Standardized Testing

The issue of standardized testing typically provokes anxiety in even the most calm of prospective college applicants.  It is an area where students feel particularly uneasy about both the results of the tests and their eventual use and interpretation.  The first point to understand is that they will not be either the sole piece of evaluation used by an admission board, nor in almost all cases, the most important. At the same time, it would be unfair to undervalue the impact of standardized testing.  At most colleges, test scores will play a significant role in the admission decision.  Your emphasis should be on making sure that you take all of the tests needed at appropriate times.  We will aid you in working on a reasonable individual schedule and in evaluating scores and their relevance to prospective choice as you develop your college list.

Typically, EPS students will take 2-3 sittings of the SAT and/or ACT tests.  We highly recommend that student sit for their first full length exam sometime in the spring of their junior year. Most commonly, students at EPS take the SAT.  A limited number of colleges also require 2 SAT Subject Tests.  The SAT is an exam lasting three hours and 45 minutes and can be taken only once per test date.  The SAT Subject Tests are an hour long per subject.  Students may take up to three SAT subject exams per test date.  Time does not permit taking both tests on the same date.

Some students may want to consider taking the ACT test which is a competing test company’s rough equivalent to the SAT.  Your PLAN and PSAT results should inform your decisions in this area.  At nearly every college the ACT is accepted as either a substitute for, or supplement to, the SAT and sometimes additionally the SAT Subject Tests.

Most important is to understand that Eastside Prep does not register students for any SAT or ACT testing.  Because students will take different tests at a variety of centers in the Seattle area, it is each individual’s responsibility to register online at or  The SAT registration will ask for Eastside Prep’s CEEB # which is 480564.  Registration deadlines and testing dates are listed in the EPS calendar, but ultimately the best place to find details on testing is at the sites listed above. Do not wait until the last minute to register for any testing.

When students register for their tests, at least one question is likely to emerge:   Whether students should report their scores to colleges as they take the tests.  The answer is generally yes. Take advantage of the four free reports.  Once any SAT test is taken, it becomes part of your permanent record with the College Board.  Sending these scores early in the process achieves one notable positive.  It indicates a strong early interest in that college.  Colleges are paying more and more attention to these contacts.

Students often labor over which, if any, SAT Subject tests should be taken.  There are relatively few colleges that now require these tests, but if one college to which you apply does require the tests, then they must be taken.  Therefore, it is best to assume they are needed unless counseled otherwise by our office. Teachers in the specific subject areas often are a good resource for determining an individual student’s level of preparedness.  It is our strong recommendation that all students look carefully at their options and that they approach these tests seriously.


If the ACT seems like an appealing option, check your initial list of colleges to be sure they accept the ACT in place of the SAT.  Almost all schools now do, and some will accept the ACT (with writing) as a substitute for the SAT and Subject tests.  Below is a chart below to illustrate some of the differences between the two tests.  You are familiar with the differences through your experience width the PLAN and PSAT.  It is also worthwhile to try sample ACT questions to determine if this is a valuable investment of your time.  There is no hard science that proves that the SAT or ACT is easier, so you want to determine which test format with their individual structures is best suited to you.  While the writing portion of the ACT is optional, we strongly recommend taking this section, as many colleges require it.
Purpose Evaluates general critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities Measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills acquired through education
Timing 3 hours, 45 minutes 2 hours, 55 minutes(includes optional writing)
# of Questions 140 215
Sections 10:3 Critical Reading3 Math3 Writing1 Experimental 4:  English, Mathematics, Reading, Science
Test Content Math:  basic geometry, Algebra IIScience:  noneReading:  Sentence completions, short and long critical readingWriting:  essay, questions testing grammar, usage, and word choice Math:  through trigonometryScience:  charts and experimentsReading: 4 passages, one each of Prose Fiction, Social Science, Humanities, and NatSciEnglish:  Stresses grammar
Penalty Slight penalty for incorrect answers on multiple choice questions No penalty for incorrect answers
Verbal skills Heavy focus on vocabulary Heavy focus on grammar and punctuation
Math Section Portion requires student to produce own answers All multiple choice
Writing Section Required Optional30 minutesTests skill in planning and writing a short essay
Scoring 200-800 per section, added together for a combined score.  2400 is the highest combined score. 1-36 for each subject, averaged for a composite score.  A 36 is the highest possible composite score.


The specific dates for SAT and ACT testing vary from year to year, but generally they fall into the following month-to-month patterns:
SAT: October, November, December, January, March/ April*, May, and June

* SAT only—all other dates offer the choice between the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests

ACT: September, October, December, February, April, and June.

Please refer to the SAT and ACT websites for the specific calendar dates for these tests.


If you have a diagnosed learning difference, you may want to research the process for securing extended-time accommodations for standardized testing.  That process has changed dramatically in recent years due to new restrictions set by the testing agencies. To learn what is involved in obtaining extended-time accommodations and which accommodations are appropriate for your individual situation, consult with Dr. Moore in the Student Support Services Office.  In general, the process includes:

A current diagnosis (within the past 5 years) from a recognized psychologist or learning specialist that specifically recommends extended-time on standardized tests like the SAT/ACT, the use of extended time accommodation at school, and timely submission of all required documents to the testing institution.*Please note that even if a student has received accommodations at school for testing, the SAT or ACT boards may decide against granting that accommodation for their test.SAT Info: Info:


The process takes a minimum of 8 weeks to coordinate, not including time needed to gain an updated evaluation—planning ahead is essential.