What tests do I need to take?
PSAT is available for all SAHS sophomores in October. Juniors can also take the PSAT for a small fee. Sign up for the PSAT in the Fall at the SAHS Counseling Office ASAP!
The PSAT/NMSQT is a test that can qualify you for scholarships and other honors. It can also help you start thinking about and planning for college, see which academic skills you need to work on, and get ready for college entrance exams, such as the SAT.
Facts About The PSAT
- PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
- It’s a test that measures the skills you’ve developed in reading, math and writing.
- Typically, students take the test as juniors and sophomores, although some take it earlier.
- The test is cosponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.
If you’re a junior, your score might qualify you for scholarships.
Why Take the PSAT/NMSQT?
Taking the test can provide these benefits:
- Scholarship opportunities. If you’re a junior, your score might qualify you for scholarships and recognition through the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the National Hispanic Recognition Program.
- SAT practice. The PSAT/NMSQT is great practice for the SAT. Both tests have the same types of questions, and taking the PSAT/NMSQT can help you get comfortable testing under timed conditions.
- Feedback. The test gives you personalized feedback on your skill strengths and weaknesses so you have a better idea of what study areas you need to work on.
- Information from colleges. You can get free information from colleges and scholarship programs by opting in to Student Search Service® when you take the test.
- College and career planning help. By taking the test, you get free access to My College QuickStart™, an online tool that helps you plan for college and a career. It also gives you a free, personalized SAT study guide based on your PSAT/NMSQT results.
Even though only juniors can qualify for scholarships and academic recognition, taking the PSAT/NMSQT before your junior year is also useful. You’ll have more time to use the information you get after taking the test to boost your academic skills and start planning for college.
What Is The PSAT Test Like?
The PSAT/NMSQT takes 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete.
- 60-minute critical reading section
- 70-minute math section
- One 35-minute writing-skills section
The critical reading sections include multiple-choice sentence completions and critical reading questions. The math sections include both multiple-choice questions and problem solving. For the writing-skills section, students answer multiple-choice questions related to identifying sentence errors, improving sentences and improving paragraphs.
SAT vs. ACT — Which Test Should I Take?
Colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. So which should you take? It’s all about the mumbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT; others do better on the ACT.
ACT questions tend to be more straightforward.
ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you’re being asked before you can start solving the problem. For example, here are sample questions from the SAT essay and the ACT writing test (their name for the essay):
SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?
ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?
The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.
If you’re an ardent wordsmith, you’ll love the SAT. If words aren’t your thing, you may do better on the ACT.
The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not.
You don’t need to know anything about amoebas or chemical reactions for the ACT Science section. It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills based upon a given set of facts. But if you’re a true science-phobe, the SAT might be a better fit.
The ACT tests more advanced math concepts.
In addition to basic arithmetic, algebra I and II, and geometry, the ACT tests your knowledge of trigonometry, too. That said, the ACT Math section is not necessarily harder, since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.
The ACT Writing Test is optional on test day, but required by many schools.
The 25-minute SAT essay is required and is factored into your writing score. The 30-minute ACT writing test is optional. If you choose to take it, it is not included in your composite score — schools will see it listed separately. Many colleges require the writing section of the ACT, so be sure to check with the schools where you are applying before opting out.
The SAT is broken up into more sections.
On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading and Science) in one big chunk, with the optional writing test at the end. On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) are broken up into 10 sections, with the required essay at the beginning. You do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc. When choosing between the SAT and ACT, ask yourself if moving back and forth between content areas confuse you or keep you energized?
The ACT is more of a “big picture” exam.
College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they’re most concerned with your composite score. So if you’re weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score and thus make a strong impression with the admissions committee
How Do I Sign Up for SAT/ACT?
SAT & ACT Testing Dates (School Code – 308883, Test Center – 38-100)