The ACT is designed to measure what a student has learned in high school alongside what knowledge is needed to succeed in college. It measures grammar, reading comprehension, math, and science skills. Colleges and universities use the ACT as one measure among many of a student’s readiness to do college-level work. The test is scored on a 36-point scale. The composite score is an average of four section scores—English, Math, Reading, and Science—each of which are also scored on a 36-point scale. The optional Writing portion is also available for students applying to schools that require it. The ACT is typically administered seven times a year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July.
For information on the recently announced changes to the ACT, head to our ACT Updates page to stay up-to-date as additional information unfolds.
The SAT is designed to measure what a student has learned in high school alongside what knowledge is needed to succeed in college. It is comprised of four sections—Reading, Writing & Language, Math without calculator, and Math with calculator. Students receive a scaled score out of 1600, which is a combination of a verbal score and math score, each out of 800. Many students will also take the Essay portion of the test as many colleges will require that section for score reporting.
In a standard school year, the SAT is administered on seven national test dates in October, November, December, March, May, June, and August.
While the PSAT is not counted on college applications for admission, this preliminary version of the SAT is much more than a practice test. Also called the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT), this test is required to qualify for the elite ranking of National Merit Scholarship Finalist, National Achievement Scholarship Finalist, or Commended Scholar. Success on the PSAT can be a mark of distinction, making the candidate more competitive as well as opening the door for scholarship funding. The PSAT has four parts – Reading, Writing, Language, and Math – and an effective PSAT preparation course lays the foundation for subsequent success on the SAT and ACT.
SAT Subject Tests, formerly called SAT IIs, are hour-long, content-based exams that assess student knowledge and mastery of specific subject matter within the disciplines of English, history, mathematics, science, and languages. SAT Subject Tests allow students to differentiate themselves in the college admission process. Some of the more selective colleges require them for admission; other colleges do not require SAT Subject Test scores but do prefer them as an index to a student’s academic mastery. In conjunction with other college admission credentials (high school grades, standardized test scores, etc.), they can provide a more complete picture of a student’s academic background.
Typically, Subject Tests are offered on the same days as the SAT on seven national test dates in October, November, December, March, May, June, and August.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams enable students to pursue college-level coursework while still in high school. AP Exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT and there are currently over 30 AP Exam options, although most high schools do not offer courses in every subject.
Taking AP courses can demonstrate to college admissions officers that a student is opting into the most rigorous high school classes available and can succeed as an undergraduate.Some colleges and universities offer college credit, advanced placement, or both for qualifying AP Exam scores. These college credits can allow your student to save on college tuition, secure a second major, or even study abroad.
Depending on the type of high schools that students are applying to, there are several different tests available, and testing towards high school admissions begins as early as 7th grade. Students should keep many options open for themselves by considering various types of schools. The broad categories of schools that students may consider, and the tests that students use to apply to each school type, include:
- Independent Schools: Require the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE). Certain independent schools may require the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT)
- Boarding Schools: Require the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), although some boarding schools accept ISEE scores
- Parochial Schools: Require the High School Placement Test (HSPT)
- Chicago Public Schools Selective High Schools: Require the NWEA MAP exam as well as the Selective Enrollment Exam