Wherever I go, all anybody talks about is standardized testing. Today, at a charity planning luncheon, I even had a heated discussion about Yale's policies with a lovely acquaintance. So, as a public service, here are the most common queries about the various offerings and requirements:
Q: What is a superscore?
A: A superscore is achieved by choosing the best subscores from multiple sittings of the same test. (I know, a "sitting" sounds like you're posing for a portrait, but bear with me.) For example, let's assume you have these SAT results from these three sittings:
Sitting 1: 800M, 500CR, 450W
Sitting 2: 600M, 410CR, 780W
Sitting 3: 510M, 740CR, 530W
Your composite scores would be 1750, 1790 and 1780, but your superscore would be 2320.
Q: Wow – do colleges superscore the ACT as well?
A: Not many superscore the ACT because they'd have to work with five separate numbers, including a composite that often has been rounded up or rounded down. That would require advanced math skills, which would be too confusing even for most colleges. Except MIT, of course. They will even cross-superscore the SAT with the ACT…because they can.
Q: Do you have to send in all your standardized test scores to Yale, even the ones that suck?
A: No, that's Penn. For Yale, their website says, "As long as you provide a complete set of score reports from one testing agency (either the College Board or ACT, Inc.), you are not required to report scores from both. You can choose to report either all of your SAT results (both SAT and SAT Subject Tests) or all of your ACT results. If you want us to have any scores from both the College Board and ACT, Inc., you must report all scores from both testing agencies. And if you're having trouble understanding this, you probably shouldn't be applying to Yale."
Q: I thought that the SAT and the ACT offered score choice (the right to choose…and only send in your impressive scores).
A: They do, but Yale wants to find out if sitting for standardized exams was your only extracurricular activity. And they promise not to peek at your lousy scores.
Q: I heard you could cancel your scores so nobody will see them.
A: The SAT offers you a morning-after pill of sorts: if you were fooling around the night before or felt queasy during the exam, you can cancel before you find out your scores. But the more-progressive ACT, which also allows you to guess without penalty, will let you terminate whenever.
Q: Do you really believe that Yale doesn't care about SAT Subject Tests if you send in an ACT score?
A: Just to make sure, you can also submit the results of your APGAR test – That's the score babies get from their doctors right after they are born. Yale's APGAR average is 9.8.
Q: What's with the writing section of the SAT? Some fine colleges, like Cornell, say they don't count the SAT writing, yet if you choose to take the ACT, they want you to take that with writing.
A: You're right – some things are just not logical – or fair. Even I, the Neurotic Parent, cannot write a decent essay in 25 minutes, especially using a number 2 pencil while sitting in a stuffy classroom surrounded by smelly teenagers. But maybe I'd have success if they'd let me write about reality t.v…
Q: Let's get back to this ACT thing. That sounds awesome – no SAT II's! But I don't get those wacky science graphs. Where can I find a good ACT tutor in LA?
A: Unfortunately, the ACT is very…er…midwestern. Because of this, only one test prep company on the west coast claims to have ACT specialists as tutors. And they charge $880 per session (not including parking validation). But the Neurotic Parent Institute, always resourceful, has located the top ACT tutors in the country. They are in Evanston, IL and charge $40 an hour. So for the price of one $880 session in LA, you can fly to Chicago TWICE for tutoring, and also splurge on a Cubs game, a taxi to and from O'Hare and a deep dish pizza.