Standardized Testing

There are many types of exams a student can take during his or her time in high school: PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, Subject Tests, the ACT, and Advanced Placement (AP) exams. Students are not expected to sit for all of these exams, but the college counselors will work closely with each student to determine which exams are a good fit, and when to take them. Although the College Board currently allows students to use “Score Choice” (picking which scores to send to colleges), many colleges opt out of this process, requiring students to submit all scores as part of an application for admission – therefore, students should expect that colleges will see all scores on their record.

All BUA students should plan to take the SAT or ACT and two Subject Tests by the end of junior year. The BUA College Counseling Office strongly recommends that students sit for the SAT for the first time in March of junior year – not before.



The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test 0ffered each October that prepares students for the SAT. Juniors who sit for the exam are automatically considered for a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation scholarship programs. Juniors scoring in the top 2% of all test takers are recognized as a Commended Scholars. Students may also be named as Semi-Finalists, ultimately competing for Finalist status. Notification of Commended and Semi-Finalist status takes place in September of senior year.

The PSAT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills that students have developed over many years. This test does not require students to recall specific facts from their classes.

Juniors are expected to sit for the PSAT, while the test is optional for sophomores. Academy students register for the test through the College Office in September. For more information, please visit the College Board website.


The SAT is a standardized test required of most (not all) colleges and universities as part of an application for admission. The test measures critical reading skills, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills, and includes a written essay as well as multiple choice questions. The test is offered seven times each year at test centers around the region.

Juniors are expected to sit for the SAT for the first time in March, and to sit for the test no more than three times. BUA students register for the exam through the College Board website.

Subject Tests

The College Board offers 20 different Subject Tests (12 of which are in languages) each year. Each test is one-hour long, and assesses mastery of a specific school-taught subject. Many highly-selective colleges require students to submit two Subject Test scores as part of an application for admission. Depending on the program or school to which a student applies, he or she may need to sit for specific Subject Tests.

Academy students are expected to sit for two Subject Tests by the end of junior year. Typically, we encourage students to sit for Subject Tests in June following completion of the relevant courses and after consultation with their teacher and the College Office (see examples below):.

  • Physics Subject Test after Honors Physics
  • Chemistry Subject Test after Honors Chemistry
  • Math II Subject Test after Honors Pre-Calculus
  • Latin Subject Test after Honors Latin II, Honors Latin III or CL 211/CL 212
  • Literature Subject Test after Honors American Literature

Academy students register for the exams through the College Board website.


The ACT is a standardized test students can submit in lieu of the SAT as part of an application for admission. The ACT measures English, mathematics, reading, science reasoning, and writing skills. BUA students are not expected to sit for the ACT. For more information, please visit the ACT website.

Advanced Placement (AP) exams

AP exams are three-hour tests that are offered in tandem with an Advanced Placement curriculum. They are designed to measure mastery of an Advanced Placement course, and often earn students college credit. Because BUA students take undergraduate courses at Boston University, we do not offer an Advanced Placement curriculum.  Few of our students, therefore, sit for AP exams. Exams are offered on specific dates at specific times in the month of May. Interested students are invited to register for AP exams through BUA. For more information, please visit the College Board website.

Test Optional Colleges & Universities

Many colleges have developed “test optional” or “test flexible” admission policies. Some of the colleges allow students to choose whether or not to include testing with an application for admission, or allow students some flexibility in deciding which of the many tests each student wants to submit with an application. A list of “test optional” colleges can be found at