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The College-Going Process

College Entrance Exams

Most colleges require that you complete some type of college entrance exam in order to be admitted. Pre-tests allow you to become familiar with these tests before you have to sit for the real thing. Below are descriptions of some of the tests you may be asked to complete.

Overview

The ACT and SAT are college admissions tests. Many colleges and programs use ACT or SAT scores in their admission decisions, although some do not, and some specifically require one test or the other. So check the requirements for the colleges in which you’re interested. Universities also often use your ACT or SAT score in specific subject areas to determine freshman year course placement, particularly for math.

The PSAT (Preliminary SAT), also known as the PSAT/NMSQT® (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), is a practice version of the SAT exam. You can only take the PSAT once per year, and many students take the test in both 10th and 11th grade. If you earn a high score on the PSAT your junior year, you could qualify to receive a National Merit Scholarship; $180 million dollars in merit scholarships are awarded to students each year. The PSAT is 2 hours and 45 minutes long and tests your skills in Reading, Writing, and Math. Unlike the SAT, the highest score possible on the PSAT is 1520. Check with your school counselor to see if the PSAT is offered at your school and what the cost would be (fee waivers might be available).

College Admissions Test Comparison

ACT College Admissions Test
SAT College Admissions Test

Score: The ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36

Questions: ACT questions tend to be more straightforward

Reading: The ACT has four reading passages

Science: The ACT has a science section that tests your critical thinking skills

Math: Both tests now have the SAME advanced math concepts: arithmetic, algebra I & II, geometry, and trigonometry

Tools: You may use a calculator for ALL math questions on the ACT

Essay: The ACT wants to see how well you can evaluate and analyze complex issues. You have 40 minutes to complete it.

Score: The SAT is scored on a scale of 400-1600

Questions: SAT questions require more time to understand and answer

Reading: The SAT has five reading passages

Science: There is no science section on the SAT

Math: Both tests now have the SAME advanced math concepts: arithmetic, algebra I & II, geometry, and trigonometry

Tools: Some SAT math questions don’t allow you to use a calculator

Essay: The SAT essay section is more comprehension-focused. You have 50 minutes to complete it.

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