have several options. Now you have to consider where you can best demonstrate subject mastery.

What Do You Know?

The Subject Tests are testing your knowledge of a particular subject, rather than your reasoning skills. In this way, they’re closely aligned with your academic classes and the finals or AP exams you take to demonstrate your content and conceptual knowledge.

Since people often devote more time to learning about things that actually interest them, the Subject Tests also tell a story about you – what you’re interested in and have dedicated time to understanding. So if you love reading and understanding books, you should probably take the Literature test. Not only will you be likely to get a high score, but you’ll also be indicating your personal interests to admissions officers. The Subject Tests offer one more way you can individualize your college applications and tell a story about your personality and identity.

Did you know that you can take the Subject Test whenever you feel ready? You don’t have to wait until junior year to take one. You may be ready to take the biology or chemistry tests, for example, at the end of freshman or sophomore year. The math tests, on the other hand, tend to require several years of high school level math.

The best time to take the Subject Tests is near the end of the school year when you’ve been studying the relevant subject and the content is fresh in your mind. Click here to learn about the best test dates and how to schedule your Subject Tests alongside the SAT or ACT and your other assignments.

Besides choosing your subject, you also might have more decisions to make. As you saw above, there are some variations within each subject which are important for you to know.


Which Format Is Best For You?

Language Tests

As you saw above, the French, Spanish, and German language tests offer Listening and non-Listening options. If you have strong listening skills, then the Listening tests are a great way to demonstrate fluency. They may also place you in a higher level once you get to college. Check with the individual college on this policy, as some have their own placement tests.

If you don’t feel confident in your listening skills, then your best bet would be to take the non-Listening option, or another Subject Test altogether. The language tests tend to be difficult to score high on if your language skills are limited to a classroom environment.


Are you intrigued by populations and energy flow within systems? Or do you prefer to know how cells work and the ins and outs of photosynthesis?

There are two options within the Biology Subject Test – the Ecological Subject Test and the Molecular Subject Test. Both share a core 60 questions, and then have 20 additional questions with an ecological or molecular focus. You can further explore the differences between the two tests and try practice questions here.


If you’re taking a math Subject Test, you have to decide between Math Level 1 and Math Level 2. For Level 1, you will need to have taken at least 2 years of algebra and 1 year of geometry. For Level 2, you should have taken these plus some trigonometry and pre-calculus. Both tests require you to use a graphing calculator, but Level 2 requires more complex use of the calculator.

You can learn more about the Math Level 1 test here and Math Level 2 test here. Like with the Listening language tests, Math Level 2 has a higher mean score and lower standard deviation, meaning most students who take it score near the relatively high mean score of 686. If you’re not super confident in math, it may be harder to score in a high percentile in comparison amidst all those other high scorers.

To Sum Up…

Ultimately, you’re the expert in your own learning. You know what captivates you, or makes you fall asleep. You know if you learn best by seeing, listening, doing, or a combination of lots of different things. You’ve probably already been drawn to and chosen the classes in high school that will determine which of this list of SAT Subject Tests you’re in the best position to take.

You know yourself better than anyone else – so as long as you research the Subject Tests and have a strong sense of what will be on them, along with your colleges’ requirements, you’ll make the right decision about the SAT Subject Tests.

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


NCAA ACT Scores: What You Need to Qualify


| Posted by Rebecca Safier


If you’re a student athlete who wants to play in NCAA Division I or Division II sports in college, then this article is for you! We’ll review NCAA’s eligibility criteria for your GPA and ACT score, which NCAA compares using a sliding scale. Most importantly, we’ll give you the tips and strategies you need to achieve the NCAA ACT scores you need to pass the clearinghouse.

First, let’s quickly review how your grade point average, or GPA, is determined.

Review Of How Your GPA Is Calculated

NCAA considers the grade point average of your core courses. These include 4 years of English, 3 years of math at Algebra I level or higher, 2 years of natural or physical science (one lab if offered at any high school attended), 1 year of additional English, math or natural/physical science, 2 years of social science, and 4 years of foreign language, philosophy or comparative religion. Check out your own high school to see which of its courses qualify as NCAA core courses.

This means your core course GPA might be a little different than the one reported on your transcript, which is an average of all the courses you have taken at high school. GPAs are calculated on a 4.0 scale. The chart below shows how letter and percentage grades translate to this 4.0 scale.

Letter Grade Grade Point Percentage
A 4 94-100%
A- 3.7 90-93%
B+ 3.3 87-89%
B 3 83-86%
B- 2.7 80-82%
C+ 2.3 77-79%
C 2 73-76%
C- 1.7 70-72%
D+ 1.3 67-69%
D 1 60-66%
F 0 0-59%

Since NCAA compares your GPA and ACT score, let’s review how the ACT is scored. With this understanding, you’ll be able to determine exactly what ACT scores you need and how to achieve them.

Review Of How the ACT Is Scored

For a detailed explanation of how the ACT is scored, check out our article here. The gist is that the ACT has four sections: math, science, English, and reading. Each of these sections is scored on a scale from 1 to 36, and these four section scores are averaged together to get your composite score, also out of 36. However, your composite score doesn’t really matter for NCAA.

Instead, NCAA adds your section scores together into a “sum score.” So your sum score must be at least 4 and at most 144 (36 x 4).

Before you get a scaled score from 1 to 36, each section receives a “raw score.” Your raw score is simply the number of questions you answer correctly in each section. The chart below shows how raw scores are converted into scaled scores.

Why is this important? Because once you know your target score, you can figure out what raw score you need. In other words, you can determine how many correct answers you need and how many questions you can essentially ignore. Note that the ACT does not deduct any points for wrong answers, so you should still fill in answers to those questions you’ve skipped. You might get lucky and add a point or more to your raw score!


How NCAA Considers Your ACT Scores

As we said above, NCAA adds your section scores from math, science, English, and reading into a sum score. For example, if you got a scaled score of 20 in all four sections, then your sum score would be 80 (20 + 20 + 20 + 20 = 80).

If you take the ACT more than once, NCAA will take your best section scores from any dates. NCAA will mix and match your highest section scores so you get your highest possible sum score.

Now let’s move on to the really important part – how NCAA compares your GPA with your ACT score.

NCAA Eligibility – The Sliding Scale

NCAA uses a sliding scale that compares your GPA and ACT scores. If you have a higher GPA, you can meet the eligibility requirements with lower ACT scores. Conversely, if you have a lower GPA, you have to make up the difference with higher ACT scores.

With a 2.8 GPA, for example, you need an NCAA ACT requirements score of 57. If you scored around the same in each section, this might be around 15 (out of 36) in each section. You could score a little higher in some and lower in others.

These charts show the sliding scale to qualify for Division I and Division II teams. While you can qualify with a 2.0 GPA currently, you will need at least a 2.3 GPA starting August 1, 2016. After that date, students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.3 may qualify for “Academic Redshirt” – they will get athletic aid and practice but cannot compete.

Division I Division II
Core Course GPA ACT Sum Core Course GPA ACT Sum
3.550 & above 37 3.300 & above 37
3.525 38 3.275 38
3.5 39 3.25 39
3.475 40 3.225 40
3.45 41 3.2 41
3.425 41 3.175 41
3.4 42 3.15 42
3.375 42 3.125 42
3.35 43 3.1 43
3.325 44 3.075 44
3.3 44 3.05 44
3.275 45 3.025 45
3.25 46 3 46
3.225 46 2.975 46
3.2 47 2.95 47
3.175 47 2.925 47
3.15 48 2.9 48
3.125 49 2.875 49
3.1 49 2.85 49
3.075 50 2.825 50
3.05 50 2.8 50
3.025 51 2.775 51
3 52 2.75 52
2.975 52 2.725 52
2.95 53 2.7 53
2.925 53 2.675 53
2.9 54 2.65 54
2.875 55 2.625 55
2.85 56 2.6 56
2.825 56 2.575 56
2.8 57 2.55 57
2.775 58 2.525 58
2.75 59 2.5 59
2.725 59 2.475 60
2.7 60 2.45 61
2.675 61 2.425 61
2.65 62 2.4 62
2.625 63 2.375 63
2.6 64 2.35 64
2.575 65 2.325 65
2.55 66 2.3 66
2.525 67 2.275 67
2.5 68 2.25 68
2.475 69 2.225 69
2.45 70 2.2 70 & above
2.425 70
2.4 71
2.375 72
2.35 73
2.325 74
2.3 75
2.275 76
2.25 77
2.225 78
2.2 79
2.175 80
2.15 80
2.125 81
2.1 82
2.075 83
2.05 84
2.025 85
2 86

Once you know your GPA and what you need to qualify, how can you get these scores? Read on for our important tips and strategies.

How To Hit Your Target ACT Scores

Play To Your Strengths

Since NCAA adds together all your section scores, all sections of the ACT are important and require test prep. However, since there is no minimum per section, you can achieve your target sum score with any combination of section scores. Put it another way, you can play to your strengths. What subjects are you stronger in? Which subjects are not your forte? If you love English but feel like math messes with your head, to give one example, you can aim for a higher target score in the English and reading sections than in the math sections.

While you definitely need to prep for all sections, you can define different target scores for English, reading, math, and science depending on your strengths and what you can realistically achieve with the time you have to prep.

Devise a Strategy

Once you have your target scores defined, take a look at the raw score chart we presented above. How many questions do you need to get right? If you need an 18 in English, for example, you need to answer 17 – 19 questions correct (aim for at least 19). This is less than ⅓ of all the English questions!

As you’re taking the test, don’t waste time on the really hard questions. Seek out questions you can confidently answer. At the same time, don’t leave any questions blank. As we mentioned above, there is no point penalty for wrong answers, so you might as well guess. If you skip any questions, leave a little time at the end of each section to fill in the rest on your bubble sheet.

You may also be able to improve your scores by taking the ACT more than once. Check out the ACT test dates here – start early to make sure you have enough test dates.

Get Training

As with the rigorous hours you put in for your sport, you need to step up to some serious training for the ACT. Doing well on the ACT is not about just showing up and being smart – it’s all about how prepared you are. Studying will help you get better, just as practices allow you to improve as an athlete. This isn’t a metaphor – it’s how any skill is developed. And believing that you can grow and get better is a big part of clearing the way for growth to happen. As you know during exhausting practices and games, a huge part of performing is winning this mental game.

These values of dedication, effort, discipline, and internal motivation will help you on the ACT and carry you through your career as a student-athlete in college. Figure out your strengths, drill your weaknesses, and keep up your drive and hunger to achieve your goals.


Find Time

Finding time for test prep is easier said than done, especially with your packed schedule of school, homework, practices, games, and social life. Create a schedule and set aside specific time for ACT studying to ensure that you make time.

As you take practice tests, time yourself the way the real test will be timed. This will help you get used to the pacing of the questions in a short amount of time, as well as understand your own stamina and what you need to do to keep up your focus and energy levels.

Use the Right Materials

You wouldn’t train for baseball with a wiffle ball, just as you shouldn’t train for the ACT with sub-par materials. High quality test prep questions are a must for preparing you for the test and breaking down the skills and content you need to master within each section. Check out our free E-Book for important tips about the ACT.

ACT Questions of the Day are also an easy and convenient way to add some extra test prep to your day. They can be accessed online or on your phone. By starting months ahead of your test, ACT QOTD will get you familiar with a variety of questions and help you figure out which kinds of question need extra attention.

To Sum Up…

By being aware of NCAA ACT and GPA requirements well ahead of your application deadlines, you will have enough time to train for the ACT, take the test several times, and ensure that you meet the NCAA eligibility criteria.

As an athlete, you know well that training and practice makes all the difference. By applying those same skills of self-discipline and internal motivation to your ACT prep, you will be able to take your career as a student-athlete to the next level at the college of your choice!

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


NCAA SAT Scores: What You Need to Be Eligible


| Posted by Rebecca Safier
Calling all student athletes! Are you aiming to go to college as an NCAA athlete? Two important NCAA Clearinghouse requirements have to do with your high school grade point average (GPA) and SAT scores, which are compared on a sliding scale. Let’s talk about the eligibility criteria for NCAA athletics, and how you can achieve the scores you need.
First, let’s review GPA requirements and how your GPA is calculated.

Review of How GPA Is Calculated

Your GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale, meaning your letter and percentage grade scores get translated to a number between 0.0 and 4.0. As you can see on the chart below, a 4.0 is an A or A+. A 3.0 is a B, and a 2.0 is a C.

Letter Grade Grade Point Percentage
A 4 94-100%
A- 3.7 90-93%
B+ 3.3 87-89%
B 3 83-86%
B- 2.7 80-82%
C+ 2.3 77-79%
C 2 73-76%
C- 1.7 70-72%
D+ 1.3 67-69%
D 1 60-66%
F 0 0-59%

NCAA only looks at your core courses to determine your GPA. Your core courses include 4 years of English, 3 years of math at Algebra I level or higher, 2 years of natural or physical science (one lab if offered at any high school attended), 1 year of additional English, math or natural/physical science, 2 years of social science, and 4 years of foreign language, philosophy or comparative religion.

You can review core course requirements here, as well as check your own high school to see which of its courses count as NCAA eligible core courses. Since NCAA is only looking at the grades in your core courses, your NCAA GPA may be different from the one provided on your transcript, which usually includes all your courses and electives.

Another important requirement for NCAA is your SAT score. Let’s take a look at how the SAT is scored and why this matters for your NCAA eligibility clearinghouse.

Review of How SAT Is scored

Your SAT is scored in three sections, Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. NCAA doesn’t even look at the Writing section or essay score, so all you have to worry about is Critical Reading and Math. These sections are scored out of 800, so you could get a maximum total of 1600 for Critical Reading and Math combined.

Check out our article for a review of exactly how your SAT scores are calculated. To give a quick review, your scaled score falls somewhere between 200 and 800. It is calculated from your raw score, which is just the number of questions you got right minus 0.25 points (or a ¼ of a point) for each question you got wrong. Skipped questions do not add or subtract anything from your score.

If you answered 20 Critical Reading questions correctly and got one wrong, for example, then your raw score would be 19.75. This translates to a scaled score of about 430 in Critical Reading.

If you take the SAT more than once (which is a good idea – students almost always improve the more times they take the test), then NCAA will look at your best section scores across all dates. So if your Critical Reading is higher on one test and your math is higher on another, the NCAA will take these scores to determine your SAT combined score for initial eligibility.

Now that you know NCAA is looking at your core course GPA and Critical Reading and Math combined score, let’s discuss how they relate to each other.



NCAA Eligibility – The Sliding Scale

To be eligible for the NCAA, you need to achieve a certain GPA and SAT (Critical Reading + Math) score. However, what you need on your SAT varies with your GPA, and vice versa. If you have a high GPA, then the requirement for your SAT scores is lower. If your GPA is on the low side, then you need to make up for it with higher SAT scores.

For example, let’s say your core course GPA is a 2.5. With this GPA, you need at least a combined score of 1000 on your Critical Reading and Math for your NCAA SAT scores. This could mean you get a 500 on both sections, a 600 on Critical Reading and 400 on math, or really any combination that adds up to a 1000. If you score an 820 on your SAT, which is a bit lower, then you would need a core course GPA of at least 2.95 to be eligible for NCAA.

This chart shows the requirements for student athletes who aim to play on Division I teams. Starting August 1, 2016, you will need at least a 2.3 GPA to fully qualify. Students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.3 may qualify for “Academic Redshirt” – they will get athletic aid and practice but cannot compete. Scroll down to see the sliding scale for Division II.

Division I Division II
Core Course GPA SAT (Verbal and Math) Core Course GPA SAT (Verbal and Math)
3.550 & above 400 3.300 & above 400
3.525 410 3.275 410
3.5 420 3.25 420
3.475 430 3.225 430
3.45 440 3.2 440
3.425 450 3.175 450
3.4 460 3.15 460
3.375 470 3.125 470
3.35 480 3.1 480
3.325 490 3.075 490
3.3 500 3.05 500
3.275 510 3.025 510
3.25 520 3 520
3.225 530 2.975 530
3.2 540 2.95 540
3.175 550 2.925 550
3.15 560 2.9 560
3.125 570 2.875 570
3.1 580 2.85 580
3.075 590 2.825 590
3.05 600 2.8 600
3.025 610 2.775 610
3 620 2.75 620
2.975 630 2.725 630
2.95 640 2.7 640
2.925 650 2.675 650
2.9 660 2.65 660
2.875 670 2.625 670
2.85 680 2.6 680
2.825 690 2.575 690
2.8 700 2.55 700
2.775 710 2.525 710
2.75 720 2.5 720
2.725 730 2.475 730
2.7 730 2.45 730
2.675 740-750 2.425 740
2.65 760 2.4 760
2.625 770 2.375 770
2.6 780 2.35 780
2.575 790 2.325 790
2.55 800 2.3 800
2.525 810 2.275 810
2.5 820 2.25 820
2.475 830 2.225 830
2.45 840-850 2.2 840 & above
2.425 860
2.4 860
2.375 870
2.35 880
2.325 890
2.3 900
2.275 910
2.25 920
2.225 930
2.2 940
2.175 950
2.15 960
2.125 960
2.1 970
2.075 980
2.05 990
2.025 1000
2 1010

Now that you have a sense of what scores you need, read on to find out exactly what steps you should take to hit your target scores.

How To Achieve Your Target SAT Scores

Create a Testing Strategy

As we said above, NCAA only looks at your Critical Reading and Math scores – they do not look at Writing. So right off the bat, you can focus your prep and energy on those two sections.

Find out your core course GPA so you know exactly what your target scores are. Since this is a composite target score, you can define your own goals for each section.

Where do your strengths lie? Do you like reading and analyzing texts, or are you more of a math person? Once you know your target composite score, you can play to your strengths by focusing your prep more on one section than on the other.

With your target scores figured out, you can also determine what raw score you need, or how many questions you can afford to get wrong or leave blank in each section. For example, to get a 400 in Critical Reading, you need a raw score of 16, or only 16 correct answers out of 67. To get a 400 on math, you need a raw score of 13, or only 13 correct answers (keeping in mind the 0.25 point deduction for wrong answers).

You could even skip ⅓ of the questions in math and still achieve qualifying scores for NCAA! This means you can leave the hardest ones completely blank. This way you won’t waste time on questions you’re unsure about, and you won’t risk getting the 0.25 point deduction. While you also shouldn’t waste too much time determining which questions are hard and which are easy, you can be strategic about how many questions you answer. So skip the ones that are totally unfamiliar and look for ones you know to build up your raw score.

Treat SAT Prep Like Your sport

Just like with your sport, you’ll improve your SAT performance through training. Doing well on the SAT is about how prepared you are. Studying will help you get comfortable with the concepts, familiar with the format of the tests, and skilled at pacing yourself under timed limits.

To keep up your training schedule, you need to access the same values of practice, dedication, discipline and internal motivation that you give to athletics. Make time to practice, drill your weaknesses, and become an SAT pro.

Understand the Test

Make sure you understand the content and format of the SAT. Check out our free E-Book and other resources to learn more about the test. By understanding the skills and subskills being tested, you can figure out what exactly you need to master.

The math section, for example, covers algebra, geometry, probability, and number operations, to name a few. Each skill can be further broken down – for example, algebra may involve solving equations, graphing functions, and other problem types.

Not only will a thorough understanding of the test help you figure out exactly what you need to study, it will also help you break up your studying into small, manageable goals that will aid you in seeing your progress over time. Remember, NCAA continues to have academic requirements once you reach college, so these principles and this approach to studying will help you succeed as a student-athlete throughout college.


Find Time in your Busy Schedule

With your busy schedule of school, homework, practices, and games, you don’t have the luxury of studying here and there in your spare time. Make a schedule and set aside specific time for SAT prep. Creating and sticking to a schedule is critical in ensuring that you prepare sufficiently.

You can also add some extra practice to your busy day with SAT Questions of the Day. They are a quick and easy way to practice online or on your phone, to try a wide variety of questions, and to figure out where you need to practice more.

Take the Test More Than Once

Students almost always improve the second and third time they take the test. Since NCAA will take your highest section scores across all test dates, you can take the SAT more than once without worrying about one section score going down. Start early to give yourself enough available test dates. If the test registration fee is financially difficult, check out our article on SAT fee waivers to see if you might be eligible to have the fee waived.

When you register for the SAT, enter 9999 to indicate the NCAA Eligibility as one of your score recipients.

To Sum Up…

Now that you know all about how the NCAA sliding scale works, you can figure out your core course GPA and NCAA SAT requirement well ahead of time, at least in early junior year. This way you’ll have enough time for test prep and to take the SAT more than once to reach your target scores.

Since you already have proven yourself to have the drive, discipline, and motivation to be an NCAA athlete, now you have to believe in your academic self and access these same qualities to achieve your target scores and continue your career as a student-athlete at the college level.

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


When Don’t SAT/ACT Scores Matter for College Admissions?

| Posted by Rebecca Safier


Have you started researching how to apply to college? You may know that most college-bound students take the SAT and ACT. But just how important are they, and when can you get away without taking them?

Let’s look at when SAT and ACT scores are important for college admissions, and when they’re not.

When SAT/ACT Scores Matter

Generally speaking, four year colleges place a lot of importance on your SAT and ACT scores. Your grades and high school classes may have different curriculum and levels of difficulty among schools. Because of this, it’s hard for admissions officers to compare candidates’ academic readiness on high school classes alone.

The SAT and ACT represent an attempt to measure students’ skills, knowledge, and potential on the same playing field. If you’re applying as a strong academic archetype – for example, you have high grades and strong extracurricular involvement – you want your test scores to reinforce your academic achievement.

If this describes you as a student, then your SAT or ACT scores matter a great deal. (Below, we’ll discuss how scores factor into the equation for students applying as athletes or to pursue a special talent, like dancing or the arts.)

Especially selective schools also want to see SAT Subject Tests, as a standard measure of your mastery of a particular subject in school, like biology, math, or Spanish. Click here to see the complete list of SAT Subject Tests and learn about what they cover.

How to Find Your College Requirements

Colleges state their standardized testing requirements on their admissions websites. In addition to which tests they require, you want to know what scores you need to achieve. This article tells you step by step how to set target scores that will put you in the best position for admission to your chosen schools.

If your high schools uses Naviance, you can also see data from students that attended your own school. Naviance shows you what scores they had and if they were accepted or rejected from your schools of interest. With clear goals and effective test prep, you can achieve your target scores and apply to schools where you have a strong chance of admission.

For the many of you to whom SAT or ACT scores are very important, you can start preparing by answering any and all of your questions about the tests. When are the best dates to take the SAT or ACT? How can you aim for and achieve a perfect score? And how is the SAT scored anyway? The ACT?

By thoroughly understanding the tests inside and out and doing some serious prep to get yourself ready, you can achieve scores that reinforce your high school record and prove your academic excellence to admissions committees.

Now let’s look at some exceptions – schools with test-optional and test-flexible policies.

When Scores Don’t Matter (or Matter As Much) – Test Optional and Flexible Schools

Recently, more and more schools are de-emphasizing, or even doing away completely, with standardized test scores in their admissions decisions. Some schools have a test optional policy, which suggests that it’s up to you whether your scores reflect your academic ability and you want to send them. Some schools merely suggest you can opt out, while others emphasize that scores truly are optional and will not affect your chances of admission one way or the other.

This is frustratingly vague, right? I’d suggest researching the school’s website or calling its admissions office and asking them to clear it up. Unless the school really stresses that scores are truly optional, it’s probably a good idea to still take the test and send them. Considering how competitive admissions are, strong test scores could be one more way to gain an edge and stand out.

Here we’ve compiled the comprehensive list of all the test optional and test flexible schools, along with their specific expectations. Check it out to see if any of your schools of interest don’t require the SAT or ACT for admission.

If you feel you are unable to achieve strong scores and the tests would drag down your application, then it might be a good idea to hold off on sending those in. Again, you should always check with the school to clear up what their stance toward SAT and ACT scores really is.

One notable exception is Hampshire College in Massachusetts. They will simply reject any test scores that are sent their way. Their policy states, “Unlike ‘test-optional’ institutions, we will not consider SAT/ACT scores regardless of the score. Even if it’s a perfect score, it will not weigh into our assessment of an applicant.”

Some test optional schools are Bates, Bowdoin, Smith, University of Texas at Austin, and Wesleyan, among numerous others.

Another approach that schools have adopted is to be test flexible. This means you can send the SAT or ACT, but there are other options as well. Usually these other options are sending three SAT Subject Tests or three AP exams, if you feel they better reflect your work as a student.

NYU, for example, says, “To be eligible for admission, applicants are expected to submit results from one of the following testing options:

  • The SAT Reasoning Test; or
  • The ACT with Writing Test; or
  • Three SAT Subject Test scores; or
  • Three AP exam scores.”

We’ve looked at the policies of four-year colleges, but what about your unique profile as a candidate? First, what are your SAT or ACT requirements as a recruited athlete?

Applying As an Athlete

If you’re being recruited as an athlete, you are most likely going through NCAA Clearinghouse. You will still have to take the SAT or ACT, if your college requires it, but your scores don’t have to be as high as non-recruited students.

Your SAT and ACT scores are compared on a sliding scale with your grade point average (GPA). So if your GPA is on the higher side, you can get by with lower test scores. If it’s low, then you have to score higher on the SAT or ACT to make up for it.

Click here to read about all the NCAA requirements, what SAT scores you need, and how to achieve them. This article is for you if you’re a student athlete planning on taking the ACT.

Your score requirements may also be less stringent if you’re applying with a special talent.


Applying With a Special Talent

Have you published novels as a teenager? Or won national competitions in spelling or math? Did your 9th grade science experiment help scientists make a breakthrough discovery, or have you played violin in a symphony since the age of 14?

If you’re regarded as one of the top achievers in the country or world in a well-regarded talent, like music, academic competitions, chess, theater, or dance, then your SAT or ACT score might not matter that much. It might be especially inconsequential if it doesn’t align with your strength. For instance, a college might not care how well a published teen author scores in math.

Many of these students receive some media attention for their exceptional talent and will likely be in close contact with colleges to discuss exactly what scores they need for admission. If the college finds you a desirable candidate, then it will probably waive the usual SAT/ACT score expectation and accept you with a lower minimum score.

Applying to Art Schools

If you’re looking to pursue studio art, photography, dancing, acting, music, or another field in the arts, then you may not have to take the SAT or ACT. Usually these schools are more concerned with your portfolio or audition.

Juilliard, one of the world’s leading music schools and most prestigious arts programs, does not require the SAT or ACT. Some other art schools with no SAT or ACT requirement include,

  • Academy of Art College in San Francisco
  • American Academy of Art in Chicago
  • California College of the Arts
  • International Fine Arts College in Miami
  • Illinois Institute of Art
  • New England Institute of Art and Communication
  • New Hampshire Institute of Art

Two other types of schools that don’t usually require the SAT or ACT for admission are community colleges and trade schools.

Community Colleges

As far as I know, no community colleges require SAT or ACT scores. They usually have open enrollment and have students take a placement test in math and English to determine their level in these classes. SAT or ACT scores could exempt you from these tests and determine your placement.

Community colleges offer two-year Associate’s degrees in a huge number of programs. Some students go into community college with a “2 + 2″ plan, meaning they’ll complete two years at community college and then transfer to a four year school. After an additional two years, they’ll receive their Bachelor’s degree from that four-year institution.

There are several reasons why students might choose this plan. Two major ones are saving money or improving their academic record. Community colleges tend to be much less expensive than four year schools, so spending a couple years at one could be a huge tuition-saver.

For students who are not satisfied with their high school grades, they could achieve higher grades in community college and then have more options for four year schools. Community colleges also often have partnerships with state schools that make it easy to make this switch.

If you’ve already been at a community college for two years, you usually do not have to take the SAT or ACT or send your scores in order to transfer. The other type of schools that don’t require SAT/ACT scores are technical and trade schools.


Technical and Trade Schools

Students who are primarily looking for professional training may be interested in technical or trade schools. Many of these schools don’t require the SAT or ACT, or, if they do, they may only require it for certain sections.

ITT Tech, for example, gives students the option of either passing an admissions test or taking the SAT or ACT.

As with all college applications, research your school to find out its specific admission requirements. If you attend a vocational high school, or have one in your district, the teachers and counselors there might also be a great source of information for post-secondary options in technical and trade schools.

To Sum Up…

As you can tell, there are lots of different post-secondary options! Make sure to research your options well in advance of senior year so you can make a plan and fulfill all of your requirements in time for your deadlines.

If you experience a lot of test-taking anxiety or cannot take the SAT or ACT for other reasons, there are selective four year schools, community colleges, and trade schools that do not require or do not heavily emphasize standardized testing scores.

If you have financial concerns about the tests, check out our article on SAT fee waivers and ACT fee waivers to see if you might be eligible to waive the cost. If you are, you can also get free score reports sent to colleges.

The SAT and ACT can be a personal milestone on the path to college for students, but these tests are not for everybody. Explore your options so you can make the best post-secondary plans for you!

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States


| Posted by Samantha Lindsay

If you have a passion for art, you should go to a college that will nurture your creativity. An art school will help you to develop your skills and learn more about what it takes to succeed in the professional world of art and design. In this article, I’ll give you the details on what defines a great art school and provide a list of the best art colleges in the country for undergraduate students.

How Is an Art School Defined for This List?

On this list of the best art schools in the United States, I only included schools that exclusively cater to art and design students. Keep in mind that there are many other colleges that have excellent art programs but are less specialized. Colleges like Yale, UCLA, Tufts, and Columbia also have fantastic art programs. I didn’t include those schools because this list is geared towards students who are absolutely certain that they want to study art at the college level (and would like to be in an environment with similarly-minded people).

There are huge advantages to going to a specialized art college if you fall into this category of students. You will make friends with other people who share your interests and who may inspire you to expand your creative horizons. You also will have the benefit of being in a place where art is never a secondary concern. Career services will be devoted to helping students in artistic fields break into the job world, and you can usually make even better connections with working artists at these schools. If you know that you plan on studying in an artistic field, the schools on this list are great college options.

At a school full of art students, everyone has paint on their hands at all times, and you can be as pretentious as you want without facing judgment! 

What Makes These Art Schools the Best?

There are several factors to consider in determining what makes an art school great. First of all, it should have a diverse and modern curriculum. A great art school equips students with the skills they need to enter a rapidly changing, highly competitive job market. It should offer a wide variety of programs that are in step with current artistic trends and movements. The best art schools are invested in providing students with instruction in design practices that are shaping the world’s creative landscape today.

A great art school should have excellent facilities for students, with access to the latest technology and artistic tools. Many of the schools on this list have extensive digital labs, on-campus art museums, and workshops that provide students with the ability to practice metalworking, laser cutting, woodworking, and other less accessible artistic disciplines.

The quality of the faculty is important as well. The best art schools employ professors who are also successful working artists and leaders in their fields. Reputation is another factor that ties into this. If the alumni of a school have been successful in their careers, the school will have better name recognition and provide you with more future opportunities.

The schools on this list have strong combinations of these qualities (and more!). They encourage students to think critically about art-making in the context of modern society and provide students with great opportunities to find their niche within the exciting world of art and design.

The art world is always in flux. Is this “graffiti” or “street art”? Or is it both? As methods and standards change, so do the curricula at art schools!


The Best Art Schools in the US

For each of the schools on this list, I will provide admissions statistics and information about application requirements. I’ve also listed a few facts that will give you a sense of what these institutions offer to undergraduate art students.

#1. Rhode Island School of Design: Providence, RI


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,014
Acceptance rate: 27%
Average GPA: 3.5
Average SAT score: 1855
Average ACT score: 28

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants are urged to follow a college preparatory program in secondary school, taking courses in studio art and art history where possible. A portfolio submission is required for admissions consideration.

Your portfolio should show a selection of 12–20 examples of your best recent artwork. This work may be presented in any medium (including film or video) in either finished or sketch form. It can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed artistic exploration. You’ll also need to send in two drawing samples. For more details, see the admissions website.

Notable Facts

The campus museum displays over 80,000 works of art, so inspiration abounds! RISD offers advanced tools and resources to its students, including laser cutters and a kiln room. RISD also employs many famous faculty members like Chris Van Allsburg (who illustrated The Polar Express!).

body_RISD.jpgRhode Island School of Design

#2. School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, IL


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,490
Acceptance rate: 72%
Average GPA: 3.4
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

In order to be considered for admission, you will need to submit an artist’s statement that represents you and your work. You are also required to submit a portfolio that showcases 10-15 examples of your best and most recent work. There are no limitations on the artistic medium!

Notable Facts

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has a facility called the Computer Resources and Information Technologies Center, which ensures that students get access to and training on the latest digital equipment. There are also unique program offerings like art therapy and visual communication. SAIC has many distinguished alumni, including Walt Disney.

body_SAIC.jpgSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago

#3. California Institute of the Arts: Valencia, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 895
Acceptance rate: 31%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You are required to submit 20 examples of your most recent and highest quality independent artwork for your portfolio. You’ll also need to include an artist’s statement.

Notable Facts

All faculty members at the California Institute of the Arts are working artists with lots of real world artistic experience. Every student is assigned a mentor who guides them through the program and assists them in independent study. CalArts has eight galleries dedicated to showing student work and helping students get accustomed to hanging and presenting art in various forms.

The school provides extensive facilities for student use including various media labs and a “Super Shop” for processes such as woodworking, metalworking, and moldmaking. I’m not sure why they chose to go with “CalArts” as the shortened version of the school’s name when CIA was an option.

California Institute of the Arts

#4. Pratt Institute: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,933
Acceptance rate: 67%
Average GPA: 3.64
Average SAT score: 1770
Average ACT score: 26

Special Requirements

You are required to submit a portfolio that includes 12-20 examples of your best work. You must also submit three to five observational drawings to demonstrate your drafting skills.

Notable Facts

Pratt is located in New York City, so you’ll have access to all kinds of great internship opportunities and connections to the art world. Faculty members are working artists with international reputations as well as dedicated teachers. Students get free access to the Frick Collection, the MOMA, the Whitney Museum, and more.

Pratt Institute

#5. Maryland Institute College of Art: Baltimore, MD


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,863
Acceptance rate: 58%
Average GPA: 3.54
Average SAT score: 1773
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio of 12 to 20 pieces of artwork for consideration.

Notable Facts

The Maryland Institute incorporates internships and other professional development activities into its curriculum to give students a strong foundation for careers in the arts. There are over 150 exhibitions per year by Maryland Institute students, faculty, and visitors. A strong advising system guides students through all four years at MICA.

Maryland Institute College of Art

#6. Art Center College of Design: Pasadena, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,540
Acceptance rate: 82%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

There are different portfolio requirements for different majors, but, in general, you are required to submit 10 to 15 pieces of artwork. See the admissions site for more details.

Notable Facts

This school is for students who know exactly what they want to do: Art Center gives students a comprehensive education in their chosen discipline starting on day one and there is no first-year general education program. However, the Transdisciplinary Studios program also allows students to collaborate with each other across different majors. Art Center College of Design partners up with companies and organizations in their Designmatters program to sponsor student projects that will make a real impact on the world.

Art Center College of Design

#7. California College of the Arts: Oakland, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,389
Acceptance rate: 82%
Average GPA: 3.25
Average SAT score: 1601
Average ACT score: 24

Special Requirements

First-year applicants are asked to submit 10 to 20 images of their best work as a portfolio sample.

Notable Facts

The faculty is comprised of leaders in various artistic fields, and one-on-one attention is common (average student-teacher ratio is 8:1). CCA includes a First Year Program that introduces students to studio practice and incorporates a portfolio review at the end of the year to assess students’ readiness for the majors. There is also a First Year Student Exhibition every year. CCA offers numerous resources for professional development and networking in the arts that will help students to start fulfilling careers.

#8. School of Visual Arts: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 3,678
Acceptance rate: 74%
Average GPA: 3.09
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You will need to submit a statement of intent describing why you’re pursuing undergraduate study in the visual arts. You must also submit images of 15-20 pieces of your best work for your portfolio. You can decide to submit a film reel instead if you’re interested in studying film.

Notable Facts

There are three galleries at SVA that present over 50 exhibitions every year, so students have frequent opportunities to show their work. SVA has an Internship for Credit program that allow students to work with top creative agencies in New York City. The Digital Imaging Center and Print Lab offers extensive technological resources to students studying graphic design and advertising or enrolled in classes at the Center.

School of Visual Arts

#9. Parsons the New School for Design: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 6,695
Acceptance rate: 66%
Average GPA: 3.24
Average SAT score: 1630
Average ACT score: 25

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants must complete the “Parsons Challenge”, an artistic project exploring something that is usually overlooked in their environment. See the admissions site for more details on this. (I kind of want to do it just for kicks!) Applicants must also submit a portfolio of 8-12 pieces of recent artwork and an artist’s statement.

Notable Facts

Parsons incorporates digital arts strongly into its undergraduate curriculum, particularly in first-year coursework. Parsons also has a special first-year study program that teaches students to think creatively across different disciplines. With its location at the center of the New York art scene, this is a great place for students to explore different methods of art-making and learn how to turn their creative passion into a career.

Parsons The New School for Design

#10. Massachusetts College of Art and Design: Boston, MA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
Acceptance rate: 70%
Average GPA: 3.37
Average SAT score: 1629
Average ACT score: 25

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio with 15-20 examples of your strongest and most recent artwork. You will also need to include a statement of purpose that describes you as an artist.

Notable Facts

MassArt is the nation’s first independent public college of art and design. The college has seven on-campus gallery spaces, routinely featuring work from students, faculty, and visiting artists. Degrees are offered in a wide variety of disciplines, from Industrial Design to Animation to Art Education.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design 

Which Art School Is the Best Choice for You?

All of the schools on this list will give you a great education in the arts, but some of them might be better fits than others for you and your interests. Location is a big factor to consider in deciding on the right art school for you. A few of these schools are located in the heart of New York City, which might be an awesome place for some students but an overwhelming place for others. Learn more about the differences between colleges in urban and rural environments.

You should also consider the program offerings of each school. The School of Visual Arts, for example, is a great place for film majors. Parsons is a great place for students who are interested in fashion and digital arts. If you’re still not sure exactly what you want to study in the arts, you should choose a school that has a first-year general education program and a strong advising system like California College of the Arts. If you are sure of what you want to study, you might choose a school like Art Center College of Design, which allows students to begin working in their chosen major from day one without any general education requirements.

Admissions statistics are important as well. If your grades aren’t spectacular, you should look for a school where admission is granted mainly based on artistic talent and a lower GPA and test scores won’t ruin your chances. Some of these schools can be very competitive, but if you present an impressive portfolio, you can expect to have a shot at admission.

About the Author

Samantha Lindsay is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5’s on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.


3 Tasks to Help High School Juniors Boost College Success

Get insights from real students on how to use this year wisely.

Teacher Helping Male Pupil Studying At Desk In Classroom

Junior year is a perfect time for students to delve into electives and other specialized courses.

​For many students, junior year of high school is also the most difficult year. Students must prepare for their upcoming ACT or SAT test dates, evaluate potential colleges and function beneath an immense amount of pressure to achieve high grades to impress these colleges.

In addition to this academic stress, students must also begin asking themselves important questions about their ideal college experience in order to find schools that are a great fit. Much of this process is new and unfamiliar to students and there are some specific actions that juniors can take to navigate it successfully.

Three college students who have been through this process shared insights from their own junior year experiences, and here are their tips:

1. Sign up for AP or specialized classes: Your freshman and sophomore years of high school are typically filled with general education courses and other mainstream subjects that students are required to study – but what about classes that go beyond that? Junior year is a perfect time for students to delve into electives and other specialized courses. It can even help students prepare for college in a number of ways.

Sarah Turecamo, a junior ​at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in biology and anthropology, suggested this route for students.

“It would be helpful to take some specialized classes, such as AP classes or upper-level electives, to explore what you would like to major in,” she says. “Of course, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to study in college, but it would be helpful to explore a few options before entering college.”

Turecamo feels this action benefited her, but she also wishes she had pursued it even further.

“I did take AP Chemistry, which helped to explore my interest in the sciences,” she says. “However, I regret not taking a computer science or engineering elective because I never really got to see if I was interested in pursuing an engineering career path.”

2. Talk to current college students: As mentioned before, students may struggle to reflect on what they want in a college. This upcoming chapter in their lives encompasses a great deal of unfamiliar territory, and it can be hard to know where they possibly begin.

From campus size, to dining options, to available academic programs, there are many factors to consider in a college experience, so it might be worth going straight to those who are currently experiencing it – the college students.

“Talk to current students about life there and what classes are like,” says Andrew Hu, a senior​ at the University of Georgia. ​​”The current students at each specific university know what’s best needed to succeed.”

Needless to say, one of the first steps in getting connected with those students is to visit campuses. Hu noted that he regrets not having done this himself, saying he felt he would have had a better idea of what he wanted to get out of college if he had visited schools during his junior year.

3. Begin touring colleges: Hu is not alone in wishing he had taken this step at the appropriate time. Cala Fils, a Montclair State University senior, ​says she strongly thinks high school juniors should start visiting schools.

Fils also wishes that she herself had done so as a high school junior. She notes that students should begin preparing themselves mentally for this significant transition now.

“Senior year goes by fast and time will not be on their side,” she says. “I started to do those things during the spring of my senior year and I felt overwhelmed.”

Turecamo says she did take this action during her junior year and that it helped her identify what she was really looking for in a college.

“After touring a few schools of different sizes and in various locations, I decided I wanted a medium college with a research reputation near a city,” says Turecamo. “Just knowing these basic requirements helped me expedite the application process my senior year.”

One common theme that all of these actions have in common is exploring new ideas. Academics, lifestyle and the school itself will be different in college than what students are used to in high school. Both Hu and Turecamo advised keeping an open mind.

“In terms of a social transition, approach everything with an open mind,” Hu says. “Everyone is there for the same reasons you are.”

Turecamo emphasized the importance of this action as well.

“When you enter college, you will meet people from all different backgrounds, and a key part of the college experience is being pushed outside of your comfort zone to explore different perspectives and cultures.”

Cathryn Sloane is a marketing coordinator for Varsity Tutors. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.

Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company’s end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email admissionsplaybook@usnews.com.


4 Vocabulary Strategies for the Redesigned SAT

The new test requires more than just memorizing words and definitions.


Vocabulary questions on the new SAT will require students to select a portion of a passage that supports their answer, so understanding context is critical.

​By now, you are likely well aware that the SAT will change in 2016. These changes will not be cosmetic – the new exam prizes complex understanding rather than rote memorization.

At one time, teachers and tutors could reasonably recommend that a student study for the SAT by memorizing arcane vocabulary words. This is no longer a winning strategy. Instead, the redesigned SAT emphasizes the importance of words in context. Here are four prep strategies to help you prepare for this new challenge.

1. Strengthen your understanding of the questions: Consider the sample vocabulary question that appears on pages two and three of this informational bulletin. The question, which concerns a topic that will one day be relevant to test-takers, asks readers to choose the best definition for “intense” given the context of the passage.

All four options are valid substitutes for “intense,” but B is the correct answer.

Why is this example important? It demonstrates the redesigned SAT’s commitment to using words that students will often encounter in college classrooms, and it emphasizes the use of context clues over memorization. Given the shift in structure, it is crucial to use up-to-date study materials.

2. Update your vocabulary lists: Words like “intense” are tier two words – that is, they are words that are commonly used by mature speakers and writers. Tier three words, which the College Board previously drew from for the SAT, are those that have limited or narrow applications.

There is insufficient space in this blog post to provide you with a set of tier two words to review prior to your exam date, but a brief Internet search will uncover a number of terms that can guide your studies. Once you compile a list, create flashcards that include all possible meanings for each word.

Next, write sentences that use each definition appropriately. Keep your list handy as you write papers for your classes, and try to incorporate these words into your assignments.

Writing can help you set the words in your mind, which may make them easier to recall under stress. As an added bonus, you will also have an impressive arsenal of vocabulary words to deploy if you register for the optional SAT essay.

3. Read often: The redesigned SAT did not just change its vocabulary terms. It also changed the kinds of texts that they appear in.

The texts will include literary works, as well as historical and scientific documents, some from the 19th and 20th centuries. Unless your high school is uncommonly rigorous, or you are preparing for AP exams in American history or literature, you may have limited exposure to such writings.

The best way to prepare, then, is to simply increase your familiarity with these works. Choose a book from an earlier era, such as “The Great Gatsby,” and mark any words that are unfamiliar to you.

Better still, mark any words that look familiar, but that do not quite fit the context. Look these words up in a dictionary, and write down the sentence in which you encountered the word. You can then use that sentence when studying.

4. Practice identifying context: As you complete various practice problems, keep context in mind. The redesigned SAT will not just ask for definitions, it will also ask you to select a portion of a passage that supports your answer. In other words, it is not sufficient to determine the meaning of a word – you also have to be able to justify your answer.

One way to approach this difficult project is to write justifications for the correct answers to sample problems, as well as arguments against the other answers. In the question cited above, for example, you could note that “emotional” is not correct since the passage is dispassionately discussing trends in employment.

Brian Witte is a professional SAT tutor with Varsity Tutors. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington and holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company’s end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email admissionsplaybook@usnews.com.