Understanding the admission process

Ever wonder what happens behind closed doors? The International Counselor goes into the committee room of over a dozen highly selective colleges to show you. More »

Free Tools for self-discovery

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Guide to essays and personal statements

One of the most comprehensive lists of college essay writing resources and insights anywhere. More »

Are you ready for the summer?

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Acing the interview

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Test preparation



What’s a good score?

SAT Percentile






Critical reading: 
























            Source: http://research.collegeboard.org/content/sat-data-tables

But is it good enough?

That depends on where you are applying. The best number to check is the mid-50th of SAT/ACT score for the colleges to which you are applying. If your score is in the mid 50th, frankly you are good enough. In fact, if you are in the top half of the mid 50th, scoring higher will make little difference. Take the time to focus on your school performance and contributions. The Mid-50th score represents the typical student at a college and is the best single number to look at.


top universities 

top liberal arts

top public universities

University of California

more SAT charts


top universities 

top liberal arts colleges 

top public universities 

University of California

More ACT charts

SAT Subject tests

Only 26 colleges actually require the subject tests and 16 of those will waive it if you took the ACT.

The New SAT

Here is the information right from the horse’s mouth and here is the 208 page document that really details all the changes, complete with sample questions. The COllegeboard has released a free practice PSAT under the new format. 

Who will require the optional writing section?

Below is a comprehensive chart outlining the full set of changes to the structure and content of the SAT.



to the SAT

Current SAT 
(Class of 2015-2016)

New SAT 
(Class of 2017 and beyond)


  • 1/4 penalty for wrong answers

Score is out of 2400
? 800 for Math 
? 800 for Reading Comprehension
? 800 for Writing

  • No wrong-answer penalty
  • Score is out of 1600
    ? 800 for Math
    ? 800 for Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
  • Subscores and insight scores available

Optional Essay will be scored separately


  • 3 Critical Reading tests (20-25 minutes each)
  • 3 Math tests (10-25 minutes each)
  • 3 Writing tests (10-25 minutes each)
  • 1 Essay test (25 minutes)
  • 1 Experimental test

5 answer choices for multiple-choice questions

  • 1 Evidence-Based Reading and Writing test
    ? 65-minute Reading section
    ? 35-minute Language and Writing section
  • 1 Math test
    ? 55-minute section with calculator
    ? 25-minute section without calculator
  • 1 Essay test (optional) – 50 minutes

4 answer choices for multiple choice questions


  • 3 hours 45 minutes

3 hours; 3 hours 50 minutes with optional essay


  • Only available in print
  • Focused on broad range of content and skills
  • Available in print and digitally*

Fewer questions with a greater focus on in-depth analysis of content and evidence


  • Essay is required
  • Students have 25 minutes to draft a response
  • Quality of reasoning and accuracy of data not tested
  • Score combined with multiple-choice Writing section
  • Essay is optional
  • Students have 50 minutes to analyze a 650-750 word document and draft an essay
  • Tests reading, analysis, and writing skills; requires students to analyze a source document and explain how the author builds an argument

Facts matter


  • Focus on wide array of topics
  • More emphasis on computational skills
  • Calculators permitted for all sections
  • Multiple choice and grid-in questions
  • Concentrated focus on:
    ? Problem-solving and data analysis
    ? “The Heart of Algebra”
    ? “Passport to Advanced Math”
  • Real-world problem solving accompanied by informational graphics
  • Calculator permitted for 37 questions; not permitted for 20 questions

Multiple choice and grid-in questions; 1 enhanced grid-in question

 Reading and Writing

  • Critical Reading
    ? Two parts: 
    – Sentence Completions 
    – Passage-based questions
    ? Passage-based questions from short (100
    -150 words) and long (400-850 words) passages
  • Writing
    ? Combined score of writing multiple-choicequestions and Essay
  • Reading and Writing combined into “Evidence-Based Reading and Writing”
  • Reading
    ? No Sentence Completions
    ? Tests understanding of passages from U.S. and World Literature, History/Social Studies, and Sciences (500-750 words)

Writing and Language
? Tests “Expression of Ideas” and “Standard English Conventions” through passages relating to Careers, History/Social Studies, Humanities, and Science
? Questions pull from extended prose (400-450 words)



All: http://www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/explore-your-options/entry-requirements/admissions-tests


English proficiency


·            China:       http://toefl.etest.net.cn/en

·            International: http://www.ets.org/toefl


IELTS: http://takeielts.britishcouncil.org/locations/china


Gifted and Talented

SCAT: http://cty.jhu.edu/talent/testing/about/scat.html


How important is testing?

While it is important, it may not be as important as you think. Firstly, grades in school, especially in rigorous college prep classes is always number 1.

What college admission officers say:



Over 800 US colleges are test optional



Scores are also contextual; Take a careful look at the mid-50th of the scores of student at a particular college. This site does a nice job for both SAT and ACT:

ACT: http://collegeapps.about.com/od/theact/a/act_side_x_side.htm

SAT: http://collegeapps.about.com/od/sat/a/sat_side_x_side.htm

 Also be sure to compare with SAS own results at these universities by examining the college admission scatter grams in Naviance.