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Getting Ready for College
Classroom Preparations High School Graduation Requirenments Standardized TestsTypes of Colleges Choosing A School

The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT)

This test is also referred to as the PSAT/NMSQT, which stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT is an important step in preparing to apply to college. This test can help you in three ways:

For more information about the PSAT, including test dates and scoring information, visit the College Board web site.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

Many colleges require the SAT I for admission because it is a standard way of measuring a student's ability to do college-level work. It is used to compare your academic achievements with those of students from different schools. However, you should keep in mind that colleges look at other things when making admission decisions, such as your high school record, essays, recommendations, interviews, and extracurricular activities. Your SAT I test score is just one of many tools that help colleges make admission decisions.

You should also be aware of several additional tests that can be used to determine whether or not you are accepted into a college. The SAT II Subject Tests measure your skills in specific subjects such as math, history, science, etc.

For more information about the SAT, including practice exams and registration guidelines, please visit the College Board web site.

The American College Test (ACT)

The ACT is a national college admission examination that consists of tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning. The ACT measures the knowledge, understanding, and skills that you have acquired throughout school. Like the SAT, many colleges use the ACT to measure your ability to do college-level work. It is also measures how well you apply knowledge. Some students take both the SAT and ACT, but you usually only have to take one or the other. It is best to check with the colleges you are considering to see if they have a preference or requirement about which test you should take. Most colleges in Virginia will take either or both scores, but it is best to check to be sure.

The ACT is different from the SAT in that you can ‘prepare’ more for the test, meaning you can actually study for the content of the test. Although your overall knowledge of a subject area may not change much, your performance in a specific subject matter area can be affected by adequate preparation, especially if it has been some time since you have taken a course in that area.

For more information about the ACT, including test preparation links, visit the ACT student web site at

Remember to always contact the institutions to which you are interested
in applying to figure out which test they prefer.