Most colleges require scores from either the SAT or ACT as part of their admissions process. Learn about the different tests and how to prepare for them.

Practice Tests: PSAT and PLAN

To prepare for the SAT, take the PSAT (Preliminary SAT).  To prepare for the ACT, take the PLAN (pre-ACT) to practice for the real exams. Sometimes high schools arrange for their students to take these tests in their sophomore year.  Check with your counselor.

Even if you take a practice test earlier, you should always take the PSAT in the fall of your junior year. The scores on this test are used to determine National Merit Scholars.  This test is often offered directly through your high school. Check with your counselor for dates.

Taking the SAT/ACT

The SAT and ACT are offered several times a year. You can take the tests more than once. Take them the first time early in your junior year. This gives you time to take them again and try to improve your test scores.

Check out SAT test dates.

Check out ACT test dates.

About the SAT

The SAT has three sections:

  • Math
  • Critical reading
  • Writing

Each section is scored out of 800, or a total of 2400.

The national average is 1500, or about 500 on each section. A low score is considered to be 1100 or below.

For more information about the SAT and PSAT, visit CollegeBoard.org.

About the ACT

The ACT has four sections:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing  (optional – check with the colleges to see if this is needed)

The ACT is scored out of 36. The average score is 20 or 21. A low score is considered to be 15 or below.

For more information about the ACT or PLAN, visit ACTstudent.org.

About the SAT Subject Tests

SAT Subject Tests are hour-long tests that allow you to demonstrate your knowledge in specific areas where you excel.

There are 20 tests  — in English, history, language, math and science.

Scores are reported on a scale of 200-800.

If your score is high enough, you may earn college credit or advanced placement.

 

For more information about the SAT Subject Tests, visit CollegeBoard.org.