PSAT, SAT, and ACT

Confused by all the options for standardized tests? Let us break it down for you!

PSAT/NMSQT:

You’ll take this test in October of your Junior year. The PSAT is a great way to familiarize yourself with the layout and method of the SAT. Additionally, it’ll submit you for consideration for the National Merit Scholarship. The PSAT lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes, and is broken down into three sections: Math, Writing and Language, and Reading. 


SAT vs. ACT

Many colleges require one of these tests, but it’s up to you to decide which is better suited for you. They’re quite alike in most regards- similar question style and similar structure. The one notable difference is that the ACT has a science section, though don’t fear- this is focused on your critical analysis skills and not your science knowledge. Some people say the SAT is a better fit if you need a bit more time on standardized tests. There’s really only one way to figure out which test feels best, and that’s to take a practice test or work on practice questions. You can do this at test-prep websites like Kaplan, Princeton Review, and College Board. 

SAT

Length: 3 hours, 50 minutes (with the optional essay)

Structure: Four sections are Reading, Writing, Math without a calculator, and Math with a calculator. Optional essay.

Scoring: Possible score of 1600. 800 for reading and writing, 800 for math. Writing section is scored separately.

Essay: 50-minute optional section. Topic based on 750-word passage

ACT

Length: 3 hours and 35 minutes

Structure: 4 sections. English, Math, Reading, Science, plus optional essay

Scoring: Possible score of 36. Average score from the four sections.

Essay: 40-minute optional section. Topic based on contemporary issues.

SAT Subject Tests (SAT IIs)

Some schools require the Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. These schools will often ask that you pick two subjects that best exemplify your scholarly expertise. This is particularly true if you’re applying to certain programs within a school- for example an engineering or pre-med program. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests, and each of them lasts about 60 minutes. Different tests are offered at different times of the year, and you can often take two of the more popular tests on the same day.  To learn more about these and take practice questions, visit collegereadiness.collegeboard.com