College Testing FAQ

Below, you will find frequently asked questions about college testing, including definitions and information for the PSAT, SAT, ACT and Subject Tests, as well as recommendations for testing and websites that provide additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions about the PSAT ...

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What is on the PSAT?

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The PSAT includes reading, writing and language, and math. The test measures your current abilities and pinpoints areas for development.

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What changes have been made to the PSAT?

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The PSAT was redesigned in 2016. It now aligns with the SAT.

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How is the PSAT scored?

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A student’s total PSAT score will range from 320-1520. This is a sum score of the Math and Evidence Based Reading & Writing sections. Each section will have a score range of 160-760.

The total score and section scores will be accompanied by a nationally representative sample percentile ranking, which demonstrates the percentage of students across the country in a particular grade whose score falls at or below your score. For example, a junior whose Math percentile is 63 scored higher or equal to 63% of juniors across the country in that section.

Additionally, a student’s score report will include a section titled “College and Career Readiness Benchmarks”, which can serve as an indicator as to a student’s level of preparedness for college, following high school graduation. If a student scores below the benchmark, we encourage them to use the feedback provided on their score report in order to improve their skills.

The benchmark scores are broken down into three sections: test scores, cross test scores, and subscores, with a scale that indicates whether you meet/exceed, approach, or do not meet the benchmark. Under “Test Scores” you will receive scores ranging from 8-38 for reading, writing and language, and math. The “Cross Test Scores” rate your analyzing skills in History/Social Studies and Science based on questions answered in the Reading, Writing and Language, and Math sections of the test. These scores also range from 8-38.

The PSAT score report will also provide Subscores in the following areas.
Reading and Writing Language:
- Command of Evidence
- Words in Context
- Expression of Ideas
- Standard English Conventions

Math:
- Heart of Algebra
- Problem Solving and Data Analysis
- Passport to Advanced Math

These scores will range from 1-15.

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How long is the PSAT?

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The PSAT is 2 hours, 45 minutes in length.

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Who should take the PSAT?

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We encourage students to take the PSAT during their sophomore and junior years at Central. Students should speak with their counselor directly regarding their individual plan, if they have questions.

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What are the benefits of taking the PSAT?

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The PSAT essentially serves as a practice test, prior to a student taking the SAT. PSAT scores are not reported to colleges and universities, and students will be introduced to a test that is similar in length and content to the SAT. Students who take the PSAT will receive feedback on strengths and areas in need of improvement prior to taking the SAT and applying to colleges. Additionally, juniors can qualify for National Merit Recognition. Students who select “yes” to the Student Search Service on the test will also be able to receive information from colleges and universities across the country.

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Should I study for the PSAT?

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Students should not feel any pressure to study for the PSAT as it is intended to be a practice test. However, please feel free to check out these practice tools on Collegeboard’s website: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/practice

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Do you have advice for students who are planning to take the test?

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Stay calm! The PSAT is for a student’s own benefit and scores are not reported to colleges. Students will receive feedback on their strengths and areas in need of improvement, so they have the opportunity to improve prior to taking the SAT. It is a “no stress test".

Also, be sure to eat breakfast, arrive on time and bring all necessary materials to avoid any test day stress.

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What should I bring the day I take the test?

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- #2 Pencils
- Calculator
- Photo ID
- PSAT Admission Ticket

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Does the PSAT affect college admissions?

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No. PSAT scores are not reported to colleges or universities, but rather are intended to help prepare for the SAT, and to qualify juniors for National Merit and other scholarships and recognitions.

Frequently Asked Questions about the SAT ...

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What is the SAT?

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The SAT is a standardized test used for college admissions. It tests a student’s reasoning ability in the areas of Mathematics, Critical Reading and Writing. Please note that the SAT is a reasoning test; it tests what a student does with what he/she knows.

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What are the components of the SAT and how long is the test?

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You will see the following on the SAT:

- 52 questions on Evidence-Based Reading (5 passages, 500-750 words/passage)
- 44 questions on Writing & Language (4 passages, 400-450 words/passage)
- 20 questions on Math No Calculator (Algebra, Data Analysis, Geometry, Trigonometry)
- 38 questions Math + Calculator (Algebra, Data Analysis, Geometry, Trigonometry)
- Essay *Optional* (Read, analyze 650-700 word document, draft essay explaining how author builds an argument)

The test is 3 hours, 50 minutes with the essay; 3 hours without it. On the SAT, there is no penalty for guessing and no vocabulary that you’ll never use again, according to CollegeBoard. Visit https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/ to learn more about the SAT.

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When should I take the SAT?

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The best time to take the SAT is different for each student, but the majority will test at least once in 11th grade. Details about what is covered in each section of the SAT (Reading, Math, Writing/Language) can be found here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/about/alignment). Students who are taking Algebra 2 as juniors should consider taking the redesigned SAT in March*, May or June and then a second redesigned SAT in October.

These are general considerations for your testing timeline. Each student will need to determine their individual testing plan, based on personal strengths in Math and English.

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How many times should I take the SAT?

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Counselors recommend that students take the SAT more than once, for comparison purposes.

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When is the SAT offered this year?

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For complete location, date, and time information, as well as for information on test registration, please visit: www.collegeboard.org.

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How does a student register for the SAT?

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Visit: https://sat.collegeboard.org/home

- Create an account.
- Make sure you register with your legal name that matches your school records.
- Keep your username and password in a safe place; this information will be used frequently throughout high school.
- Consider creating a separate email account (i.e.JohnSmithCollege@gmail.com) for college email correspondence.

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What should I bring the day of the test?

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- #2 Pencils
- Calculator
- Photo ID
- SAT Admission Ticket

Frequently asked questions about Subject Tests...

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What are Subject Tests?

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Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based, single subject tests that are required by some schools - many times, selective schools. Please check the admissions requirements of schools in which you are interested, to see if they require Subject Tests. A student can take up to three Subject Tests per sitting but cannot take the SAT and Subject Tests on the same day.

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When should you take SAT Subject Tests?

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In general, you’ll want to take SAT Subject Tests right after you’ve completed the recommended classes, because the material will still be fresh in your mind. In some cases, this may mean spring of your freshman or sophomore year. For the language tests, however, you should consider taking these tests after you’ve studied the language for at least two years.

Check the recommended preparation guidelines for each Subject Test here: https://sat.collegeboard.org/practice/sat-subject-test-preparation

More information about Subject Tests can be found here: https://sat.collegeboard.org/about-tests/sat-subject-tests/faq

Frequently asked questions about the ACT ...

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When is the ACT offered this year?

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For complete location, date and time information, as well as for information on test registration, please go to: www.actstudent.org

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How does a student register for the ACT?

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Go to: www.actstudent.org:

- Establish an account.
- Click on “Registration.”
- Make sure you register with your legal name that matches your school records.
- Keep username and password in a safe place; you will use this information frequently.
- Consider creating a separate email account (i.e.JohnSmithCollege@gmail.com) for college email correspondence.

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What is the ACT?

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The ACT is a second standardized test option for college admissions. The ACT is a knowledge-based test; it tests what a student knows.

The ACT has up to five components: English, Math, Reading, Science and an optional Writing test.

The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete (or just over 4 hours if a student is taking the optional writing test).

Always check college admissions requirements for individual schools, to see which tests are accepted for admission. Most colleges will accept both the ACT and the SAT.

To learn how the SAT compares to the ACT visit: www.princetonreview.com/sat-act.aspx.

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What are the differences between the ACT and the SAT?

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The ACT test measures skills across a large domain, while the SAT will measure fewer things much more deeply. For example:

- In the SAT’s Reading Test and optional essay, students are asked not only to demonstrate their understanding of texts but, in many cases, also to explain their reasoning (e.g., by determining which portion of a reading passage provides the best textual evidence for the answer to another question).

- In the SAT’s Math Test, students are asked to respond to multi-step problems that are presented in real-life contexts, like those they will encounter in college and in their careers.

- In the SAT, students are also asked to analyze and synthesize both words and numbers and to find inconsistencies in the information they convey. This is an important difference in what is being measured by the new test.

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How do the ACT scores compare to the SAT scores?

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ACT and the CollegeBoard have completed a concordance study that is designed to examine the relationship between two scores on the ACT and SAT. These concordance tables do not equate scores, but rather provide a tool for finding comparable scores. http://www.act.org/solutions/college-career-readiness/compare-act-sat/

Frequently asked questions on college testing and resources...

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Are there schools that do not require standardized test scores for admission?

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Yes. For a list of schools that do not require test scores visit: www.fairtest.org.

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Are there review classes for standardized college tests?

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There are many options for review classes for the SAT and ACT through Hunterdon Central, local tutoring schools, and other outside agencies. Hunterdon Central offers an SAT review class several times per year. For more information, please visit the school webpage: http://www.hcrhs.k12.nj.us/campus-life/counseling/sat-review-class/index.aspx

In addition, College Board has partnered with Khan Academy to offer free test preparation. Visit https://www.khanacademy.org/sat for more information.

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What's a good source for additional information on standardized college testing?

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Both the CollegeBoard and ACT websites have ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ sections on their websites, along with test content, practice questions, and contact information. Students with questions on college testing should also see their counselors.

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Are testing resources available for students with special needs?

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Yes, CollegeBoard and ACT provide information on services for students with disabilities.
- For College Board, visit: https://www.collegeboard.org/students-with-disabilities
- For ACT, visit http://www.actstudent.org/regist/disab/