The SAT Test

The SAT (technically known as the SAT I) is a general test of verbal and quantitative reasoning accepted and required for admission to a bachelor degree program in a US university or college. The test is required for admission to undergraduate programs of most US universities. Many universities also require you to take SAT-II tests.

The SAT is a test that measures verbal, mathematical reasoning and writing skills students have developed over time and skills they need to be successful in college. Many colleges and universities use the SAT as one indicator among others-class rank, high school GPA, extracurricular activities, personal essay, and teacher recommendations-of a student’s readiness to do college-level work. SAT scores are compared with the scores of other applicants and the accepted scores at an institution, and can be used as a basis for awarding merit-based financial aid.

The SAT is required if you are planning to attend a 4-Year University directly after high school. It is important to note that some college from out of state will require the ACT instead of the SAT (you may find this information from the school’s website).

The SAT is NOT required if you are planning on attending a community college directly after high school.

What is the test content?

Math: Up to 9th grade basic geometry and algebra II. Science: None. Reading: Sentence completions, short and long critical reading passages, reading comprehension. Writing: An essay, and questions testing grammar, usage, and word choice.

How is the SAT Scored?

The SAT has a score range of 200 – 800 points per section, added together for a combined score. A score of 2400 points is the highest possible combined score.

When is the best time to register?

At least 6 weeks before the test date. You may register by paper available in the guidance office or you may register on-line at www.collegeboard.org.

The ACT Test

The ACT, or American College Testing, is a standardized collegiate examination, similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). In use since 1959, it is commonly used as an indicator of academic aptitude and readiness to enter college. Although the ACT is not as well-known as the SAT, it is almost as widespread; as of 2008, nearly all four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT, although every school factors the results into admission decisions differently.

The test itself consists of four subject multiple-choice examinations; the exams cover English, mathematics, science and reading. A fifth exam, an essay writing test, was added in 2005, though not all schools require the essay portion of the test. Questions on the ACT are based on testing standards developed by national governing organizations such as the American Educational Research Foundation, as well as national and state standards for education, such as those established per the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Textbook reviews and national surveys of teachers and other educators are also used in determining exam content.

Like the SAT, the ACT is given only at set time periods during the year, generally four to six times per year, depending on the state where the testing takes place. Testing must be scheduled in advance, and is only available on certain Saturdays. However, students with religious prohibitions against Saturday events can apply to take the examination on Sunday. Accommodations can also be made for students with disabilities. The amount of time allotted for the standard exam is roughly 3.5 hours, which generally includes two 15-minute breaks. Students that take the ACT Plus Writing exam, which includes the essay writing portion, are allotted just over four hours for testing. Students who take the ACT can send their score reports to up to four different colleges or universities.

The ACT is NOT required if you are planning on attending a community college directly after high school.

What is the test content?

The ACT is divided into four individual subject examinations, each one covering a separate subject area. The material in each exam breaks down as follows:

  • English – Students are tested on standards of written English-which covers punctuation, sentence structure and grammar rules-and rhetorical skills, which refer to the strategy and overall communication style of a passage. The exam consists of several prose passages, which are followed by several questions on the passage or selected parts. The test is designed to check understanding of standards and their usage, so spelling, vocabulary and rote knowledge of rules are not tested.
  • Mathematics – Students are tested on mathematical concepts and practices that federal and state standards mandate be learned by 11th grade. The test is designed to check for mathematical reasoning and basic computational skills, so no complex formulas or elaborate computations will be included in the exam. Calculators are allowed, although there are restrictions.
  • Reading – Students are tested on direct reading comprehension and inference based on the material presented. Similar to the English exam, the test consists of several prose passages from multiple disciplines, which are followed by several questions on the passage or selected parts. Since reading skills such as determining the main idea and understanding causal relationships are being tested, rote fact checking is not included in the exam.
  • Science – Students are tested on interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Although science standards differ widely from state to state, it is presumed that the test takers will have had courses in biology, Earth sciences and the physical sciences by the 11th grade. The test consists of several data sets presented as data representation (graphs, charts, etc.), research summaries or expressions of conflicting hypotheses, which are followed by several questions after each set. Calculators are not allowed during the science exam.

How is the ACT Scored?

  • Students who take the ACT are assigned six grades, one for each individual subject and a composite score. The composite score is the average of the scores from the English, reading, scientific reasoning and math exams, rounded to the next whole number. The writing exam is scored separately and does not figure into the composite score. The average ACT composite score is 21.
  • While both the ACT and SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) are owned by the College Board, Inc., there is no official conversion chart that equates the two exams. Many colleges and universities have adopted their own method of converting scores.

When is the best time to register? 

  • At least 6 weeks before the test date. You may register by paper available in the guidance office or you may register online at www.actstudent.org.