How do test scores affect college admissions? It depends on whom you ask.

Loyd Johnson, Langley High School guidance counselor, advises: "U-Va. wants board scores approaching 600 in verbal and math. The University of South Carolina wants a combined 900. These are sort of minimum scores. You need to be in the high 600s to apply to Harvard, Princeton or Yale . . ."

Author David Owen is skeptical of such guidelines. "My theory -- a couple of ETS staffers lost their jobs for pointing this out -- is that most schools require SAT scores and don't use them. It doesn't cost them anything and it makes them appear like more selective schools."

Some schools readily admit their guidelines are less absolute.

The tendency at Georgetown University, for example, has been to put less emphasis on the test, according to Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon.

The reason, he says, is not controversy over the test's worth but greater competition for school slots among high scorers. In general, he says, a student's grade point average or class ranks weighs about twice as heavily as an SAT score.

This year, says Deacon, 2,344 of the school's 11,200 applicants scored 1,300 or better on their SATs. "Of that number, we accepted 1,070, or 45 percent. We accepted another 1,400 people who scored below 1,300. So the test scores, you might say, were less significant a factor."

Still, he says, the SAT scores -- as used -- are a valuable sorting tool. "Imagine," he says, "if all 11,200 applicants were all first in their high-school class and there was no other information. How would we decide which 2,400 to take? . . . If we had used the test scores unscrupulously, we would have accepted all 2,344 [who scored over 1,300]. Then the SAT would have been the sole predictor of acceptance. Obviously, in our case it was not the sole predictor."