College Corner: SAT & ACT Tests



The PSAT is being offered at New West on a date to be announced. It is a practice test, not seen by colleges. For 11th grade testers, this test is the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

The SAT or ACT is required for admission to most colleges and universities. Both tests are accepted by every school and many students have a preference or strength in one test or the other. Therefore, I suggest that everyone consider both tests and find the test that is best for you. Practice booklets available in the college center.

Students should begin taking an official SAT or ACT sometime in the junior year. You may test as many times as you want. You can continue testing into the fall of senior year.

SAT Subject Tests are an additional, separate type of test. These subject-specific tests are required by a small amount of colleges (typically Ivy League or other highly-selective schools). Schools that require these tests are typically looking for two different subjects. Most students will not need to take these tests, but some will. Here is a link to a list of colleges that require or recommend students submit two subject tests.

The SAT is offered seven times a year in the United States and six times at international sites. The test:

Takes three hours and 45 minutes

Consists of 10 separately timed sections:
• Three sections test critical reading (70 minutes total)
• Three sections test mathematics (70 minutes total)
• Three sections test writing (60 minutes total)
• One variable (unscored) section tests critical reading, mathematics, or writing (25 minutes total)

Assesses subject matter learned in high school and problem solving skills in three areas:
• Critical reading
• Mathematics
• Writing

Includes three kinds of questions:
• Multiple-choice questions
Student-produced responses (mathematics only)
Essay question

The ACT is a national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in: English, Math, Reading, Science

The ACT Plus Writing includes the four subject area tests plus a 30-minute Writing Test.

ACT results are accepted by all 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S.

The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing). Actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes (plus 30 minutes if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).

The ACT is administered on six test dates within the 50 United States and District of Columbia—in September, October, December, February, April, and June. In other locations, the ACT is administered on five test dates—all of the above dates except September.

The basic registration fee includes score reports for up to four college choices, if you list valid codes when you register.


About The SAT Subject Tests

Students take the SAT Subject Tests to demonstrate to colleges their mastery of specific subjects such as english, history, mathematics, science, and foreign languages. The content of each test is not based on any one approach or curriculum but rather evolves to reflect current trends in high school course work.

The SAT Program offers 20 Subject Tests that fall into general subject areas.

• Literature

History and Social Studies
• United States History
• World History

• Mathematics Level 1
• Mathematics Level 2

• Biology E/M
• Chemistry
• Physics

• Chinese with Listening
• French
• German
• Modern Hebrew
• Italian
• Latin
• Spanish
• French with Listening
• German with Listening
• Japanese with Listening
• Korean with Listening
• Spanish with Listening

The SAT Subject Tests are offered six times a year in the United States and at international sites.

Students can take one, two, or three tests on a single test date.

Each takes one hour.

All Subject Tests consist of multiple-choice questions, but some have unique features or formats.

The types of questions change little from year to year.

All Subject Tests are machine scored.

Your students need to be prepared for some differences between the Subject Tests. The SAT Subject Tests Preparation Center in the student area of this site covers these differences in depth. The unique features and formats of the tests include:

Languages with Listening: Subject Tests in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish consist of a listening section and a reading section. Students taking these tests must bring an acceptable CD player with earphones to the test center.

Biology E/M: This test contains 60 general-knowledge multiple-choice questions, followed by 20 multiple-choice questions that emphasize one of the following:

Ecological (Biology E) subject matter.

Molecular (Biology M) subject matter. 
Students choose the section they feel most prepared for at the start of testing. After completing the 60 core questions, test-takers move on to the section that they chose.

Chemistry: This test includes approximately five questions that ask students to evaluate two related statements based on equation balancing and/or predicting chemical reactions. Students answer these five questions in a special section of the answer sheet, labeled “Chemistry.”

Mathematics Level 1 and Level 2: These tests include questions that cannot be answered without the use of at least a scientific or graphing calculator. Mathematics Subject Tests are developed with the expectation that most students will use a graphing calculator.

Help your students decide on the right test for them, including:

  • Whether to take a listening test
  • Which Biology emphasis to choose
  • Which Mathematics level to choose