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Testing Questions

Questions and Answers

What are the differences in the tests offered?

The PSAT/NMSQT is a standardized exam given in October of each year.  It is written by the College Board and tests reading skills, writing skills, and math problem solving skills. Because it is co-sponsored by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC), it also offers anyone taking the test an opportunity to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program. This program recognizes students who score among the top 50,000 testers in the nation. In its use the PSAT/ NMSQT is less important as a practice SAT. It is vitally important as a National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

The SAT is a test measuring aptitude in three areas: Reading, Writing and Language , and Mathematics. The SAT is written by the College Board. The SAT is given up to seven times a year, usually in January, March or April, May, June, October, November, and December.  It is a graduation requirement in some states.

The ACT is a standardized achievement test measuring skills the student has already learned.  The ACT is given on six national test dates in September, October, December, February, April and June. It consists of tests in five areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Writing. 

The Writing Test is optional on any national test date, but most CHANGE TO some colleges/ universities ask for the score, and a student must take the Writing Test in conjunction with the other four exams. To make sure you have the scores you need when it is time to apply, it makes sense to register for the Writing Test on a national date.


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Is there a best time to take the ACT or the SAT?

There IS a best time to take the ACT or SAT, and that time is as a spring junior. These two tests are geared to juniors, meaning the test maker presumes students have completed junior level work at the time of testing. The exam tests curriculum juniors should have mastered. Because there IS a best time to test, there also IS a best time to prep.  Our classes are offered in the months immediately preceding the spring ACT/SAT. In the case of the SAT, our classes wrap up just before the exam the school has scheduled. We want information to be fresh in students’ minds on test day – whichever exam they take. Furthermore, we want spring juniors to have an opportunity to retest later in the spring or early summer. Our ExcelEdge recommended timetable allows for that.  

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Which tests must I take?

If you are a student in Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, you must take the SAT as part of your state’s graduation requirement. For all other students, the ultimate authority on what test(s) you need is the college or university itself. Some have a test requirement or preference; some do not. Some prefer a portfolio where you demonstrate your talents. Some tell you that submitting a standardized test score is optional. Always check first with the colleges/ universities that interest you.

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Do I need to take both the SAT and the ACT?

No, you do not (unless you choose to do so). In their use, both the ACT and SAT are college admissions tests. Colleges will use either to determine if their school is a good fit for you and you will be offered admission there. If you feel you will perform better on one test than another, you certainly may take both exams and submit the higher score. Our Concordance of Scores in all of our textbooks can help you with this decision.

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How do colleges interpret the scores?

As part of the admissions process, colleges may interpret the results of each test differently. The ACT sends scores only to the high school and the colleges/universities the student designates. The SAT sends a student’s complete testing record unless a student subscribes to Score Choice, a service of the College Board that allows students to select the scores they choose to send. Some colleges/universities will consider individual scores for each test taken. Some will consider only the composite score. All consider the best score on your record. It is best to contact all colleges/universities you are considering and follow the advice given by the admissions office of each college or university. The admissions offices will also advise you of any other requirements needed to complete the application process.

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How do I register for the PSAT, ACT or SAT?

To register for the PSAT, listen for announcements to tell you when registration is scheduled, or see your guidance counselor at your high school. This registration process is done only through your high school.  Prices for this test vary. There is no online registration available.
To register for the ACT online, go to www.actstudent.org. If you take the ACT 36 program through ExcelEdge,we will provide you with a registration packet if your school makes it available to us. 
To register for the SAT, see your guidance counselor for the SAT Registration Booklet or register online at www.collegeboard.org.To register for the PSAT, listen for announcements to tell you when registration is scheduled, or see your guidance counselor at your high school. This registration process is done only through your high school.  Prices for this test vary. There is no online registration available.

To register for the ACT online, go to www.act.org.

To register for the SAT register online at www.collegeboard.org.


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How do I qualify for accommodations on the PSAT/ SAT or ACT?

ACT and College Board recognize that some students require accommodations such as extended time, use of a computer for writing, or a Reader if they are to have the test reflect their true abilities. Students with 504 Plans or IEPs who have a history of using accommodations in the classroom may apply to ACT and/or College Board for test accommodations. Students should contact their school counselor or IEP Coordinator at least 3 months prior to the desired test date for assistance in applying for accommodations. Additional information is available at: http://www.collegeboard.com/ssd/student for assistance with the PSAT or SAT and http://www.act.org/aap/disab/index.html for assistance with the ACT. 

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If the college I am applying to is test optional, should I send in my scores?

Test scores can be used for admissions and also for placement in math and English classes.   They also can affect merit-based aid at many schools. If test scores can help secure a greater merit-based aid award, the student should consider sending those scores.  If you score well on the test, you should send your scores.


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How is the ACT Composite score different from an ACT superscore?

Your Composite score is the average of the four subject scores from one ACT test attempt. Your superscore is the average of your best scores from each subject from multiple test attempts. Your superscore is never lower than a single Composite score.


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