Establishing a Plan for Testing
Although it is true that the vast majority of ISD students are pursuing the IB diploma, there are a number of reasons why students should consider taking the SAT/ACT. The top reason is that over 40% of our students will apply to a US-based institution, and most of those schools require the SAT/ACT. Additionally, some students will be required to take an English as a Second Language test (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, etc). However, what most students and parents fail to consider is that having test scores can bolster an application (even if the tests are not mandatory) and oftentimes provide alternative pathways. In the first regard, taking an SAT, in some parts of the world, can add additional clout to a student's application. But, more significantly, in regards to the second point, if a student scores, in relative terms, higher on their SAT than they are predicted to on their IB exams, then this student might consider choosing to apply as an SAT candidate, thereby minimizing the potentially detrimental IB scores' impact on the application outcome. And, finally, it must not be forgotten that adolescents change their minds! Taking the SAT/ACT can serve to keep options open, a wise guiding principle for the college process.
Consequently, we recommend that students put together a plan! Please be sure to read our testing recommendations, but this post is on putting together a plan! Every student's plans are motivated by different factors and considerations, so be sure not to do too much comparing with others and instead focus on having good reasons for your decisions.
To get things going, take a look at this document, which includes all of the upcoming test dates for the SAT/ACT. You notice that there is just one opportunity for students to sit for the SAT in the spring, no opportunities for the ACT ever (at this stage), and three opportunities to sit for the SAT in the fall. If a student is going to apply early (November deadlines), then he or she really needs to be done testing by the October SAT, but ideally sooner. All of this, as I am sure you can see, can cause a complicated set of variables to sort through.
Additionally, statistically speaking, for a student to maximize his or her testing, it generally is true that the student sit for no more than 3 testings and sit for only one in the senior year. (It shows that sitting for consecutive tests does not improve outcomes by and large, and more than three tests both looks bad and fails to improve scores.)
So, in an ideal world, we would recommend that ISD students sit for one test in the fall of the junior year, do test prep to sit for one more test at the end of the junior year, and then do more prep over the summer for one final sitting, if necessary, in the fall of the senior year. [In a perfect world, we would ask for ISD students to sit for the SAT and the ACT in the fall of the junior year before choosing which one is better for them as individuals and following through with the other two sittings. Sadly, we do not have an opportunity to take the ACT in Senegal at present. So, as it stands, we recommend the SAT only.] However, each student needs to reconcile their own schedule, their desire to put effort into test prep, and their scores. We do not recommend giving up important activities or commitments to sit for a test; however, if you are going to take a test, we advise that a student prep (and understand what we mean by test prep)! And if a student has scores that are sufficient to meet the needs of the schools on his or her list, then further testing is not necessary! All of this must be considered when mapping out a testing plan.
Additionally, we recommend that students carefully review the testing recommendations and requirements for the schools on their list. This is part of the reason why we encourage students to establish a larger list and cut it down rather than adding schools willy-nilly throughout the process. If a student knows toward the end of the spring that the 20 or so schools on his or her list are all that will be considered, then a concrete testing plan can be outlined. This is especially important for English tests and SAT Subject tests, not to mention certain national exams. So, please put the effort into constructing quality lists in the junior spring!
So, moving forward, what does your testing plan look like through your application process?