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The Urban School
of San Francisco
1563 Page Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
415 626 2919

Standardized Testing for College

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 following FAQ 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?

Students should take a set of tests in the spring of the junior year and should usually retest in the fall of their senior year. We recommend that each student take the SAT Reasoning Test 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.

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.

Some colleges accept the ACT in lieu of a combination of the SAT and subject tests.

Are there colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores for admission?

Yes.  The following are a few of the colleges that do not require SAT’s: Bard, Bates, Bowdoin, Hamilton, Lawrence, Lewis and Clark, Middlebury, Mt. Holyoke, Pitzer, Sarah Lawrence, Wheaton.  For a more complete list, go to  Although schools do not require SAT’s, they might ask applicants to submit additional information with the application (portfolio, essay, etc).

How do I send standardized test scores to colleges? Does Urban do that?

Official scores must be sent directly to colleges from the College Board ( or the ACT ( 

Urban cannot send an official copy.

What are the SAT and ACT test dates this year?

SAT dates and deadlines may be reviewed here.
ACT dates and deadlines may be reviewed here

I have a few more questions about college-related testing. Where might I find more answers?

The Urban College Testing FAQ has more extensive answers. If something is not available here please be in touch with the college counseling office.

Advanced Placement (AP) Information

The Urban School 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. Although we offer no AP courses, our students are prepared to take AP tests in some subjects. Urban students regularly take AP tests in Calculus, Chemistry, Chinese, Spanish, French, English, Literature and Music Theory.

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

An AP course is a standardized course 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 UAS 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 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 the colleges in which he/she is interested. 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 of Urban students.

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 or 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 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.


Susan Lee
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9511

Lauren Gersick
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9512

Leslie Schaffer
College Counseling Assistant
415 593 9519

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