The Tests


The ACT is designed to measure what a student has learned in high school alongside what knowledge needed to succeed when 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. An 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.


The SAT is designed to measure what a student has learned in high school alongside what knowledge needed to succeed when 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. Students receive a score on a 1600-point scale.


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, elevating the competitive candidacy of the student as well as providing the possibility 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

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. Each year, nearly one million SAT Subject Tests are taken by students around the world. Typically, Subject Tests are offered on the same dates as the SAT.

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.

AP Exams

Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams enable students to pursue college-level coursework—with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement, or both—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. Academic Approach offers customized tutoring solutions for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams.

High School Admissions Testing

Students preparing for high school admissions often find themselves taking high-stakes tests for the first time in their lives. Whether your student is applying to a private Catholic school, a Selective Enrollment school, a boarding school, or an independent private school, the high school admissions process can be complicated and sometimes even more competitive than the college admissions process. Navigating the process can be difficult, so individual tutoring helps strengthen student performance as well as provides a mentor to support your student throughout the admissions process. At Academic Approach, our tutors are prepared to mentor students applying for high school placement with strong, skills-based instruction as well as positive, confidence-building mentoring.

Depending on the type of 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

Boarding Schools

Require the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT), although some boarding schools accept ISEE scores

Chicago Public Schools Selective High Schools

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You know your students, each one is unique. That is why the approach to ACT/SAT test taking has to be customized to the test taker.

We improve college prep test results by using proven, research-based methods implemented by our expert tutoring and school staff.

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