College Testing

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SAT, ACT, and Testing

Most colleges require that undergraduate students submit standardized test scores as part of their application. Standardized tests provide a consistent way for a college to evaluate you and place you in the right level of study. Each school is different, but most colleges require either the SAT or the ACT.

The SAT measures your ability to reason rather than knowledge. The 3 1/2 hour test contains three sections: writing, critical reading, and math. Most of the questions are multiple choice.

Some colleges may also require the SAT Subject Tests, which measure knowledge in specific subjects within five categories: English, mathematics, history, science, and languages. Each test is primarily multiple-choice and lasts one hour.

The ACT measures what you've learned in school rather than measuring how you think. It consists of four multiple choice tests: English, reading, mathematics, and science. If your college requires a writing test, you can take the ACT Plus Writing, which adds a fifth component focused on writing to your test.

There are other standardized tests that also contribute to your success during the college application process, including:

The PSAT or Preliminary SAT. This exam gives you the opportunity to practice and prepare for the SAT exam, but it also serves as a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship. Generally this test is taken during spring of the sophomore year or fall of the junior year.

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams are taken in the spring after completing an AP course in the relevant subject at your high school. A good grade on an AP Exam can qualify for college credit or a weighted GPA.

 The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is a two year curriculum designed for college-bound high school students. It is accepted by many colleges in the US and will often give you college credits.

The most important thing before a standardized test is to prepare for it. More than just studying, familiarity with the format of the test will help you be successful. Both the SAT and ACT organizations offer resources to help prepare and study, as well as preparatory tests you can take before the real test. Other sites like the Princeton Review, Tutor High, and Khan Academy have additional resources and practice tests to help you prepare.

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