If You're Interested

Lauren Gersick
Director of College Counseling

Elizabeth Harris
Associate Director of College Counseling

Susan Lee
Associate Director of College Counseling

Leslie Schaffer
College Counseling Associate

College Testing

Standardized tests play some role in almost all selective college admission decisions. Different institutions, however, use test scores differently. Urban students and their families need to be well-informed about school-specific testing requirements, deadlines and expectations in order to understand the importance of scores in your particular application process.

The FAQ below gives you some information around standardized college and AP testing. Additional information will be shared with you throughout the college process at meetings and with your Urban college counselor.


What standardized tests should I take and when?

The SAT and ACT are very similar and all colleges accept either. To help students determine which exam to take, Urban administers a practice test for both. The pre-ACT is offered in the spring of Sophomore year and the PSAT is offered in the fall of Junior year. Both exams are official practice tests and results are not shared with colleges. 

We recommend that each student take the SAT or the ACT once in the spring, then repeat the test in the fall of Senior year. The ACT and SAT are comparable tests and all colleges accept either. Which test a student takes is a personal preference. We offer practice versions of the tests in the spring of Sophomore year and fall of Junior year to assist students in making a choice.

In addition to the SAT or ACT, students should take at least two SAT Subject Tests in the spring of Junior year and, if necessary, in the fall of the Senior year.

What do I need to know about SAT subject tests?

Some colleges require or recommend SAT subject tests. These are one hour subject-specific exams.

If a college asks for subject tests they usually would like two exam scores. Urban students frequently choose from the following subjects: Literature, Math II, language other than English, Chemistry or Physics.

Engineering or Computer Science programs usually require the Math II subject test along with a science subject test.

Always check the website of an individual college or program as requirements may change from year to year. Students must talk to their counselor about the selection of and timing for these tests.

Are there colleges that don’t require SAT or ACT scores for admission?

Yes. The following are a few of the growing number of colleges that do not require standardized tests: Bard, Bates, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Hamilton, Harvard, Lewis and Clark, Middlebury, Mt. Holyoke, Pitzer, Sarah Lawrence, University of Chicago and Wheaton. For a more complete list, go to www.fairtest.org.

Although schools may not require test scores, they might ask applicants to submit additional information with the application (portfolio, essay, etc). Be sure to carefully assess the requirements of each college in which you are interested.

How and when do I send scores to colleges?

Official scores must be sent directly to colleges from the College Board (www.collegeboard.com) or the ACT (www.actstudent.org). Scores will take three weeks to arrive after the request is made.

Urban cannot send an official copy of any test scores/results.

For Regular Decision applications: Colleges will accept tests taken through the December test date, even if the application is due earlier. 

For Early Action or Early Decision applications: We strongly recommend completing all college-related testing by October. For early admission programs it is important that the scores arrive on or close to the early deadline.

What about accommodations for standardized testing?

Please contact Urban’s Learning Services Office for information about accommodations on standardized tests related to college.

Urban Advanced Studies (UAS) Courses and Advanced Placement (AP) Tests

Urban School's curriculum provides an exceptionally strong foundation in college preparatory subjects. Many of our classes have distinctive features that set them apart as particularly challenging and comparable to college-level work. These classes, designated as UAS, are developed by the Urban faculty and are not limited to the College Board Advanced Placement curriculum. UAS classes are offered in every subject area and recognized by colleges (including the University of California) as honors-level courses.

Do Urban students take AP tests?

Yes. Urban administers advanced placement (AP) examinations in Calculus, Chemistry, French, Spanish, Chinese, English and, in alternate years, Music Theory. Students sign up for the tests by March; tests are given at Urban in May.

What is the difference between an AP course and an AP test?

An AP course is a standardized class/materials in a particular subject that is part of the College Board curriculum. The course is usually a full year course.

An AP test, while based on the material in the curriculum, can be taken in May whether a student has taken the course or not.

What about colleges and APs?

Colleges consider AP classes as honors level courses. Colleges also consider Urban's UAS (Urban Advanced Studies) classes as honors level courses. The University of California and some other colleges assign extra points for honors courses when calculating a grade point average (GPA). Most colleges look favorably on students who take a challenging course load that includes some honors level courses.

Because many schools adopt the standardized curriculum of the College Board, college representatives will sometimes adopt language in which they refer to AP courses as the most advanced curriculum. This might create an impression that AP courses are required for selective college admissions. In fact, there are many schools (and growing) that do not teach the standardized AP curriculum of the College Board and, like Urban, are recognized and respected as having a very rigorous independent curriculum that is excellent preparation for college and university work. 

A student can get the extra point for taking an AP (or UAS) course without taking the AP test. However, a college will not award college credit unless the student takes (and passes) an AP test. AP tests are an indication of how well a student has mastered the material covered in an AP course. Many colleges use the test to award college credit for mastering the material covered in the course. A score below 3 is not considered a passing score. Each college has its own AP policy about how (or if) credit is given and what AP tests and scores qualify. There is little uniformity from college to college, so the student should research the policies of each college they are exploring.

Please note that colleges award credit based on the results of the AP test, not the AP course. It is possible to receive credit based on the results of the AP test without having taken the AP course, as is the case with Urban students who take AP tests.

How and when does an Urban student decide to take an AP test?

Since AP tests are based on an advanced curriculum, most students taking AP tests are Juniors and Seniors. Teachers in classes that provide sufficient preparation for an AP test will discuss the test with students during second term. Some courses (Chemistry and Calculus) have AP test prep courses in the beginning of the third term. This prep course needs to be included in the student’s academic schedule. Students sign up for their schedule in the spring of the previous year, thus must give some thought as to whether they are considering taking an AP test.

Some courses (English and foreign language) have optional additional test prep meetings during E periods, tutorial periods or after school hours. A student would elect to take these at the end of the second term after consultation with the teacher.

Some students elect to take an AP test without the extra test preparation. A student needs to register for the test through his/her teacher by the end of March. The tests are administered during the designated school day in the first two weeks of May.