Everything you want to know about the PSAT, SAT, & ACT

What do all these letters stand for? What kinds of tests are these? These are common questions and fortunately, we have the answers! Here is a brief rundown of the alphabet soup.


•PSAT - The PSAT (provides practice for the SAT)/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a test offered one time each fall, primarily to high school Juniors as a practice SAT and qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship competition. Yes, the PSAT can be taken by anyone but only Juniors can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition and therefore the majority of PSAT takers are Juniors.


•SAT - The Scholastic Aptitude Test is one of the college entrance exams accepted by most colleges and universities. The test is offered several times a year and can be taken more than once. (Please see your Career Center Specialist for the list of test dates and registration deadlines.) We recommend first taking the test in the spring of your Junior year and then again in the fall of your Senior year if you feel it is needed.


•ACT - The American College Test is also a widely recognized college entrance exam. It is also offered multiple times per year. (Please see your Career Center Specialist for  the list of test dates and registration deadlines.) We recommend taking at least one of these tests your Junior year and another one fall of your Senior year, if necessary.

Are the SAT and ACT equally accepted by most colleges and universities?

The SAT and ACT are both equally accepted by most colleges and universities. They differ in several distinct areas. The ACT is often described as a “content based” test while the SAT tests “critical thinking”. Specifically, the ACT includes a science reasoning section, a trigonometry section, and tests English grammar to a greater degree. The SAT tests more vocabulary and is not entirely multiple choice.

Which test should I take?

Can’t decide which test you should take? Read more about the SAT & ACT, or see a side by side comparison of the two tests. The Career Center offers test prep books that can be checked out and a free online test prep site with the SAT, ACT and PSAT included. See the Career Center for details.

FREE Online Test Preparation

Khan Academy website provides more options. 

The creators of the SAT have given Khan Academy exclusive access and advice to build a personalized practice program for anyone, anywhere.  These tools are FREE and available now for every student to take ownership of their learning and their future.  Khan Academy is available in many languages.

March 2 Success

March 2 Success provides full length practice tests for both the SAT and ACT.  Videos are also available to help students understand the college admissions process and financial aid opportunities.  March 2 Success is also available in Spanish.

Take the PSAT or SAT for free!

Sophomores and Juniors will have the opportunity to take the PSAT for free at their high school. The PSAT assesses the critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills students need for college and beyond. The PSAT helps students become college ready. It provides detailed feedback on skills, access to scholarships and personalized online tools, and excellent practice for the SAT. Students in 11th grade may be eligible for the National Merit Scholarship program and other programs that use PSAT scores.

Juniors have the opportunity to take the SAT for free at their high school during school hours in March. Ask your Career Center Specialist to see if your Junior student will be automatically registered for the test. Please mark your calendars for this fantastic opportunity!
To sign your student up for a different SAT opportunity, or to sign your student up to take the ACT, go to these web pages: SAT - College Board | ACT - ACT Student
Your student will need a school code to register for an SAT or ACT and should see their Career Center Specialist for the information.

SAT or ACT tests are required for students applying directly to a four-year university and must be taken before December 31st of senior year. Test dates and registration materials are available online for the SAT at College Board and for the ACT at ACT Student.


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