Score Choice, Superscore, Test Optional

Score Choice

This means that you pick which scores to send. Most schools will let you do this, but a handful require that you send all scores (you will not be given an option to select scores from a specific date). Non-score choice schools include Yale, Cornell, Penn, Georgetown, George Washington, Pomona, and Tufts.

For the complete list of colleges and universities and their score-reporting policies, please see:

http://professionals.collegeboard.com/profdownload/sat-score-use-practices-list.pdf

Say you take the SAT three times. Score choice means that you can choose to send one, two, or three of those scores. If you blew the first test completely, did best on Math on test #2, and did best on CR and W on test #3. You would ignore #1 and send two and three because of…

Superscore:

Superscoring is what *colleges* do to position themselves best in the rankings, regardless of whether they offer the score choice option or not.

So if you submit scores from tests #2 and #3, they’ll take the highest M, CR, and W from those two tests and look only at those. They’ll see the other scores you got on those tests, but they won’t count them. They really do ignore the other scores, unless there’s clearly something very weird going on.

A 50 or 70 point variation won’t draw much attention, but a 200 point on will. If you got a 500CR/700M on one test, then 700M/500CR the next, they’ll know you simply tried to game the superscoring process by taking the test to focus on one section. This practice isn’t explicitly banned, but it makes you look as if you didn’t try, and it certainly won’t earn you any Brownie points with admissions officers. Don’t do it.

A school can offer both score choice and superscoring, or it can just superscore. Almost all schools that do not offer score choice still superscore.

If you have great grades and extracurriculars but don’t think that your test scores measure what you’re capable of doing in the classroom, you should look at schools that are…

Score Optional

Yet a third category of school does not require you to submit scores at all, although you need to be aware some of them may still require scores for merit-scholarship consideration. Here is the complete list of score-optional schools: http://fairtest.org/university/optional

In general, if your scores fall at or above a school’s average, you should probably send them; if they’re well below, you probably shouldn’t. If some are above and some well below… That’s a conversation for you and your guidance counselor.

If you’re so anti-standardized testing that you want a school that refuses to even consider scores, take a look at Sarah Lawrence College. And if you’re looking for a school with a slightly more flexible policy when it comes to standardized testing, you might want to look at Middlebury College, which allows you to submit three SAT II scores in place of the SAT or the ACT.

And a warning…

While it’s nice to have lots of options, all these different policies create the illusion that you have more leeway in the standardized testing process than you actually have. Yes, it is nice to know that you can choose not to send that embarrassing first SAT score — the one that, let’s face it, you got when you weren’t really ready to take the test but hoped that you might just be able to ace anyway — but don’t get too complacent.

From what I’ve seen, the most successful applicants are the ones who ignore the whole score choice thing, don’t take tests until they’re really ready (even if that means waiting until May or even June of junior year for their first test) and treat every test like it counts. That goes for SATs, ACTs, and SAT IIs. The “Oh I can just take it again attitude” can get you in a lot of trouble. You do not want to be taking the SAT for the fourth time in December or January of your senior year, just hoping that you’ll be able to pull CR above 700.

Try not to take the SAT or the ACT more than two or three times at most. I once tutored a girl who had taken the (real) ACT *seven* times before she started to work with me — and was stuck at around a 21. Because she knew she didn’t have to submit all her scores, she just kept taking it and hoping she’d miraculously improve. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Take lots of practice tests and know where you stand before you take it for real. If you’re not comfortable with how you’re scoring already, you need to wait. Your score probably won’t just zoom up 100 points during the real thing, and you’ll be stuck with a score you don’t like and may still have to submit to some schools.