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College acceptance hinges primarily on a student’s high-school grade point average (GPA). However, since grading policies are not uniform among secondary schools in the U.S., standardized tests provide college admission officers with a common measure for considering academic ability and predicting how a student will do in their freshman year. As students prepare for college, they will encounter one or more of the following college entrance exams:
- PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Assessment Test)
- SAT Subject Tests (formerly the SAT II)
- PreACT (formerly PLAN)
College entrance exams are generally offered in the spring of a student’s junior year or fall of their senior year. Students may choose to take most of these tests more than once for practice or to improve their score.
Admissions requirements vary from school to school. Students should consult their prospective school/s when deciding which test to take.
- PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Assessment Test): administered in October of tenth or eleventh grade. The test serves as a warm-up for the SAT. At slightly more than two hours (shorter than the SAT), it measures verbal, math and writing skills. Colleges are not privy to these scores, but doing well on the PSAT may qualify a student for one of six thousand five hundred National Merit Corporation Scholarships. The awards range from $250 to $2,000 per academic year for up to four years, or a onetime payment of $2,000. Not used to determine college admissions; intended to help students prepare for the SAT. Same format as the SAT, but shorter – a test of verbal and mathematical reasoning.
- Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): the most widely administered standardized college entrance exam. SAT test dates are scheduled every month during the school year except for September, February and April, with the scores available in about two weeks. Most students take the exam in the spring of eleventh grade or the fall of twelfth grade. The SAT evaluates knowledge and skills in math, vocabulary and reading.
- American College Testing Program Assessment (ACT): the other major standardized college entrance exam, also given during eleventh or twelfth grade. The ACT differs greatly from the PSAT and the SAT. It is a three-hour multiple-choice exam divided into four parts: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning, always in that order. Many colleges in the South and Midwest require students to take the ACT test and submit their scores when applying for admission; other institutions accept either the ACT or the SAT. The ACT is growing in popularity: about 1.7 million copies of the test are given annually (in October, December, February, April, June and, in some states, September), as compared to 1.8 million copies of the SAT.
- Scholastic Assessment Test Subject Test (formerly SAT II and prior known as Achievement Tests): Some colleges require applicants to take one or more SAT Subject Tests. These exams test knowledge in a particular area, such as English, math, a number of sciences, history and foreign languages. The SAT Subject Tests are taken after the student has completed the appropriate coursework, sometimes as early as their freshman year.
- PreACT (formerly PLAN): The PreACT test, administered in the fall to high-school sophomores, tests the same knowledge and skills as the ACT assessment and provides students with an estimated ACT score. PreACT simulates the ACT testing experience within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects: English, math, reading and science. Results predict future success on the ACT test, and provide both current achievement and projected future ACT test scores on the familiar 1-36 ACT score scale.
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This post was last modified by Kelly Dunn on September 17, 2018.
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This post was created by ABCD ContentManager on August 7, 2016.