× CLOSE

The Tests

 

The tests are not the enemy. They are actually useful tools that give you a lot of valuable information about what you do and do not know. Are you reading on or above grade level? Do you actually understand the math you are taught? Can you do some mental math in your head? Standardized tests will usually reveal these issues, and test prep gives you a valuable chance to correct them.

“Our daughter’s tutor is awesome! Not only is she wicked smart, but she is flexible with our changing schedules, she always goes the extra mile with her personal time, and, most importantly, she has been a very good friend and confidant to our daughter. How often does a kid look forward to seeing his/her tutor? She handles our daughter beautifully; she is calm (when our daughter is NOT), and firm when she needs to be, but always in a supportive way. Needless to say, we love her!” – Laura Draper, Packer Parent ’18

 

  • SAT

    Who makes It?
    The College Board

    What is it?
    Designed to align with Common Core standards and test how well students have learned the expected high school curriculum.

    What’s on it?
    Four Sections:
    Two math sections with multiple-choice and grid-in answers, one with calculator use and one without.

    Two Evidence-Based Reading and Writing multiple-choice sections, one focused on reading comprehension and the other on grammar, usage and writing.

    + fifth (optional) essay section.

    How long is it?
    Three hours and 50 minutes (including the essay)

    How long has it been around?
    The SAT was originally created in 1926. The “new” SAT was introduced in March 2016.

    Frequency
    Seven times a year

    Max Score
    1600

     

    Upcoming Testing Dates:

    SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests
    2016 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    October 1 TBD TBD
    November 5 TBD TBD
    December 3 TBD TBD
    2017 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    January 21 TBD TBD
    March 11*—Note: no subject tests available on this date TBD TBD
    May 6 TBD TBD
    June 3 TBD TBD
    August 26 TBD TBD
    October 7 TBD TBD
    November 4 TBD TBD
    December 2 TBD TBD

     

    FAQs about the SAT

    Why is there a new SAT?
    The College Board decided that the old test was too far out of line with both the high school curriculum and the skills required in college and the working world. The new test strongly aligns with the Common Core State Standards that many states have adopted.

    Are there disadvantages to being a “guinea pig” and taking the new SAT in its first year?
    Some. The College Board has already announced that score reporting will take much longer than it has in the past. March test scores will not be announced until mid-May, and May and June scores will take six weeks each instead of the customary three. Also, some of our wisest college counselor friends caution that there are bound to be glitches in a new test. While both concerns are valid, for many students, we believe the advantages of the new SAT over the ACT are well worth the risk.

    With so few real practice tests available, how would Zinc prep students for the new SAT?
    At Zinc, test prep has never been limited to assigning and reviewing weekly practice tests. You don’t train for the marathon by running full marathons every day or even every week. You stretch, run hills, lift weights and do interval training. Similarly, test prep at Zinc has always focused on building up reading, math and cognitive skills by posing a range of challenges tailored to the needs of each student. Taking practice tests plays a crucial role, and having only four real tests is less than ideal. But we have made dozens of worksheets targeting every aspect of the test and feel confident about successfully preparing students for the new test.

    What is the latest I can take the SAT?
    While early admissions applications are due in November, most colleges will accept scores from early November SATs or SAT Subject Tests. To submit scores from these later test dates, you must note the school you want to send your scores to when you register for the test. The school will automatically get the score. You will not have the chance to screen your scores before the colleges you selected see them.

    Some schools are stricter with deadlines than others. The following schools are some that require that students submit test scores before November 1:

    • Princeton
    • Stanford
    • Vanderbilt
    • Williams

    Always check the website of the college you are applying to, to make sure your tests will be submitted on time. If you feel uncertain, you should call a college’s admissions office to clarify its policies.

    What is score choice?
    The College Board offers Score Choice for the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. If you take a College Board test multiple times, you get to choose which scores to send to colleges. If you choose to send a college a score, however, they will see the entire score from that test date; you can’t send or withhold particular sections. Not all colleges participate in Score Choice, so some schools may ask to see all of your scores.

    What is superscore?
    To give you the opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light, many colleges will superscore your SAT results from multiple test sittings. They will combine your best scores for each section of the test, across all test dates, to demonstrate your highest composite score. For example:

    Evidence-Based
    Reading & Writing
    Math Composite
    Test 1, May of junior year 720 620 1340
    Test 2, October of senior year 670 690 1360
    Superscore 720 690 1410

    How many times should I take the SAT?
    Most students take the SAT twice, once during the spring of junior year and once during the fall of senior year. We encourage students to avoid taking a real test more than three times, unless they have a convincing reason to believe another try will result in a significantly higher score.

  • ACT

    Who makes It?
    ACT (American College Testing)

    What is it?
    This is a test designed to measure how well students know the expected high school curriculum.

    What’s on it?

    Four multiple-choice sections: reading, English, math and science
    + Fifth (optional) essay section

    How long is it?
    Three hours and 40 minutes (including the essay)

    How long has it been around?
    The ACT was originally created in 1959, and it has been evolving ever since.

    Frequency
    Six times a year

    Max Score
    36

     

    Upcoming Testing Dates:

    ACT Tests
    2016 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    September 10 August 5 August 6–19
    October 22 September 16 September 17–30
    December 10 November 4 November 5—18
    2017 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    February 11 January 13 January 14–20
    April 8 March 3 March 4–17
    June 10 May 5 May 6–19

     

    FAQs about the ACT

    If I take the ACT, can I skip the SAT Subject Tests?
    Many colleges accept the ACT as a stand-alone test with no additional subject tests required. If you are applying, however, to schools that require SAT-takers to submit Subject Tests, many other applicants who submit ACT scores will also submit Subject Test scores. If you’ve worked hard in high school to learn a subject, taking the SAT Subject Test demonstrates what you’ve accomplished.

    When is the latest I can take the ACT?
    While early admissions applications are due in November, most colleges will accept scores from late October ACTs. To submit scores from these later test dates, you must note the school you want to send your scores to when you register for the test. The school will automatically get the score. You will not have the chance to screen your scores before the colleges you selected see them.

    Some schools are stricter with deadlines than others. The following schools are some that require that students submit test scores before November 1:

    • Princeton
    • Stanford
    • Vanderbilt
    • Williams

    Always check the website of the college you are applying to, to make sure your tests will be submitted on time. If you feel uncertain, you should call a college’s admissions office to clarify its policies.

    What is score choice?
    Almost all colleges allow Score Choice for the ACT. For most schools, you may take the ACT as many times as you like and submit only the scores you want colleges to see. However, a small number of selective colleges ask that you send your scores from every time you took the ACT. Colleges on this list include Yale University, Duke University, Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. You should check the admissions website of each school on your list to find out the specific score reporting policy.

    What is superscore?

    To give you the opportunity to present yourself in the best possible light, many colleges will superscore your ACT results from multiple test sittings. They will combine your best scores for each section of the test, across all test dates, to demonstrate your highest composite score. For example:

     

    English Math Reading Science Composite
    Test 1, April of junior year 28 30 30 25 28
    Test 2, September of senior year 33 27 35 29 31
    Superscore 33 30 35 29 32

     

    How many times should I take the ACT?
    Most students take the ACT twice, once during the spring of junior year and once during the fall of senior year. We encourage students to avoid taking a real test more than three times, unless they have a convincing reason to believe another try will result in a significantly higher score.

  • SAT VS ACT

    Which test should I take?
    No one can say for sure, but we suspect the new SAT will be significantly easier than the ACT for students in rigorous high school programs. The tests cover similar content, but the ACT requires students to work much faster while maintaining accuracy. Also, the new SAT replaces the ACT’s most difficult section—science—with more manageable data interpretation and science passages throughout the test’s other sections.

    The ACT offers one distinct advantage over the new SAT: more real practice tests. The College Board has only published four real practice tests for the new SAT. The ACT has published numerous real tests. If your test prep will consist mainly of doing dozens of practice tests, you should take the ACT.

    To help decide between tests, students should take a practice ACT and a practice SAT. Students should also consider the math skills required for each test. Some students will naturally gravitate toward one or the other test, as one fits their thinking and working style better than the other.

    The Key Differences

    The ACT The SAT
    Science Section The ACT has a distinct science section with questions about data tables, graphs, charts and descriptions of experiments. There is no science section on the SAT. Instead, the test embeds science content and data interpretation throughout all sections including reading, English usage and math.
    Calculators All ACT math questions are multiple-choice and allow calculator use. The new SAT has a short, no-calculator math section, and includes non-multiple-choice math questions where students grid in numerical answers.
    Difficulty/Pacing The questions are easier, but you have significantly less time to answer them. Some questions are slightly harder, but you have much more time per question.
    Practice Tests The ACT has been around for years and has published dozens of real tests. So far, the College Board has only released four real practice tests. They will release at least two more tests this year and are working to accelerate more releases.

     

  • Subject Tests

    Who Makes It?
    The College Board

    What is it?
    Subject Tests are designed to measure your mastery in a specific subject on a high school level. There are 20 different Subject Tests in various subjects.

    What’s on it?
    The subject matter varies from test to test, but they are all multiple-choice.

    How long is it?
    Each test takes one hour, and you can take up to three tests in one sitting

    Frequency
    Six times a year

    Max Score
    800

     

    Upcoming Testing Dates:

    SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests
    2016 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    October 1 TBD TBD
    November 5 TBD TBD
    December 3 TBD TBD
    2017 Test Dates Registration Late Registration
    January 21 TBD TBD
    May 6 TBD TBD
    June 3 TBD TBD
    August 26 TBD TBD
    October 7 TBD TBD
    November 4 TBD TBD
    December 2 TBD TBD

     

    FAQs about Subject Tests

    How many SAT Subject Tests do I need to take?
    Most of the more competitive colleges require or recommend that applicants who submit the SAT also submit one, two or three SAT Subject Tests. Check the websites of colleges you’re considering to find out what they expect.

    When should I take SAT Subject Tests?
    Because these tests measure your knowledge of specific subjects, you need to plan thoughtfully. If you’re only taking one year of US history and want to take that SAT Subject Test, you should schedule it to coincide with the end of your course. If you loved biology in 9th grade but did not take the SAT Subject Test at the end of that school year, relearning the material in 11th grade will demand an enormous effort.

    If you’re planning on taking a subject throughout high school, you may benefit from waiting until senior year to take the SAT Subject Test. Many students take foreign languages, math and literature throughout high school, and will stand to perform best on those Subject Tests in the fall of senior year.

    When are Subject Tests offered?
    2016–2017 SAT Subject Test Dates*

    Subject Test Oct. 1, 2016 Nov. 5, 2016 Dec. 3, 2016 Jan. 21, 2017 May 6, 2017 Jun. 3, 2017
    Literature x x x x x x
    US History x x x x x x
    World History x x
    Mathematics Level 1 x x x x x x
    Mathematics Level 2 x x x x x x
    Biology E/M x x x x x x
    Chemistry x x x x x x
    Physics x x x x x x
    French x x x x x
    German x
    Spanish x x x x x
    Modern Hebrew x
    Italian x
    Latin x
    French with Listening x
    German with Listening x
    Spanish with Listening x
    Chinese with Listening x
    Japanese with Listening x
    Korean with Listening x

    *Dates are subject to change. Please check the College Board website before you register.

    So what do colleges expect to see?
    Courses at different high schools vary greatly. Knowledge and performance that get you an A in biology at one school may only get you a B at another. The Subject Tests give colleges an additional, objective measure to use when looking at candidates. The tests that you choose to take can also help you to differentiate yourself.

    Once you get to college, scores on these tests may be used for placement.

    Some schools require a certain number of Subject Tests or certain tests in particular. Visit the websites of colleges you may apply to, to find out what they expect.

    Should I take Subject Tests if I am taking the ACT?
    Quite possibly.

    Many colleges accept the ACT as a stand-alone test with no additional subject tests required. If you are applying, however, to schools that require SAT-takers to submit Subject Tests, many other applicants who submit ACT scores will also submit Subject Test scores. If you’ve worked hard in high school to learn a subject, taking the SAT Subject Test demonstrates what you’ve accomplished.

     

  • AP Exams

    Who makes It?
    The College Board

    What is it?
    AP Exams are designed to measure your mastery in a specific subject at the college level. There are 37 different AP Exams in various subjects. Some universities award college credit for strong scores on AP Exams (hence the name Advanced Placement).

    What’s on it?
    The subject matter varies from test to test, but these exams usually consist of a mix of multiple-choice and free-response sections. Some language exams have listening portions.

    How long is it?
    Three hours

    Frequency
    Once a year

    Max Score
    5

    FAQs about AP Exams

    If my school does not offer AP classes, should I take AP Exams?
    College admissions officers make an effort to know the policies and standards of individual high schools. They will know which AP classes, if any, your school offers, and take this information into account when assessing the rigor of your schedule and testing choices.

    If your school does not offer an AP class you are interested in taking, you can look into enrolling in an online course (the College Board has a list of approved online courses), enrolling in a class at a local college, or studying for the test on your own. It will require significant self-motivation to take an AP Exam without participating in the class, but students do it. Preparing for and successfully taking AP Exams in subjects that interest you can help demonstrate your abilities to colleges.

    To register for AP Exams when you are not registered for the corresponding AP class, contact AP Services via the College Board (888-225-5427) to find a local AP Coordinator who has agreed to test outside students. Students should call AP Services no later than March 1 of the year they want to take the test to get this process started (we recommend calling much sooner, if possible).

    Should I take AP Exams or SAT Subject Tests?
    APs are more impressive to colleges than Subject Tests, but also require more preparation. APs are longer and more comprehensive tests than the one-hour multiple-choice SAT Subject Tests. If you do well on an AP Exam, you don’t need the companion SAT Subject Test because admissions officers will see that you know the material. The exception to this would be that if you’re applying to a college that requires a specific number of Subject Tests (usually two or three), and you aren’t confident in additional subjects outside the AP Exams you already took, then it’s perfectly fine to take an AP Exam and its companion Subject Test.

     

  • ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam)

    Who makes It?
    ERB (Educational Records Bureau)

    What is it?
    The ISEE is a leading admissions test for independent schools. It is designed to measure student achievement compared to other students on his or her grade level.

    What’s on it?

    Four multiple-choice sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension and math

    + Fifth (unscored) essay section

    How long is it?
    Lower Level: Two hours and 20 minutes
    Middle Level and Upper Level: Two hours and 40 minutes

    Frequency
    The ISEE is offered year-round at various testing centers. Students may take the test a maximum of three times in one 12-month admission cycle.

    Max Score
    Students receive four scores:
    A raw score (calculated by adding up the number of right answers)
    A scaled score (converted from the raw score, between 760 and 940)
    A percentile (a rank based on the percent of students in the same grade who performed equally or better)
    A stanine (based on the percentile score, 1-9)

     

     

    FAQs about the ISEE

     

    Are there different levels?
    Yes.
    The Primary ISEE is for students entering 2nd–4th grade.
    The Lower Level ISEE is for students entering 5th and 6th grade.
    The Middle Level ISEE is for students entering 7th and 8th grade.
    The Upper Level ISEE is for students entering 9th–12th grade.

    Within the different level groupings, students are taking the same test as kids in different grades. Are students’ grade levels taken into consideration in the results?
    Yes, students are only being compared to others from their grade level.

    How does scoring work?
    ISEE scoring is notoriously complex, but we will try to demystify it for you!

    Raw Score:
    A student’s raw score is calculated by adding up the number of right answers. (No points are taken away for wrong answers.)

    Scaled Score:
    The raw score for each section is then converted into a scaled score between 760 and 940. This scaled score takes differences between multiple test versions into account.

    Percentile:
    From the scaled score, ERB gives students a percentile between 1 and 99. This percentile tells how the student scored compared to other test-takers in the same grade. If an 8th grade student is in the 72nd percentile that means that he or she scored better than 72% of 8th graders who have taken the test in the past three years. (It doesn’t mean that he or she got 72% of the questions right.)

    Stanine:
    Using the percentile, ERB assigns students a stanine. Below is a table showing where different percentiles place test-takers based on ERB’s reporting.

     

    Percentile Stanine
    1-3 1
    4-10 2
    11-22 3
    23-39 4
    40-59 5
    60-76 6
    89-95 8
    96-99 9

    If you still have ISEE scoring questions, check out ERB’s very detailed scoring brochure that accompanies score reports, or read their What to Expect on the ISEE online book.

    Does the essay matter if it is not scored?
    Yes. Schools use your essay as a writing sample. Since they have few means for assessing your potential, the essay offers an important opportunity to showcase your talents. You won’t get a score for your essay, but writing it well makes a difference.

  • SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test)

    Who makes It?
    Secondary School Admissions Test Board, Inc.

    What is it?
    The SSAT is a leading admissions test for independent schools. It is designed to measure student achievement compared to other students on his or her grade level.

    What’s on it?

    Elementary Level: Three multiple choice sections (quantitative reasoning/math, verbal reasoning, and reading comprehension) + unscored essay section

    Middle and Upper Level: Five multiple choice sections (Two quantitative reasoning sections, reading comprehension, verbal reasoning, and experimental) + unscored essay section

    How long is it?
    Elementary Level: One hour and 50 minutes
    Middle Level and Upper Levels: Three hours and five minutes

    Frequency
    The SSAT is offered eight times at testing centers worldwide between October and June. Students may take the test as many times as they want.

    The SSAT also offers “Flex tests” outside the eight “Standard tests.” These are typically taken through a participating school or educational consultant. Students may take one Flex test per year.

    Max Score
    Students receive two scores:
    A scaled score (between 300 and 600 for each section on the Elementary Level SSAT, between 440 and 710 for each section on the Middle Level SSAT, and between 500 – 800 for each section on the Upper Level SSAT)
    A percentile (a rank based on the percent of students in the same grade who performed equally or better)

     

    FAQs about the SSAT

    Are there different levels?
    Yes.

    The Elementary Level SSAT is for students applying for 4th and 5th grade.
    The Middle Level SSAT is for students applying for 6th – 8th grade.
    The Upper Level SSAT is students applying for 9th – 12th grade.

    Within the different level groupings, students are taking the same test as kids in different grades. Are students’ grade levels taken into consideration in the results?
    Yes, students are only being compared to others from their grade level.

    How does scoring work?
    SSAT scoring is a little tricky, but we will try to simplify it for you!

    Guessing penalty
    For Middle and Upper Levels, a student’s raw score is calculated by adding up the number of right answers, deducting 1/4 point for each wrong answer (there is a guessing penalty).

    There are no points deducted for wrong answers on the Elementary Level SSAT.

    Scaled Score:
    The raw score for each section (right answers – wrong answers) is then converted into a scaled score. The score will be between 300 and 600 for each section on the Elementary Level SSAT, between 440 and 710 for each section on the Middle Level SSAT, and between 500 – 800 for each section on the Upper Level SSAT. This scaled score takes differences between multiple test versions into account.

    Percentile:
    From the scaled score, SSAT gives students a percentile between 1 and 99. This percentile tells how the student scored compared to other test-takers in the same grade. If a 9th grade student is in the 83rd percentile, that means that he or she scored better than 83% of 9th graders who have taken the test in the past three years. (It doesn’t mean that he or she got 83% of the questions right.)

    Does the essay matter if it is not scored?
    Yes. Admissions offices read the essay as a writing sample, so although it is not scored, the essay offers an important opportunity to showcase your talents.

     

     

     

     

  • SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test)

    Who makes It?
    It is made and administered by American Guidance Service, under contract to the New York City Department of Education.

    What is it?
    The SHSAT is the admissions test for New York City’s Specialized High Schools. The specialized high schools are Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, Brooklyn Latin School, High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College, Staten Island Technical High School, and the High School for American Studies at Lehman College. These schools are all public and free to attend.

    What’s on it?

    The SHSAT has one math and one verbal section. Each section is worth fifty points. The math section consists of computation and word problems. It tests statistics, probability, arithmetic, algebra and geometry (The 9th grade math version also includes trigonometry.). The verbal section tests reading comprehension and logical reasoning.

    How long is it?
    The test is two and a half hours with no breaks. Students may divide their time between the sections as they wish.

    Frequency
    The SHSAT is offered once a year. 8th graders take it in late October, and 9th graders take it in early November.

    Max Score
    800

    FAQs about the SHSAT

    How does scoring work?
    Points are given for correct answers, and none are taken away for incorrect ones. The number calculated from correct answers is combined with question difficulty levels to create a scaled score.

    What scores are needed for each specialized high school?
    The DOE doesn’t release information on the scoring specifics. The number of right answers corresponding to acceptance at specific schools isn’t publicized, and it’s reported that cut off scores change yearly. However, based on our students’ practice tests over the past several years, we can infer what scores are needed. You can’t expect to get into Stuyvesant with more than three or four wrong answers. Bronx Science tends to be a little more forgiving and Brooklyn Tech even more so.

    Getting into the schools isn’t only about the scores a student gets. It’s also about how the schools are ranked on his or her list. The DOE assigns students to their first choice schools moving downward from the top of the scaled score student list until a school fills up. This means that it’s important to think realistically about where your scores will likely place you. For example, if you’re getting 80 out of 100 questions on practice SHSAT’s, it’s a waste of your first choice option to put Stuyvesant as number one. The Stuyvesant slots will be filled before your scaled score is reached.

    When are SHSAT results released?
    The DOE expects students to receive results in late February. 

  • The Hunter Test

    What is it?

    The Hunter test is an exam used for admissions to Hunter College High School. It’s given to 6th graders.

    What’s on it?

    The test has English language arts (ELA), math and writing sections. Students can take the test in any order, but it’s recommended that they take it in the order in which it’s given in the booklet.

    How long is it?
    The test is three hours long. Students may divide their time between the sections as they wish.

    Frequency
    The Hunter Test is administered once a year, in early January. There are no makeup dates.

    FAQs about the SHSAT

    Who can take the test?
    Public school students are invited to take the test based on their New York state standardized test scores in 5th grade. According to Hunter, the minimum scores required to qualify for the 2017 test are a 346 in ELA and a 357 in math.

    Private and parochial school students need scores in the 90th percentile on their schools’ standardized tests to receive an invitation.

    Only NYC residents are eligible to apply. If a student does not have scores to submit, Hunter will arrange a qualifying exam to determine whether the student is eligible to apply to Hunter High School.

    If a student misses the test in 6th grade, can he or she take it later?
    No. Hunter College High School goes from 7th – 12th grade but only accepts students into the 7th grade. The only chance to apply is in 6th grade.

    When are admissions decisions announced?
    Students can expect to hear from Hunter in mid February.