It is that time of year when college-bound, homeschooled high schoolers should be thinking about standardized testing. Students do not HAVE to take standardized tests in order to get into college. Many state colleges and universities have transfer agreements with community colleges. Students may transfer directly from a community college to a state college or university without submitting any standardized test scores if the student has successfully completed a certain course load through the community college, often entailing earning some sort of AA/transfer degree.
In addition, FairTest maintains a list of colleges and universities that do not require the SAT or ACT for admission.
If your student is unsure about what college he or she wishes to attend and he or she is in 12th grade, he or she may want to cover the bases by taking the typical college entrance exams (academically-gifted younger students may also take these tests at an earlier age, check the test websites for more information). Some schools will only accept either the SAT or the ACT, but many schools accept either test. Both of these tests are offered throughout the year and students may register for them online.
Before taking either the SAT or the ACT, students may want to take a practice test offered in a formal testing environment to get a better idea about what to expect, how the student is currently performing score-wise, and which test the student performs better on. The two practice tests offered are the PSAT and the PLAN, which is the practice test for the ACT.
The PSAT test is very popular, but it is only offered ONCE PER YEAR! So if your student is in 11th grade and wants to take the PSAT, it is time for the two of you to start making arrangements to take it NOW. This year, each school offering the test, may give the test on Wednesday, October 16th OR on Saturday, October 19th. In order to take it, students must go through a local school that is offering the test. The best way to do this is to call the school and talk to whomever is in charge of administering the test. Laws vary from state to state, but if you get a public school official who tells you that homeschoolers are not allowed to take the PSAT at your local public high school, I would ask to speak with the principal or call your school district, as quite often, school officials are simply misinformed on the topic. You can also try contacting local private schools.
The other catch with the PSAT is that it is the qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship. It should be noted, however, that in order to be entered in the National Merit Scholarship Program, your student must take the PSAT in 11th grade. Do not let your student make the same mistake I made. I took the PSAT in 10th grade for practice and scored 99% on the test, it was announced over the school intercom that I had scored well enough for the National Merit Scholarship, which I had never even heard of. I didn’t see any reason to take the PSAT again in 11th grade, so didn’t (I was still clueless about the importance of the National Merit Scholarship Program). I took the SAT in 12th grade and scored 99% again. I never heard anything more about the National Merit Scholarship Program and honestly never gave much thought about it until Primo entered the college test-taking arena and I learned about the 11th grade requirement and all the pieces of the puzzle clicked into place. I now know a lot about the National Merit Scholarship Program and know that had I taken the PSAT in 11th grade many doors may have opened for me in regards to college recruitment and other scholarships. As I met my husband while at university, however, I subscribe to the “all’s well that end’s well” philosophy.
Other tests your student may need or want to take are the SAT Subject tests (these are sometimes referred to as SAT II’s and were called Achievement Tests when I was younger), the AP tests, the IB tests, and/or the CLEP exams. Feel free to share any other college-placement tests that I missed in the comments below.