Colleges look at scores competitively, so students need to study for these tests to do as well as possible. While it is true that there has been a trend lately for colleges to place less emphasis on test scores and more emphasis on grades, that is only true for students who have been educated in traditional classrooms. Homeschooled students need to post test scores that support the grades shown on their transcript.
Pre-SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test
This is an optional test, but is good practice for the SAT. Study for the PSAT/NMSQT. Some colleges grant scholarships based on students’ scores on this test, which is usually given in mid-October. Register at your local high school as soon as you can in September; you will receive a test-prep booklet when you pay the nominal registration fee. Take the test at the local high school on the assigned date. 10th and 11th graders can take this test. Sophomores’ scores are considered as a practice-run; juniors’ scores count toward scholarships (although a sophomore doing well enough might receive offers, too).
Some colleges prefer one test over the other, some will accept scores from either test. Check the admissions requirements at the schools your child is considering. Minimum/average scores are posted on the school’s admissions page. My three children already in college have all received substantial scholarships ($10,000-$15,000 per year) for doing well on the SAT, so it is worth studying for this test. Students typically take the SAT/ACT in the spring of their junior year or fall of their senior year. Test scores are sent to colleges to which you apply (sent directly from the testing center, not by you) and the application isn’t considered complete until test scores arrive, so it is important to not wait too long to take this test. Students register online well in advance of the test date. This test is usually given on a Saturday, and you will need to search locations to find a testing center near you.
Originally, this test was known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Eventually the name changed to Scholastic Assessment Test, but it is commonly known as the S.A.T. Students should study for this test.
An alternate to the SAT is a similar standardized test from American College Testing. Students should study for this test.
Some colleges require students to take a placement test to confirm that they are ready to perform well in college-level math and writing classes. Community colleges in Washington give the Accuplacer to all students (and prospective Running Start students), but SAT/ACT scores are not required.