College Entrance Exams


Students of the first year of high school are usually well aware of the ABC grading system and know it perfectly well. However, when they approach the senior year, they start experiencing lots of difficulties on standardized testing and deciding which entrance examination to choose.

It may be quite stressful both for students and their parents to understand all the peculiarities of different tests. That is why we have created a brief but detailed guideline that will help you to navigate the most challenging year in the academic life of every student.

Once you know what to expect it becomes much simpler to deal with anxiety and worries that all the students are going through. Save our article or even print it out to get back to important information any time you need!

Entrance Examination

There are different entrance exams for college, each of which has its own requirements and demands. And it is the simplest step to get lost and confused. The best way to decide which test to take is to contact the school you are planning to enter and to ask for specific requirements.

However, if you are not yet sure which college or university to choose, you can read online the application requirements of the schools you are considering and see what tests they require. In today’s article we will discuss the following tests:

  • SAT reasoning test;
  • ACT;
  • SAT subject test (SAT II in the past);
  • PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) or NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Assessment Test).

SAT reasoning college admission test

This college entrance exams practice test is definitely one of the most popular among students. It includes such sections as reading, writing, and math. You can get 200-800 points in every one of these sections and 2-8 for an essay.

Results for an essay are reported independently. The SAT test is divided into three sections: 65 minutes on reading questions, 35 minutes on writing tasks and questions, 80 minutes on math assignments and 50 minutes for an essay. There are 52 questions in the reading section, 44 – in the writing and 58 questions on math.

The SAT exam is usually taken in the spring of the junior year or in autumn of the senior year. However, you are allowed to take both if you want to improve your results (this means that you need to start preparing for SAT well in advance).

Some time ago SAT had a bad reputation for lowering grades because of wrong answers. This means that you could both increase and lower your scores for giving correct or incorrect answers. Luckily, the times have changed and now you don’t get a penalty for a wrong answer.

A great benefit is that you can try to pass the test several times to improve your results. However, the college you are applying to will receive all the results that you obtained, so you won’t be able to show only the best SAT scores you have got. Try to do your best from the first attempt.

ACT entrance exam for colleges

ACT exam lasts for three hours and contains 215 questions. This test includes the following sections: college entrance exams math, reading, English, and science. If you choose ACT Plus, you will also need to complete a 40-minute long writing section.

Scores in every section are averaged in order to get a composite score. 36 is considered the perfect score. The ACT test is mainly taken in the South and Midwest of the country.

The ACT test can be taken six times a year: in December and February (not in NY), April and June, September and October. Usually, it is taken at the end of the junior year and at the beginning of the senior year.

Usually, you need to register for the test not later than five weeks before the date. However, there is a late registration available but you will need to pay an extra fee and will also have to enroll a maximum of three weeks in advance.

The final score for the ACT test consists only of correct answers, so it won’t decrease after you give a wrong answer. If you are not sure what answer to choose – just guess. It won’t hurt you but you’ll still have a chance to select the right answer.

Simple and difficult ACT questions are worth the same number of scores, so it is better to start with easy ones and then work on the difficult questions. This will help you to manage your time wisely, especially if speedy answering is not your strongest side.

SAT subject test and entrance exams for colleges

College entrance exams required for admission also include SAT. It is a one-hour long test that aims to evaluate your mastership of a certain subject or field. The admission requirements may include up to three such tests. There are schools that require SAT II, while others don’t require it.

These tests cover five main areas: English, history, math, foreign language, and science. The scores are evaluated within 800 points. This test can be taken seven times a year: every month except January and February, April, July, and September.

As well as most of the tests, SAT is usually taken at the end of the junior academic year or at the beginning of the senior. To pass the test, you will have to register not later than in 5 weeks. However, if you are late for some reason, you can register three weeks before the test but it will cost you an additional fee.

To be on a safe side, you should first consult the college or university you are applying to in order to check which tests are needed for admission.

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PSAT/NMSQT college entry exams

PSAT or NMSQT graduate entrance exams are not so popular even though many students across the country still take it. This exam is not used in college admissions and usually aims to prepare students for the SAT exam. It follows the same format but it is shorter than SAT.

This test is divided into three sections: reading, writing, and math. You will need to answer 47 reading questions within 60 minutes, 44 writing tasks within 35 minutes and you will also have 70 minutes for 48 questions in math. As well as SAT, PSAT doesn’t have penalties for wrong answers, so if you are not sure what option to choose, guessing is a good alternative.

PSAT is usually taken within the junior year but you are free to take it earlier in order to have more time to practice and to get ready for SAT more thoroughly. This test is administered in October to junior students because only they have access to the National Merit Scholarship.

However, statistics show that each year more and younger students take this exam to prepare for testing without a hurry. If you succeed with PSAT and will meet some other requirements, you can try and participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Keep in mind that for this program only junior year scores are used.

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