Standardized Testing

There are many types of exams a student can take during his or her time in high school: PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, 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 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 or the ACT for the first time in February or April 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 through multiple choice questions. Through Spring 2021, the SAT included an optional essay component; though the optional essay is no longer an option, if a student took the SAT with the essay, the score is still eligible for reporting, if the institution to which the student is applying accepts test scores. 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

Prior to Spring 2021, The College Board offered 20 different Subject Tests (12 of which are in languages) each year. These one-hour subject-specific tests allowed students to demonstrate mastery of a specific school-taught subject. Many highly-selective colleges required students to submit two Subject Test scores as part of an application for admission. Though no longer offered, students with existing Subject Test scores are able to submit them, if they wish, to the institutions to which they apply, if the school accepts test scores. Students should consult with the College Counseling Office for more guidance on how/whether these scores might be used.


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 In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some colleges and universities suspended the use of standardized test scores in the application process. Each college or university website will outline their specific testing requirements – if any – on their individual Undergraduate Admission webpages.