Frequently Asked Questions

1. When will I have a "college adviser?"

You will be assigned to your college adviser in the fall of your junior year. Your class will be divided among Mr. Blumenthal, Ms. Davis, and Dr. Honig.

2. If I want to talk to someone about college or testing requirements before an adviser is assigned to me, what should I do?

If you are in ninth or tenth grade it is really too early to focus on the college process -- enjoy your high school experience! If, however, you have a question that you feel cannot wait until junior year, feel free to come down to the College Office. All of the college advisers are happy to speak to any student at any time about college- or testing-related matters. Parents may call with any questions.

3. What SAT Subject Tests should I take? When should I take them? What, if any, are the drawbacks to taking these tests?

SAT Subject Tests (formerly named as SAT II) are one-hour exams offered by the Educational Testing Service; they are not required by most colleges. The majority of students who take SAT Reasoning Tests take no Subject Tests at all. Other than the cost of these exams, the possible drawback to taking Subject Tests is a matter of proportion. These tests are not weighed as heavily in the college admissions process as SAT is, even by the colleges that require them. The most important thing in a student's record is his or her high school transcript -- the kinds of courses taken and the grades earned in those courses. If preparing for Subject Tests takes valuable time away from school work, it is not advisable. If taking (and re-taking) these tests creates anxiety in the student, it is also not advisable.

Colleges that require Subject Tests generally require two; they may be in any subject areas. Certain specialized programs, such as engineering, may have other requirements (see question 7 below). Otherwise, students should be guided primarily by their academic strengths. It is more important to have high scores than to show diversity in these tests.

Certain tests are given only on certain dates. For example, the Hebrew test is given only in June, so students who plan to take it must do so in June of the sophomore or junior year. Certain tests are tied to particular subject matter. If they are to be taken at all, the tests in biology, chemistry, physics, and American history are best taken at the conclusion of the related course.

Other Subject Tests are more comprehensive in nature, and a student is likely to do better the later he or she takes the exam, provided that study of the subject continues. This is true for world language tests and the literature test. Many students will be prepared for these tests during the latter part of the junior year. If scores are disappointing, students may retake any of these exams in the fall of the senior year.

4. How do I know if I should be taking the Subject Test in biology?

Usually, strong science students in the honors biology classes at Ramaz do very well on this exam. Students who are in the accelerated biology classes and are doing especially well may also score nicely on this exam, though all Ramaz students will need to learn more material on their own, outside of class. The best way to know if this exam is right for you is to ask your biology teacher. Your teacher will be able to judge how much extra work you will need to devote to learning biology in the weeks preceding the exam to prepare for it. If you will need to put in a great deal of extra time and effort to prepare for this exam, it may not be worthwhile. The extra time might be better utilized in completing your other school work, in reading, or in just relaxing. There will be many opportunities to take other Subject Tests later in your high school career, should you need them. No college requires the Subject Test in biology.

If you are a good candidate for this test, just come down to the College Office for registration forms and a clergy letter authorizing a Sunday test. Directions for completing the forms are available on this website.

5. Which of the Subject Tests in biology should I take?

There are two different Subject Tests in biology. The exams share a common core of questions but then give students the option to answer a series of questions on either molecular or environmental biology. The emphasis in the Ramaz science curriculum is towards molecular biology, so the Ramaz Science and College Guidance departments strongly recommend that Ramaz students taking a biology Subject Test take the exam in molecular biology.

6. What kinds of colleges require SAT Subject Tests?

Each year, more and more schools are dropping their Subject Test requirements. Even some of the most elite and selective universities in the country have stopped requiring these exams. The best way to know for sure what is required is to check the college's website and find out from the source.

However, many colleges recommend (rather than require) Subject Tests and would expect a Ramaz student to submit scores. Please discuss your testing plan individually with a college adviser.

7. Do any colleges require the Subject Test in chemistry? How do I know if I should take this test?

Most engineering programs require either the chemistry test or the physics test, so if studying engineering is a consideration for you, you should take the chemistry test in June or August after the sophomore year to keep your options open.

Any student who is performing very well in the honors section of chemistry should consider taking this exam, although additional study will be required. Students should consult their chemistry teacher for help in making this decision.

8. Is sophomore year a good time to take other Subject Tests to "get them out of the way" before crunch time during junior and senior years?

Junior and senior years are indeed "crunch times." Nevertheless, Subject Tests should be taken when a student is likely to achieve the highest score, if they are to be taken at all.

June or August after sophomore year, right after the chemistry course, is a sensible time to take the Subject Test in chemistry if chemistry is a strength (see questions 3 and 7 above). June of the sophomore year is also a good time to take the Hebrew test if a student is particularly strong in Hebrew, as there will be only one more opportunity to take this particular test, June of the junior year.

Many of the other Subject Tests depend upon cumulative knowledge. Tests in literature and world languages other than Hebrew should be taken as late in the high school career as possible, provided that the student continues to study these subjects. A student who scores even as high as a 700 in the sophomore year in Spanish, for example, is a student who might score even higher in Spanish by the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year. The student would be better served by taking the test later and scoring higher. These tests yield somewhat to study and practice, but improvement comes primarily with increased class time, increased age, and increased maturity.

Taking comprehensive Subject Tests early in the high school career for "practice" yields little in the way of improved results later. Students can take sample tests for free in the comfort of home. The student who scores 790 in Spanish as a senior after scoring 650 in the sophomore year and 720 in the junior year would have scored 790 in the senior year without taking the earlier tests and would have saved several anxious hours and some money.

9. Do Ramaz students take the Subject Test in Hebrew language?

Ramaz students who are particularly proficient in Hebrew language take this test in June of the sophomore or junior years. The test is given only in June. Students should be aware that many who take the Hebrew language test are Israelis. Since all tests are graded on a curve based on the raw scores of the test takers, one must make very few errors to achieve a high score on the Hebrew language test.

10. Do Ramaz sophomores take the Subject Test in mathematics?

A few Ramaz sophomores in the honors math track take the Math Level 1 Subject Test in late spring. However, because very few colleges require Subject Tests, the college advisers feel that students generally would be better served by taking the Math Level 2 exam in the junior year.

11. How do I know which of the two mathematics exams I should take, and when?

As with the science exams, the decision about whether to take the Math Level 1, Level 2, or both of these tests is a decision that should be made in consultation with your math teacher. Most Ramaz students will be prepared to take the Level 1 exam by the end of their junior year. Strong students in the honors track will be prepared to take the Level 2 by spring of their junior year. When you meet with your college adviser during junior year, planning your individual testing schedule will be an important priority.

12. Is there an advantage to taking a Subject Test multiple times?

Maturation is more essential to your success than taking a Subject Test multiple times. The best time to take an exam is when your understanding of the subject material is as complete and mature as possible. For instance, the logical date for an advanced or honors science student to take the test in that science is in June or August of the year that the science is being studied. For those students who would like to gain familiarity with individual Subject Test formats to feel more confident about the test, reading the College Board publications of actual subject tests will be as useful as multiple testing. There are also a great many commercial preparatory materials available. Check your local library.

13. What is a "good" score on a Subject Test?

This is a difficult question to answer, since a "good" score for one student may not be considered such by another. You should certainly keep in mind the fact that nationwide, only a very small percentage of all students taking the SAT take each specific Subject Test. You are welcome to ask any adviser in the College Office about your scores.

14. When should I take my first SAT or ACT?

A common sequence for SAT testing is once in the junior year and once in the fall of the senior year. For a student taking no subject tests, a June/October or June/November sequence is very common. For students taking Subject Tests, a May/October or May/November sequence is common. In 2017 the College Board added August as a test date, which allows students to prepare and take the exam without overlapping with classwork.

April of your junior year is a good time to take your first ACT exam. This allows time in September or October of senior year to take it again.

15. Should I take the SAT or the ACT or both?

Colleges value these two exams equally, so take the exam that you feel more confident taking.

The material covered on the SAT and ACT overlaps significantly. The primary differences between the current ACT and the New SAT are:

  • The ACT allows less time per question than the SAT.
  • The ACT includes a science section.
  • The New SAT includes a section of Math that must be solved without a calculator.

Often, the best way to choose between these two exams is to take a practice of each. The feel or format of one is usually more comfortable for a student. Consult your college adviser about making this decision.

16. Do colleges accept the ACT in lieu of both the SAT and the Subject Tests?

Many colleges do accept the ACT with Writing in lieu of both the SAT and two or more Subject Tests, but some do not. Be sure to check the websites of the colleges you are considering for their current testing requirements, as well as consulting with your college adviser.

17. Must I report all my standardized test scores to colleges?

Not necessarily. Students taking the ACT have the option to choose which test date's scores to report to colleges. Students taking the SAT have a similar option to choose which tests to send to colleges, although some colleges are requesting applicants to report all scores. Just remember not to get too caught up in taking and retaking these tests numerous times, as your transcript is the most important part of college admissions evaluations.

Students are allowed to choose which test date of the SAT they want to submit (both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and the Math score will be reported). For Subject Tests, students are allowed to select which individual test results to submit to colleges, even if multiple tests were taken on the same day.

It is always the student's responsibility to make sure that test scores are reported to colleges. Students do so for the SAT through the College Board (www.collegeboard.com) and for the ACT through the American College Testing Program (www.actstudent.org) websites. Consult with your adviser before reporting any scores to colleges.

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