Student Life

College Prep Testing

Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT have become a controversial part of the college admission process. While some colleges have become SAT optional, other colleges use standardized test scores as an important piece of the admissions puzzle.  The schools relying the most heavily on standardized test scores are often large universities that receive thousands of applications and highly selective colleges.   Most other colleges look at applicants from a holistic point of view, and accept students within a range of test scores.

Standardized test scores have also become very important for scholarship competitions and admissions to college Honors Programs.  Because of this, and because research shows that structured preparation for standardized tests can lead to significant increases in test scores, Gray Stone encourages students to actively prepare for the SAT.  (In contrast, the ACT is closely aligned with a high school curriculum and does not require this kind of preparation, although practice is still helpful).  There are many ways to actively prepare for the SAT.  Test prep companies such as The Princeton Review and Sylvan Learning offer group classes and private tutoring sessions.  Students who are self-motivated may do very well preparing for the SAT using an SAT prep book such as Barron’s SAT, or by taking advantage of the many FREE SAT prep websites found on our Links and Resources page.  

One important thing to note about the SAT is that although colleges will see your scores on the Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing Sections, many colleges, including most North Carolina colleges, only consider your Critical Reading and Mathematics scores.  That means you should focus on your scores on those sections, and your total score on a 1600 point scale.  

Gray Stone’s CEEB code is 342-632 and will be needed for all test registration forms and college applications. Students should give this number when requested on forms so that scores will be sent to Gray Stone.  It is the student's responsibility to be aware of test registration deadlines and the testing requirements of the colleges to which he/she will apply and to request that College Board send your SAT results to colleges directly from the testing service.

Please see Mrs. Crum’s presentation, "Information on Standardized Testing", for more information on the SAT and for some test-taking strategies.  

SAT Program

SAT I

The SAT test date and fee schedule can be found here.

Gray Stone recommends that students take the SAT three times.  Students who complete Algebra II at the end of their sophomore years should consider taking the SAT in the fall and spring of their junior years, and again in the fall of their senior years.  Students taking Algebra II during their junior year should take two SAT exams in the spring of their junior years and one in the fall of their senior years.  Most colleges will focus on a student’s best Critical Reading score, best Mathematics score, and best Writing score even if they are achieved on different testing days, so it is worth the extra time and money to take the exam multiple times.

SAT II Subject Tests

As a general rule, students planning to apply to highly selective colleges should take three SAT II Subject Tests by the end of their junior year.  Each curriculum-based test is one hour long; as many as three tests may be taken in one sitting. Teachers and counselors can provide guidance as to appropriate subject tests.   For more information about the SAT I and II programs and to register online, visit www.collegeboard.com.

ACT Program

Gray Stone strongly encourages students to take the ACT at least once.  This testing program is most popular with high school students outside of the East and West Coasts, but almost all colleges will accept this test in lieu of the SAT as long students take the ACT with the optional writing test.  Students receive a score for each subject-related test (English, Mathematics, Reading and Science) as well as a composite score that ranges from 1 to 36.  Some students score relatively higher on the ACT than the SAT, and colleges will use whichever score is the highest when considering applications.   

ACT testing schedule and electronic registration information.

PSAT/NMSQT

Gray Stone will administer the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) for all 10th and 11th graders in October each year. Students do not register directly with the testing service to take the PSAT. This nearly 3 hour practice SAT measures the Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing skills that students have developed and allows them to take part in the Student Search Service and to receive mail from participating colleges and universities.

The PSAT/NMSQT exam is the first step in the National Merit Scholarship process. The National Merit Selection Index (the Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing Scores added together) is determined annually for juniors. The minimum score necessary to receive national recognition varies from year to year and from state to state.  The minimum score necessary to qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist in North Carolina for the past four years has ranged from 214 to 215.  

In December students will receive a Score Report which includes personalized feedback on test questions and an “Improve Your Skills” section. Because the test is normed for the academic preparation of juniors, 10th-graders should not be alarmed if their scores are lower than anticipated.

For more information, visit www.collegeboard.com or www.nationalmerit.org.

Testing Modifications

Testing modifications are available to those who have a diagnosed and properly documented learning disability or physical handicap. The ACT and the College Board offer extended time or untimed testing for those who qualify. Students who believe they qualify for such testing should meet with Mrs. Leonard for specific information about registration and testing plans.

Fee Waivers

Fee waivers are available to juniors and seniors for the ACT, the SAT I, and SAT II exams. Students who believe they may qualify because of demonstrable economic need should check with Mrs. Crum or Mr. Miller as soon as possible. The use of an SAT fee waiver is often necessary in order to qualify students for an application fee waiver at various colleges.   If you want to apply to college using application fee waivers, you need to make sure to use an SAT fee waiver!  Such a waiver also makes a student-athlete eligible for a waiver of the NCAA clearinghouse fee.

Advanced Placement (AP) Program

This program enables students to challenge themselves with college level work, demonstrate their expertise to admission committees, and possibly earn college credit or waivers from introductory courses. Scores range from a low of 1 to a high of 5. Each college has its own criteria for granting credit, normally a score of 3 or better. Gray Stone offers 12 Advanced Placement Courses. The examinations are given in May at the end of an Advanced Placement course or at teacher recommendation and cost $86 each. Mrs. Leonard handles AP exam registration.  For more information about AP Testing, visit AP Central.

http://www.collegeboard.com: This is a comprehensive site offering information on the SAT, SAT II Subject Tests, and AP Exams, as well as information on thousands of colleges.  

http://www.act.org: The ACT’s website.  

http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional: This is an alphabetized list of four year colleges that de-emphasize the role of standardized tests in the admissions process.  Some of these colleges do not require submission of standardized test scores at all.