APs, SATs, and ACTs: Exams

There’s a lot to consider when taking pre-college exams. Reference this material for your exam questions.


Advanced Placement Exams

  • You should consider taking Advanced Placement Exams or CLEP tests in your Junior and Senior years. This allows you to test out of some college courses that can save you time and money.
  • The exams are administered each year in the Spring with some preparation required prior to the exam. Check with your school for exam administration, enrollment and information.
  • The Collegeboard administers the AP exams. Visit collegeboard.com for more information.

College Entrance Exams

  • Almost all colleges and some trade programs require a college entrance exam. These exams measure your ability to understand college-level materials. Most colleges require the SAT college exam; some require the ACT Assessment exam. A few colleges will require both exams. Check with your college to see which exam will be required.
  • You will take these exams in your junior year and/or senior year.

SAT Reasoning (formerly SAT I)
The SAT Reasoning Test is a three-hour test that measures a student’s ability to reason problems instead of general knowledge. It has three sections: writing, critical reading, and math. Most of the questions are multiple-choice.

  • The SAT Reasoning Test is comprised of three parts: Critical Reading (200-800 score range), Math (200-800 score range) and a Writing component (200-800 score range) for a total score range of 600-2400. The test is three hours and forty-five minutes in length.
  • The SAT Reasoning Test includes a Writing component. The essay question will ask test takers to take a position on an issue and support it persuasively with examples from their studies and experience. It is an open-ended question so examinees can answer it successfully in many different ways. Students won’t have to have any prior knowledge about the topic to write an effective essay. Different colleges will use the Writing score in different ways. Writing scores may be used for admissions decisions and possibly for placement in English Composition courses.

SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II)
The SAT Subject Tests measure the student’s knowledge in specific subjects: English, mathematics, history, science, and languages. SAT Subject Tests are primarily multiple-choice, and each lasts one hour. For more information: collegeboard.org

  • The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour examinations which measure the student’s level of achievement in certain subject areas. Some colleges require or recommend these tests for admission and/or placement purposes. Check the admissions requirements of the schools to which you are applying. Schools that do require or recommend the tests may specify one, two, or three tests and also identify which tests to take.
  • The SAT Subject Tests may be taken in the junior year to facilitate the application process in the fall of the senior year. Also, many students may be better prepared to take the tests in subject areas that they will not pursue during their senior year (for example, United States History, Chemistry, and/or a foreign language). However, students may elect to take the SAT Subject Tests during their senior year when decision for applications to specific schools are more clear and certain.
  • Check the admissions requirements of the schools to which you are applying. The schools that do require or recommend the SAT Subject Mathematics test may specify Level 1C or 2C. Level 2 is a more advanced mathematics test and may be required of students applying for an engineering major or for placement in mathematics courses. Generally these students are in Pre-Calculus as juniors.

The ACT is curriculum based. It is not an aptitude or an IQ test. Instead, the questions on the ACT are directly related to what you have learned in your high school courses in English, mathematics, and science. Because the ACT is based on what is taught in the high school curriculum, students are generally more comfortable with the ACT than they are with the traditional aptitude tests or tests with narrower content.

  • The Composite Score and each Test Score (English, Math, Reading, Science) range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The Composite Score is the average of the Test Scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. The Writing Test is scored separately.

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