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Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

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Understanding the SAT and AP Examination Programs

Standard Examinations

The best way to achieve recognition from a college admission office for work done in any science course is to take a universally recognized standardized test. The two major examinations are the SAT II subject test and the Advanced Placement test. Which one you take depends on your level of preparation, your academic goals, and the policy of the colleges to which you may want to apply. In most cases, the SAT is used as part of your college admission packet, and should be taken at the end of your Junior year or the beginning of your Senior year. The AP exam is used to determine placement and establish grounds for granting credit, and is often taken in the senior year, although you can take it any year, and may chose to take it in May of the year you complete this course.

SAT Subject Examinations

The College Board Online Website has information for parents and students on the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, AP, and CLEP examinations, test dates, how to sign up to take the exams, etc. There are also special pages for homeschoolers -- search around for them.

The SAT II subject test is used to assess whether you have mastered the content of a typical high school one-year introductory science course. If you are interested in majoring in life sciences or medicine, you need to enter college with at least one year of high school biology and one of high school chemistry. If you are interested in physical sciences, engineering, astronomy, or computer science, you need a year of high school physics. Many college admissions offices also look for experience in a laboratory science course, and expect you to have taken one, regardless of your intended college major. Fulfilling this requirement now may free you to take other classes in college, especially if you are not interested in a science major.

The College Board's site contains information about each of the Subject test in the sciences. For more information on each exam, including exam format, preparation, sample questions, see

Check the Subject Tests Calendar for dates for this year's tests. If you are taking a science course this year as a junior and need the SAT II for admission consideration, you should plan to take the exam in May, June, or in the fall of next year. I recommend that you plan to take the exam in June, since it occurs after the completion of our course. We will have a special review session for the exam during the week before the exam.

The Scholars Online core science courses are fairly rigorous compared to a standard high school course. We use a college-level text which contains more material than a typical high school text. The online quiz questions are phrased like or based on similar questions from past published SAT Subject exams. Consequently, completing this course satisfactorily should prepare you adequately for the SAT exam. Taking and doing well on the exam will establish your credibility as a science student for your college application. Many students who complete this course report scores above 700 on the SAT Subject exam.

The Advanced Placement Test

The Advanced Placement program provides high school students the chance to do college-level study and get credit for their work from many colleges and universities. Colleges in other countries recognize the AP examination as an indicator of advanced work beyond high school, and some US and Canadian colleges will award you sophomore standing if you meet their requirements through outstanding AP exam performance, reducing the cost of your college education. Several scholarships are awarded on the basis of AP scores. Check the College Board Advanced Placement website for more information on the AP program.

Be forewarned, though: a number of US colleges and universities will not grant you college credit for AP work, regardless of your score on the exam, and some departments refuse credit while others at the same college may grant credit. Be sure to verify the AP credit policy in your subject at each of the colleges that interest you; do not automatically assume that a particular college department will grant you college credit for this course on the basis of your AP score.

Exam registration deadlines and administration dates can be found on the AP Calendar. Note the special instructions for homeschooled students on this page!

Scholars Online biology, chemistry, and physics courses still use the formal syllabi and lab exercises approved in 2018 by the College Board as meeting or exceeding the then-current standards, and we believe the courses meet the 2019 and 2020 standards as well, although we have chosen for several reasons to no longer pursue AP Certification for our courses. You can find out more on why we undertook this decision in the Continuing in the Word blog article, "To Teach, or not to Teach to the Test".

CLEP: The College-Level Examination Program

An alternative to the AP examination for college credit is the CLEP examination. These examinations are primarily intended for adults who have learned subjects on the job. Colleges may or may not accept CLEP scores, and they may have different policies for CLEP results and AP results. If you need to take a CLEP examination instead of the AP exam, however, the AP Option curriculum should prepare you to do well.

ACT Exams

The ACT (formerly American College Testing) exam is another standardized test used for college admissions. It is an alternative to the SAT general examination, and is administered not by the College Board organization but through the ACT organization. The ACT exam has five sections: English, Math, Reading, Science Reasining, and Writing; this last one is optional. There are no subject matter examinations, and it is not generally used by itself to place students in second-year college science courses on admission.