PSAT - Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test
PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test. It also gives you a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs.
The PSAT/NMSQT measure critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills
The NMSQT portion uses the scores from the math, verbal reasoning, and writing to find the top 1% of the nation's juniors for eligibility in participating in Merit and Achievement programs.
The most common reasons for taking the PSAT/NMSQT are:
- To receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study. You can then focus your preparation on those areas that could most benefit from additional study or practice.
- To see how your performance on an admissions test might compare with that of others applying to college.
- To enter the competition for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (grade 11).
- To help prepare for the SAT. You can become familiar with the kinds of questions and the exact directions you will see on the SAT.
- To receive information from colleges when you check "yes" to Student Search Service.
The PSAT is administered on the FUHSD campuses once a year in October. Talk to your guidance counselor to find out how to sign up for the test at your school. For more information about the PSAT, click the link below.
ACT - American College Test
These are four, 35-60 minute tests in academic areas of English, mathematics, social studies, reading and science reasoning. Scores range from 1 (low) to 36 (high) for each of the four tests and the Composite. The Composite score is the average of the four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. There is an optional writing assessment which is required by certain colleges; check the ACT website or the college website to determine if you will need this section.
For more information about the ACT and how to register, click on the link below.
SAT Reasoning - Scholastic Assessment Test
The SAT Reasoning Test is a college admissions test comprised of a verbal, math and writing section. The SAT assesses the critical thinking skills students need for academic success in college—skills that students learned in high school. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. It tells students how well they use the skills and knowledge they have attained in and outside of the classroom—including how they think, solve problems, and communicate.
Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200-800, with two writing subscores for multiple-choice questions and the essay. It is administered seven times a year at various sites off campus. Students can register though The College Board.
SAT Subject Tests
Subject Tests (formerly SAT II: Subject Tests) measure your knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, and your ability to apply that knowledge. These are one hour tests and students may register for up to three tests on one date. The SAT subject tests are usually offered on the same days as the SAT, but there are exceptions. Check the calendar carefully to make sure the test you need to take is offered on a particular date. Not all SAT subject area tests are offered every test administration.
Many colleges use the Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take.
Subject Tests fall into five general subject areas:
- English literature
- Foreign Languages
Most students take Subject Tests toward the end of their junior year or at the beginning of their senior year.
Take tests such as World History, Biology E/M, Chemistry, or Physics as soon as possible after completing the course in the subject, while the material is still fresh in your mind. For foreign language tests, you'll do better after at least two years of study.
SAT subject tests are placement tests required for admissions by certain private universities and the University of California system. The UC’s require two subject tests in different subject areas.
AP - Advance Placement
AP tests are placement tests taken after completing a college level course. These are high school examinations based on college level courses. AP exams are given once a year in May. The scores are primarily used for college placement, credit or advanced standing. The most highly selective colleges may also consider AP scores as part of the admission decision. Universities grant either advanced placement and/or credit with qualifying score. Tests are administered in May to students completing appropriate courses.
TOEFL is a college admission/placement test to evaluate English proficiency of students whose native language is not English. It's generally required of undergraduates seeking a first degree and graduate students seeking an advanced degree. The TOEFL is offered at over 300 test centers around the world and the computer-based test may be scheduled at the convenience of the student.
Test Prep Information
- Number2.com SAT Preparation
- College Board's SAT Information Site
- List of SAT Optional Colleges
- MaxTheTest: Demystifying Standardized Tests
- Free ACT Practice Questions
Which Test should I take?
The SAT is traditionally thought of as a test that measures a student’s reasoning or critical thinking skills.
The ACT is considered a curriculum-based test, meaning it tests a student’s knowledge of subject matter covered in high school.
Research has indicated that many students perform quite differently when they take both the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT. It may benefit you to take both tests. Colleges typically use the higher of the two scores for admission and scholarship choices. The option is yours to take one or both of the tests. You might want to look at practice tests online or from your school’s College and Career Center to see which test seems like a better fit for you.
What is the difference between the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT?
The main differences between the two tests are as follows:
SAT Reasoning Test
Length of Test
Three hours, forty-five minutes
3 hours, plus 30 minutes for the writing sections
Math (up to Algebra 2)
Math ( up to Trigonometry)
Scores based on the total number of correct answers minus a guessing penalty for incorrect answers.
Verbal, Math and Writing raw scores converted to scaled scores between 200 to 800 each.
Scores based on the total number of correct answers. There is no guessing penalty.
English, Math, Reading, and Science scores are converted to scaled scores between 1-36.
Four function scientific or graphing calculator allowed
Four function scientific or graphing calculator allowed
Which test do the colleges want?
While some colleges may prefer either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT for admission, most institutions will accept either score equally. Check with your target schools about their requirements. If you have specific colleges in mind, find out from your guidance counselor which test the schools require or accept.
When should I take the PSAT?
The PSAT is offered once a year in October at each FUHSD high school site. Students should register to take this test their junior year in high school. It is a great practice for the SAT reasoning test. It can also be used for scholarship information for all juniors that take the test.
Sophomores are encouraged to take the test if they can. Check with your high school guidance counselor to see if you should sign up to take the test.
All registration for the PSAT is done at the high school you attend during September.
When should I take the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT test?
Both the SAT and ACT encourage students to take the test the spring of their junior year in high school. The tests are designed to test information that students have seen in classes completed by their junior year. You can take it before your junior year, but more than likely the best results will be seen when you wait to take the test your junior year. If you take the test in the spring of your junior year, you will have your scores and other information early enough to impact your senior year. It may help you decide if you should take an additional class in an area in which you scored low. You may also decide you want to retest.
How do I know which SAT subject tests I should take?
You will want to take the SAT Subject Area test after you have completed the course. Most students choose to sign up and take the tests in June. Most colleges, including the UC schools, will let you select the tests you want to take as long as they are in different subject areas. For example, you could take United States History and Chemistry during one test administration. You would not want to take Chemistry and Physics since both are in the area of science. However, if you do decide to take both tests in a science area, many schools will use the test with the high score for application purposes. It is best to check with the college you are interested in applying to find out if they have any requirements on which tests you take. There are schools that specify which tests you need, particularly if you are interested in Engineering.
How many times should I take the test?
Both the SAT and ACT allow you to choose which scores you send to the college. Research has found that students do not significantly increase their scores after taking the test three times. It is better to wait and take the test your junior year and do well on it then to start taking the test your freshman year and not score well.
What if I do not score well on the test? Can I retake it?
You can retake any of the SAT or ACT tests again.
Which scores will the colleges see?
The SAT and the ACT have Score Choice, which allows you to decide which scores are sent to the schools. The SAT also has the options of having all of your scores sent to the schools so you can ensure that the highest score is given to the school to be used with your application. Colleges will use the highest score of the ACT or SAT for application purposes.
How do I register for the test?
To register for the SAT Reasoning Test or the SAT Subject Area Test go to College Board.
To register for the ACT go to the ACT website.
Do I need to study for the test?
You do not need to study for the material on the test, but it is a good idea to become familiar with the tests before you take them. There are lots of resources and material out there to help you prepare. Some cost money, some are free. Visit your school’s College and Career Center to find see what books and materials they have.
The following websites can also help you prepare.
Prep courses may help, but the degree of help depends on the student’s individual strengths, weaknesses, and willingness to study.
For additional information on “prep” courses, you can check with your College and Career Center which has up to date information about local prep services with dates and fees.
How long are the tests?
The SAT Reasoning Test is three hours, forty five minutes.
The ACT is three hours. If you take the optional writing portion it is an additional 30 minutes.
Each SAT Subject Area test is one hour long. You can take up to three tests at one administration time.
What do they test me on?
The SAT Reasoning Test has three main sections to the test: Verbal, Math and Writing. The verbal section is comprised mostly of vocabulary and reading comprehension. The Math section tests math skills up to Algebra 2. The writing section has the students respond to an essay prompt.
The ACT test has four main sections to the test: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. The English portion is heavy on grammar and reading comprehension. The Math portion does test math skills up to trigonometry. The reading section evaluates your ability to understand the passages. They do not test your ability to remember relevant facts from outside the passage. You don't need to be knowledgeable about the subject area that a passage covers in order to do well on the questions, but you do need to read attentively and to think carefully about what you read. The science section has questions that have to do with biology, earth science, chemistry, and physics.
If I want to go to a community college, do I need to take the SAT or ACT?
You do not need to take the SAT or ACT to attend a community college.