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This article from U.S. News and World Report explains how to make sense and use of PSAT scores.
PREPARING FOR COLLEGE:
What Tests do I Need to Know About?
PSAT ( Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test):
The PSAT is a practice test for the SAT test. The scores are not reported to colleges, but that doesn’t mean they are not important. The PSAT is also the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which provides a basis for national recognition and scholarships at many schools. The National Merit organization recognizes top students based on the scores they receive when taking the PSAT test in Grade 11. Students in Grade 11 have a better chance of getting a good score on the PSAT if they are familiar with the test, which is why many students take the test to practice in 10th grade (or even earlier). Juniors who did well on the test their sophomore year should make a special effort to prepare for the test so that they can qualify for scholarships. The PSAT is only given at one time of the year in October, so students and parents should check with school counselors for the exact date. In Idaho the test is free for sophomores. You can get more information on the PSAT on the at the College Board Website. (Note this page discusses a NEW test called the PSAT 10 that schools can administer in the spring of for tenth graders. That will not be given in Idaho. (The ACT also has a preliminary test which used to be called the Plan and now seems to be under construction. I don’t think it is given in our area.)
SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test):
The SAT is the college admissions test which is administered by the College Board, the same organization that administers the PSAT. At the present time it has a mathematics, critical reading and writing. Effective in March 2016, a redesign of the SAT will have Reading Test, a Writing and Language Test, a Math Test and an optional SAT essay. Most students take the SAT during their junior and/or senior year of high school. Students can take the test more than once; schools vary in how they will consider multiple test scores. The test is given roughly once per month throughout the school year starting in October. In Idaho it is given for free to juniors during the school day. (This year it will be on April 13th.) You can find out more and register at the College Board Website. Many colleges accept scores on either the SAT or the comparable ACT test (discussed below).
ACT (originally called the American College Test):
The ACT test is another college admission test which is accepted as an alternative to the SAT at almost all colleges. The ACT focuses more on core curriculum knowledge that students have acquired in school. It has 4 sections: English, math, reading, and science. The ACT also includes an optional writing section. As with the SAT, you can take the test more than once; schools vary in how they will consider multiple test scores. The ACT is given on a regular schedule throughout the school year starting in . You can find out more and register at the ACT website.
SAT II Subject Tests
The SAT organization also gives separate one-hour tests on individual subjects, including history, English, languages, biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. Most colleges do not require these tests for admission, but some of the most competitive schools in the country (for example, Princeton, Yale, etc.) and some of the more competitive STEM schools do require that students submit their scores on one or more of these tests when they apply. The tests are given on many of the same dates as the regular SAT tests. You can find out more about the tests at the College Board Website. You should check the admission requirements for the schools that interest you to see if SAT IIs are required.
Ask 3 Questions to Decide Between AP Exams and SAT Subject Tests | US News and World Report
These exams cover similar material, but test-takers will likely use them for different purposes.
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