College Entrance Exams

Most colleges and universities require that you take either the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT Assessment (Plus Writing) as part of their admissions requirement. Some may also require that you take the SAT Subject Tests. These tests are used to help the university to determine if you are academically ready and able to handle college level work.

College Entrance Test Information
Background Information:

The SAT Reasoning Test is a three-hour, fifty minute test, primarily multiple-choice, that measures students’ readiness for college-level work. The SAT measures students’ reasoning and critical thinking skills by asking them to apply what they learned in high school. The test consists of: a 50-minute writing section including a short essay and multiple choice questions testing how well they use standard written English, a 90-minute critical reading section (formerly known as the Verbal section) including reading passages with related questions and sentence completions, a 80-minute math section covering concepts in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra I and II, and a 25-minute unscored section in either a critical reading, mathematics, or writing multiple-choice. For the math section, students are encouraged to use a scientific or graphing calculator. The SAT has three section scores, each on a 200-800 scale; the highest possible score is 1600. For more information, test preparation, and registration, go to:

The ACT Assessment contains four, curriculum-based tests that measure academic achievement in the areas of: English (75 questions, 45 minutes), Mathematics (60 questions, 60 minutes), Reading (40 questions, 35 minutes), and Science (40 questions, 35 minutes), as well as an optional 30-minute Writing Test. For more information, test preparation, and registration, go to:

The SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II: Subject Tests) are designed to measure students’ knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, as well as their ability to apply that knowledge. Many colleges use these tests for admission, course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Check the requirements of the colleges you are considering before deciding which subject tests to take. U.C. requires two SAT Subject Tests from two different subject areas from the following: history, literature, mathematics (Level 2 only), science, or language other than English. Language Tests with Listening are only given in November. For more information, test preparation, and registration, go to:

The PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It’s a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test. It also gives you a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship program when taken during your junior year (generally offered in October at select sites).

The PSAT/NMSQT measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills. It provides feedback and can help prepare students for the SAT.

After the test: for students taking the PSAT
As soon as your test is returned to you, do an item analysis. Knowing what went wrong can build you into a master test taker.

Test Fee Waivers:

  • SAT: Fee waivers are available to high school juniors and seniors who cannot afford the test fee. Students apply for fee waivers through their school counselors. You may use up to two fee waivers to register for the SAT and up to two fee waivers to register for SAT Subject Tests (you can register for up to three Subject Tests per administration). Fee waivers are not permitted with late registrations.
  • ACT: Fee waivers are available to high school juniors and seniors who cannot afford the test fee. Students apply for fee waivers through their school counselors. Funds are limited, and once they are gone, requests for waivers will be denied. You can submit an online fee waiver but you must mail your fee waiver back to them. You may register only once with an ACT fee waiver, either in your junior or senior year. Waivers do not cover test date changes, test center changes, or any other fees. Ask your counselor for more information.

Test Preparation

The SAT Reasoning Test, the ACT Assessment, and the SAT Subject Tests, have free booklets that describe in detail how the test is organized, timed, and scored and explains the types of questions used. It also includes a complete practice test, which will give you a good idea of what to expect, as well as helpful test-taking tips. Request the following booklets or packets from your guidance counselor or college information center:

  • Taking the SAT Reasoning Test
  • Taking the SAT Subject Tests
  • Register for the SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests
  • Preparing for the ACT
  • Registering for the ACT

In addition, the websites for these tests contain a wealth of information you should not miss, including all the free tests booklets listed above, and much more. On-line, you can register for the tests and check your scores after you’ve taken the test.

When test day comes, try to do the following:

  • Get plenty of rest the night before.
  • Listen closely to the instructions of the test monitor.
  • Follow those directions.
  • Read each question and the answers before marking on the answer sheet.
  • Don’t spend too much time on one question, and answer the easier questions first. Remember that these tests are timed, so try to pace yourself.
  • If you finish before time is up, look your answers over.
  • Bring extra No. 2 pencils in case you break one.

Most of all, relax. The tests are only part of your admissions requirement, not the whole ball of wax.

Be sure to look at both the answers that were correct and incorrect in each type of question. This can help to assess your strengths and weaknesses in reasoning out successful test taking strategies for each question.