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Most colleges require you to take one of the most common tests, the SAT or the ACT.
Check with the colleges you plan to apply to for their testing requirements.
The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a standardized test administered by the College Board and cosponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) in the United States. Approximately 3.5 million students take the PSAT/NMSQT each year. The scores from the PSAT/NMSQT are used to determine eligibility and qualification for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Students register for the exam through high schools which are members of the College Board. (New York Harbor School is a member of the College Board. All 10th grade students are required to take the PSAT during their spring semester). The test is composed of four sections: two Math Sections, Critical Reading, and Writing Skills, and takes two hours and ten minutes to complete. Originally, each of the three sections was scored on a scale of 20 to 80 points. This paralleled the SAT, which is graded on a scale of 200 to 800 for each section. The PSAT changed its format and content in Fall 2015 to reflect the new SAT. The Reading and Writing Sections were combined into one section score, and the Math portion now includes a section in which usage of calculators is prohibited. The scores for each section range from 160 to 760, adding up to a maximum score of 1520.
The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, developed, and published by the College Board, a private, not-for-profit corporation in the United States. The test is intended to assess students' readiness for college. It was originally designed not to be aligned with high school curriculum, but several adjustments were made in recent years, and the test now reflects more closely the material students learn in high school. Taking the SAT, or its competitor, the ACT, is required for freshman entry to many, but not all, universities in the United States. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors.
Historically, the SAT was more widely used by students living in coastal states and the ACT was more widely used by students in the Midwest and South; in recent years, however, an increasing number of students on the East and West coasts have registered for the ACT. Since 2007, all four-year colleges and universities in the United States that require a test as part of an application for admission will accept either the SAT or ACT, and hundreds of colleges and universities do not require any standardized test scores at all for admission. They are often referred to as "test-optional" schools. For a detailed list of test-optional schools, please click here.
The current SAT, introduced in 2016, has four sections: Evidence-Based Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (calculator allowed). Students may register to complete an optional essay. The total time for the scored portion of the SAT is three hours (or three hours and fifty minutes if the optional essay section is taken). Students can achieve up to1600 points, combining test results from two 800-point sections: Mathematics and Critical Reading.
Most of the questions on the SAT, except for the essay and short-answer math responses, are multiple choice; all multiple-choice questions have four answer choices. The questions of each section of the same type are generally ordered by difficulty. However, an important exception exists: Questions that follow the long and short reading passages are organized chronologically, rather than by difficulty. Ten of the questions in one of the math sub-sections are not multiple choice. They instead require the test taker to bubble in a number in a four-column grid. The questions are weighted equally. For each correct answer, one point is added. No points are deducted for incorrect answers.
Some of the major changes of the recently revised test format includes: an emphasis on the use of evidence to support answers, a shift away from obscure vocabulary to words that students are more likely to encounter in college and career, a math section that is focused on fewer areas, a return to the 1600-point score scale, an optional essay, and the removal of penalty for wrong answers (rights-only scoring). To combat the perceived advantage of costly test preparation courses, the College Board announced a new partnership with Khan Academy to offer free online practice problems and instructional videos.
The SAT is offered seven times a year in the United States: in August, October, November, December, March, May, and June. The test is typically offered on the first Saturday of the month for the October, November, December, May, and June administrations. The SAT costs $45 for register ($57 with the optional essay). However, fee waivers from the college office are available for eligible students & families. *Students with verifiable disabilities, including physical and learning disabilities, are eligible to take the test with accommodations.
SAT Subject Tests, also known as SAT II, are 20 multiple-choice standardized tests administered by The College Board on individual subjects. They are usually taken to improve a student's credentials for admission to colleges in the United States. Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify that they require SAT Subject Tests for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take. Students typically choose which tests to take depending upon college entrance requirements for the schools to which they plan to apply. (Check with the admissions office at each school to determine if they require subject tests).
Each test is one-hour long. There are currently 20 different tests, 12 of which are foreign language. Examinees are required to bring an acceptable calculator to take the Mathematics tests (calculators are not permitted on any other test), and a CD player to take the language with listening tests. Each individual test is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.
A student may take up to three SAT Subject Tests on any given date. There is a per-administration registration fee, plus a flat fee for each test the student plans to take. Fee waivers for SAT Subject Tests are also available from the college office. With the exception of the March test administration, SAT Subject Tests are offered on the same days as the regular SAT Reasoning Test; therefore, students cannot take both the SAT Reasoning Test and Subject Tests on the same day. In addition, not all Subject tests are offered on every test date. A calendar of test dates and registration deadlines can be found on The College Board's official website.
The ACT college readiness assessment is a standardized test for high school achievement and college admissions in the United States produced by ACT, a nonprofit of the same name. The ACT originally consisted of four tests: English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Natural Sciences. In 1989, the Social Studies test was changed into a Reading section (which included a Social Studies subsection) and the Natural Sciences test was renamed the Science Reasoning test, with more emphasis on problem solving skills. In February 2005, an optional Writing test was added to the ACT, mirroring changes to the SAT that took place later in March of the same year. The ACT has seen a gradual increase in the number of test takers since its inception, and in 2011 the ACT surpassed the SAT for the first time in total test takers. All four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. accept the ACT.
The ACT assessment measures high school students' general educational development and their capability to complete college-level work with the multiple choice tests covering four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The optional Writing Test measures skill in planning and writing a short essay. Specifically, ACT states that its scores provide an indicator of "college readiness," and that scores in each of the subtests correspond to skills in entry-level college courses in English, algebra, social science, humanities, and biology.
The four test sections are scored individually on a scale of 1–36, and a Composite score is provided which is the whole number average of the four scores. On the ACT, each question correctly answered is worth one raw point. There is no penalty for marking incorrect answers on the multiple-choice part of the test. Therefore, a student can answer all questions without suffering a decrease in their score for questions they answer incorrectly.
The ACT is offered four to six times a year, depending on the state, in the United States, in September, October, December, February, April, and June and is always on a Saturday except for those with credible religious obligations (who would take the test the following day, Sunday). Candidates may choose to register for either the ACT assessment ($42.50), or the ACT assessment plus writing ($58.50). Fee waivers for ACT registration are also available from the college office. *Students with verifiable disabilities, including physical and learning disabilities, are eligible to take the test with accommodations.
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