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Standardized Testing

Most colleges require applicants to submit some combination of the SAT Reasoning Test, the ACT, and SAT Subject Tests. We recommend that students take the ACT or the SAT Reasoning Test at least once by March 1 of the 11th grade. We also recommend that students take at least two SAT Subject Tests by June of the 11th grade. While these are good general guidelines for most students, college counselors will work with students to formulate individualized testing plans that may vary from the timeline suggested here. On most testing dates, Phillips Academy will be a test center for both the ACT and the SAT, but there are some dates when students will have to test off campus at another center such as Andover High School.

Students must register for the SAT Reasoning Test, ACT, and Subject Tests on their own. We recommend that students sign up by the earliest posted deadline, because test centers can fill up. Students who are on full financial aid at PA are eligible to receive fee waivers for test registration; contact the College Counseling Office for more information. Students must also submit official score reports to colleges, because the Phillips Academy CCO does not send testing as part of its college application materials.

Test Preparation

Before preparing for the test, students should first try to decide whether they will concentrate on the ACT or the SAT Reasoning Test. They can get an idea of their performance on the SAT Reasoning Test by taking the PSAT. In order to get a similar gauge of the ACT, students can take a practice test in the Preparing for the ACT guide, available in the PA College Counseling Office. College counselors will also consult with students to help them decide which test is best. Students may use a variety of methods to prepare for the ACT and SAT Reasoning Test, including practice booklets, study guides, or preparation courses offered by outside organizations. Because boarding school life makes some of these methods impractical during the school year, PA has found an online alternative. We have contracted with PREPWORKS to offer online courses on which students can work at their own pace. We believe that this product is an excellent approach for most of our students, though no one product will be the best fit for everyone. We encourage students to begin working with PREPWORKS as early as the summer between 10th and 11th grade.


PREPWORKS is an award-winning national test preparation provider for the SAT Reasoning Test and ACT. PREPWORKS is an ideal solution for busy PA students because its program consists of modules that can be completed in an hour or less. The PREPWORKS curriculum is dynamic and tailored to each student’s strengths and needs. Lessons are all available online, so students will be able to access them during the school year or the summer no matter where they live. Phillips Academy has contracted with PREPWORKS to provide its program to our 11th and 12th grade students at no charge. Read more about PREPWORKS on their website.


The ACT is a five-section college admission test. It is accepted by all colleges as an equivalent to the SAT Reasoning Test. Colleges do not prefer one test or the other, so we recommend that students try a full practice exam for each test at least once to determine which will be the better test. If a student chooses to take the ACT, she should take the optional writing section as well, because most colleges require it.

SAT Reasoning Test

The SAT Reasoning Test is a ten-section college admission test. It is accepted by all colleges as an equivalent to the ACT. Colleges do not prefer one test or the other, so we recommend that students try a full practice exam for each test at least once to determine which will be the better test.

SAT Subject Tests

In addition to the SAT Reasoning Test, the College Board also offers 20 hour-long examinations in specific subjects. Many of the most highly selective colleges require two SAT Subject Tests as part of their admission process, and so we recommend that all PA students attempt at least two of these tests. Students may take up to three SAT Subject Tests on a given administration date. The most common test dates for students are in May and June of the 11th grade.

It is important to consider taking Subject Tests this spring in any subject areas you plan to drop after this year. This will help you keep your options open later, should you apply to a college that requires a specific Subject Test in an area you haven’t studied since the tenth grade. Students who are strong in one of the subjects listed should give serious consideration to the idea of taking the Subject Test. It is not uncommon for Andover students to have taken more than two Subject Tests by January of senior year. If you do not plan to take a year-long science course during your upper year, if your foreign language is not one for which there is a Subject Test, and/or if math is a weak area for you, consider now which Subject Tests you will eventually take. U.S. History, Literature, and science Subject Tests for students completing 300-level courses in chemistry or physics (250-level chemistry with grades of 5 or 6) prior to Upper year may be appropriate options.

If engineering is a possible consideration for you, be aware that most engineering programs require Math Level 2 and either Physics or Chemistry Subject Tests. Year-long courses in both physics and chemistry are also required by most engineering programs.

Phillips Academy SAT Subject Test Recommendation Table

Students who will finish by June: Can consider taking:
Math 330, 340, or 350 and don’t plan to pursue math beyond 360 Math Level 1
Math 360 or higher Math Level 2
400-level or higher Language French, Chinese, German, Japanese, Latin, Spanish
Biology 500 or 580 Biology E/M
Chemistry 500, 550 or 580 Chemistry
Physics 400, 550 or 580 Physics
History 310 United States History

Always consult with your teachers and look at the sample questions in the booklet available in the CCO before deciding to take an SAT Subject Test. The best way to prepare for any SAT Subject Test is to study for the exam. A very helpful book is The Official Guide to SAT Subject Tests, which is available in bookstores and your local libraries. Some copies may also be available from the OWH Library or for use in the CCO Library.


The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a practice exam for the SAT Reasoning Test offered at PA to 10th and 11th graders in October. The PSAT gives students a general indication of readiness for the SAT Reasoning Test, and it also allows students to qualify for the National Merit and National Achievement Scholarship competitions (in 11th grade) if they score well enough. Note that students must be US citizens or permanent residents in order to compete in the National Merit/Achievement programs. The PA College Counseling office will register students for this exam in early October.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required by most colleges and universities for admission candidates for whom English is not a first language. There may be some exceptions for students whose language of instruction has been in English; college counselors can provide advice for these students. The TOEFL is administered at test centers throughout the world. We urge students to take the TOEFL in their home countries (or in the United States if they will be spending the summer here) during the summer before senior year.

Andover has maintained a full need-blind admission policy since 2008.

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