Test Prep

From AP and IB to SAT and ACT: The Lowdown on Test Scores

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The SAT. The ACT. AP tests. IB tests.

The number of possible standardized tests that may be required and some that may be optional can be a bit overwhelming in the college admission process. And just knowing about submitting scores is sometimes not enough. We've got the answers to a few frequently-asked questions that readers have submitted -- read on to get the scoop.


1. Is the SAT or ACT required?

Many colleges and universities require SAT or ACT scores for college admissions. However, some institutions do not require these standardized test scores. This year has been a record year for colleges and universities deciding that students can apply without submitting ACT or SAT standardized exam scores. Over the past 12 months, 47 schools have announced new test-optional admissions policies, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which brings the total of accredited, bachelor-degree institutions that will make decisions about most applicants without regard to test scores to 1,050. For a list of test-optional higher education institutions, visit www.fairtest.org.

2. What If I Had Scores Automatically Sent to Colleges, But Later Got Higher Scores?

In general, higher test scores have a more positive impact on your candidacy in college admission than lower scores. However, if the score is not that much higher, it may not have much impact.

"Sending a higher ACT score can improve a student's position within the admissions pool, but it is hard to say how much because it depends on the score gain…one or two points probably won't do all that much," explains Judi Robinovitz, certified educational planner and founder of Score At The Top Learning Centers and Schools based in Boca Raton, Fla.

Still, students can ask their school counselors to help them navigate the process of correcting a test score to ensure that colleges have the highest score to consider in the admission decision.

3. Do AP and IB Scores Matter in the Admissions Process?

Students often take Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school to show advanced academic skill level, or attend a school with an International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that aims to help prepare students for a globalized world — the diploma can be earned in many countries.

Both AP and IB courses offer tests, and some scores may allow the student to earn college credits in advance of matriculation. Each program has test scores that can be sent to colleges, but they are optional to enhance your overall college application. The question often is — how much can AP or IB test scores help your chance of admission?

"AP scores are certainly not as important as SAT/ACT scores for colleges that are not test-optional, but really great scores (all fours and fives) can be a tipping factor in college admission at an elite, super-selective university — and especially if the student is coming from a high school with which the university has little experience or is homeschooled," Robinovitz says. "Yes, the scores can corroborate grades in those subjects. On the other hand, low scores (ones and twos) may cast some doubt on a student's abilities if the grades in those subjects were substantially higher. Since reporting AP scores is optional on the Common App, I advise my students to report only all scores of three or higher and to list all future AP exams planned for May of senior year … and similarly for IB scores," she notes.

So, depending on what your scores are, that may be the deciding factor of whether you opt to submit them. Either way, if you are an AP or IB student, you are still showing your dedication to academic achievement not matter what your scores are.