About Standardized College Admissions Tests
The ACT* is a very widely taken college entrance exam in the United States. It is a curriculum-based test of of the knowledge that you have accumulated in high school. Some U.S. states require that high school students take the ACT before graduating. Colleges and universities consider your ACT scores, along with other factors like high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal statements, and interviews, when making admissions decisions.
The ACT consists of four subject area tests in English, Math, Reading, and Science, plus an optional Writing test. All 215 questions are multiple-choice, with the exception of the Writing test, which consists of a 30-minute essay response to a single prompt. The ACT takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, and an additional 30 minutes if you also take the Writing test. (Many colleges, including the University of California, require the ACT Plus Writing test for students who plan to submit their ACT score to satisfy the examination requirement for college admission.) A separate score is reported on a scale of 1-36 for each of the four subject area tests. (Your Writing test subscore will be included in your English score.) Your composite ACT score will be a number from 1-36, an average of your scores on all four tests.
The ACT is administered by ACT, Inc. It is offered each year in February, April, June, September, October, and December. Many students take the test in the spring of their junior year and/or the fall of their senior year of high school. ACT results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the United States.
The letters "ACT" have no official meaning. They originally stood for "American College Testing," when the test was founded in 1956, but name was shortened to simply "ACT" in 1996.
Registration deadlines tend to fall about five weeks before each test date, and you can register to take the ACT online.
The SAT Reasoning Test
When people talk about the SAT*, they usually mean the SAT Reasoning Test* (formerly known as the SAT-I). The SAT is geared toward testing a student's logic and reasoning ability, and over 2 million students take it each year. Colleges and universities consider your SAT scores, along with other factors like high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal statements, and interviews, when making admissions decisions.
The test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete, and has three sections that test reading, writing, and mathematics. Most questions are multiple-choice. A separate score is reported on a scale of 200-800 for each of these three components.
The SAT is administered by the College Board. It is offered seven times a year, in January, March or April (in alternate years), May, June, October, November, and December. Many students take the test in the spring of their junior year and/or the fall of their senior year of high school. SAT results are accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the United States.
The letters "SAT" have no official meaning. They originally stood for "Scholastic Aptitude Test," when the test was founded in 1926, but the acronym was abandoned.
Registration deadlines tend to fall about five weeks before each test date, and you can register for the SAT online.
PSAT/NMSQT* is short for "Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test." It has approximately the same format as the SAT Reasoning Test, except it is shorter, somewhat easier, and does not include an essay.
The PSAT/NMSQT is administered to sophomores and juniors once a year in October. You will usually take the PSAT at your own high school, and you will need to sign up to take the PSAT through your high school, not through the College Board. If you are home-schooled, you will need to contact the principal of a local school and arrange to take the test there.
Each component of the test is scored on a scale of 20 to 80, which is essentially equivalent to the SAT Reasoning Test's scale of 200 to 800 divided by 10.
Taking the PSAT/NMSQT helps you become familiar with the format of the SAT Reasoning Test and can give you an idea of how well prepared you are for it.
For juniors, the PSAT/NMSQT is used as a qualification test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Outstanding Black American Students, and the National Hispanic Recognition Program. Taking the PSAT also lets you participate in the College Board's Student Search Service, through which you can receive information from colleges about educational and financial aid opportunities.
*SAT and SAT Reasoning Test are registered trademarks of the College Board. PSAT/NMSQT is a registered trademark of the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc. All test names and trademarks are the property of their respective trademark holders, which are not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.