SAT IIs? Yes or no? Do I need them?

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If you’re like most people, you don’t give much thought to the SAT IIs.  They seem like pesky little annoyances that don’t matter much to your application…until the day comes when you realize you need to take two of them in three weeks or else your application won’t be accepted.

Do You Need to Take the SAT IIs?

As with most college questions, “it depends.”

First, know this:

The majority of colleges do not require SAT IIs, and an even larger majority don’t expect them.

HOWEVER, a large majority of the most competitive colleges DO expect them, and weigh them pretty heavily in their overall application picture.  

EVERY college accepts the SAT and ACT with equal gravity.  Anyone who tells you that colleges “prefer” one test to the other is wrong.  Don’t listen to them. A quote from William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard University: “We treat the SAT and the ACT on an absolutely equal basis.” Enough said?

HOWEVER, depending on the school you apply to, taking the ACT might make you EXEMPT from taking the SAT II, whereas taking the SAT might not make you exempt at all.

So here’s how it goes:

1. Many schools don’t require SAT IIs at all.

2. Those schools that do are split between:

A) Schools that accept the ACT in place of the SAT and SAT IIs

B) Schools that require SAT IIs regardless of whether you’ve taken the SAT or the ACT

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of schools that accept, review, require, and exempt from all SAT IIs, look no further than Compass Prep’s list here:

Notice that most of these schools are extremely competitive.  As I said, the SAT II is largely an expectation of the nation’s most challenging schools.  However, don’t trust a list to make all your college decisions for you, at the end of the day, there’s one golden rule:

CALL the admissions offices of EVERY college on your list and figure out their SAT II rules IMMEDIATELY.  Find out if it’s required, if you can avoid the SAT II by taking the ACT, etc.  Get the full scoop – only you know which schools you’re applying to and are interested in, so it’s your job to get the most up to date information possible on the issue.

As far as requirements are concerned, that’s all there is to it.  I’d like to bring up one extremely important issue:

SAT 2s can show that you’re “Ivy Caliber.”

SAT IIs can help you to show colleges your expertise in a certain area, and it can also show them that you’re “up to snuff.”

For instance, if you’re trying to apply to a pre-med program, you should really consider studying for and taking the Biology SAT II.  Even if your dream school doesn’t require it, don’t you want to do everything you can to show them that you care passionately about your area of interest, and to demonstrate your expertise?

If you’re applying to be a math major, and you don’t take a math SAT II……it just looks sort of weird.

Even if there’s no particular subject you’re “showing off” for, taking a few SAT IIs and getting  incredible grades shows that you’re “Ivy Caliber.”  As you saw, only the nation’s most competitive schools require SAT IIs.  If you show other schools that you can get 700+ scores on tests they don’t even require – they notice, even if they say they don’t.

Quick Note: many schools allow you to switch out AP grades for SAT 2 scores.  Again, to find out which ones allow this, CALL THE SCHOOLS ON YOUR LIST AND FIND OUT.  As far as I’m concerned, high AP scores perform the same function as great SAT 2 scores – they show that you’re an expert within a given field.  If a school accepts either test interchangeably, or doesn’t require either one, then both accomplish the same feat.

Do your research!


Congrats to all who went soaring…

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Scores are in for the June 2nd SAT.

Congrats to Samantha T., who went from a 1530 first diagnostic to a 2020 on the June 2nd SAT! Awesome.

Congrats to Tiffany C., who went from a 1420 first diagnostic to a 1930 on the June 2nd SAT. Well done.

Congrats to Arthur B., who went from 1660 on the May SAT to 1880 on the June. You the man.

Congrats to Aviv G., who went from a 1480 first diagnostic to 1820 on the June 2nd SAT. Wow.

…more to come

Scores from June 2nd SAT Go Online Tomorrow – June 21

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The College Board releases scores from the SAT and SAT II exams taken June 2nd tomorrow morning, June 21, at 5:10 AM Eastern Time.

Log on to your College Board account and check your scores!

Here’s a handy link.;jsessionid=m511PhJYHmhhCMs23n22TkW8JkvFtzhhh0JfZpN2FsQjxBbCS1bJ!67521499!-1704959386

Summer SAT and ACT Classes Forming – Start week of July 2nd

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Greetings those in the New York City/Nassau County area!

I will be holding summer SAT and ACT classes in Bayside starting the week of July 2nd. If you are interested, write to and inquire. Each intensive course will cover each exam in its entirety. The course includes four full practice exams as well as 40 hours of classroom instruction. As always, vacationing students will have makeup classes scheduled.

Limited space is available for these classes, so register early.

To the top!

Fall 2012 ACT Test Dates Announced

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The test dates for the ACT for the fall of 2012 have been posted.

You can visit to register.

September 8, 2012 August 17, 2012 August 18 – 24, 2012
October 27, 2012 September 21, 2012 September 22 – October 5, 2012
December 8, 2012 November 2, 2012 November 3 – 16, 2012

SAT Test Dates announced for Fall 2012

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The College Board has posted test dates for the SAT for the fall of 2012.

To register for the tests, visit The College Board website.

The fall tests are:

October 6, 2012   Standard registration deadline Sept. 7th.

November 3, 2012  Standard registration deadline Oct 4th.

December 1, 2012   Standard registration deadline Nov 1st.


Which test for me? SAT or ACT?

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This post is excerpted from Professor Dave’s Owner’s Manual for the ACT – Home Study Edition

Which Test is Better for Me, the ACT or the SAT?

This question is asked all the time, so let’s address it.

There are rumors that the ACT is easier. Equally, there are rumors that the SAT is easier. Neither rumor is true. The tests are just different. The best way to determine which test is best for you is to take a diagnostic exam for each.


Here are some notes about the two exams which may help you decide which is better for you.

  • Overall, the ACT and the SAT are pretty similar in gauging intelligence, aptitude, and ability. They are both teachable exams, which should not be the case, but it is what it is. It’s why you have this manual in your hands.
  • Test Length – The ACT has 215 questions plus the optional essay. The SAT has 140 questions plus the required essay. The actual testing time for the ACT with essay is 3 hours and 25 minutes while the SAT takes 3 hours and 45 minutes (total test time is longer for both because of breaks). Thus, the ACT allows slightly less time per question.
  • ACT Science – One of the big differences between the ACT and SAT is that the ACT has a science test that includes questions in areas such as biology, chemistry, physics and earth science. However, it is more geared towards chart reading and data interpretation than true science. In fact, the science test is really assessing your ability to read and understand graphs, scientific hypotheses, and research summaries. Students who do well with the SAT’s critical reading often do well on the ACT science test.
  • Grammar – The ACT concentrates heavily on punctuation and mechanics, while the SAT tests subject/verb agreement, pronoun usage, and other grammatical areas more. If you know your comma usage (you will if you read this manual!) you’ll do great on the English test on the ACT.
  • Trig – The ACT tests basic trigonometry, and other math topics higher in content than the SAT. However, it tends to test math in a more straightforward manner than the SAT does. Questions do not have the “tricky” flavor that many SAT math questions contain. If you know basic trig, quadratics, and imaginary numbers you’re all set for the ACT math. These topics are covered in depth in this manual
  • No penalty for wrong answers on the ACT. – Never leave an answer blank on the ACT. The SAT penalizes students ¼ point for wrong answers, the ACT does not. Some students find the penalty on the SAT stressful. If that’s you, the ACT can seem easier to attack. There is NO penalty for wrong answers. Never leave a blank on the ACT.
  • Essay Differences – The ACT essay is an opinion piece on a topic that will be easily addressed by today’s high school students. You have 30 minutes to write the ACT essay vs. 25 minutes on the SAT. You MUST include an address of the counter-argument to your position on the ACT, whereas the SAT asks you to use examples from literature, history, etc. for the essay. The ACT essay is more personal in nature. Remember, the ACT essay is considered “optional,” but since most colleges and universities require it, it’s not really optional.
  • Vocabulary – The ACT is much easier on the weaker vocabulary student than the SAT is. There is no direct testing of vocabulary (like sentence completion questions on the SAT) but some vocabulary skill is needed. The English section will test your knowledge of certain words, but not to the level of the SAT. Students with weaker vocabularies may benefit from this.
  • Test Structure Differences – Students taking the SAT will find that the questions get more difficult as they progress. The ACT has a more constant level of difficulty, although the math sections feature order of difficulty almost exactly the same as the SAT. The ACT math section is all multiple choice, whereas the SAT math section (1-18) has some questions that require written answers. Finally, the essay for the SAT comes first; the ACT optional essay is last.
  • Scoring Differences – The chart in this manual and the score discussion clearly shows how the ACT is scored – note that the ACT score is a composite (average) whereas SAT scores are noted by section individually.

The best way to determine which test is best for you is to take one of each. With the incredibly busy schedules and workloads today’s students face, concentrating heavily on one test rather than two is a winning strategy.

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