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Understanding the SAT, ACT Tests, and AP Credits

Most schools in the United States require applicants to submit their scores from standardized tests as part of their application materials. The most commonly asked for are the SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject tests.
By GPA Admin

Understanding the SAT, ACT Tests, and AP Credits

The SAT Tests

The SAT tests (formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the Scholastic Assessment Test, and now just known as the SAT) are designed to assess a student’s readiness for college.  The tests are up to date with what colleges and universities are looking for and provide a path to possible opportunities, scholarships, financial aid, etc. to students. 

There are two types of SAT tests:

The SAT Reasoning (also known as SAT I) is designed to measure a student’s ability rather than knowledge.  It contains three sections - Math, Critical Reading, and Writing – in a mostly multiple-choice format and takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.  The testing duration is broken down into 10 sections: one 25-minute essay, six 25-minute sections and two 20-minute sections for Critical Reading, Writing, and Mathematics and one 10-minute multiple choice writing section.  There are three short breaks in between.  SAT scores are reported on a scale of 200-800 with subscores for essays being reported on a scale of 2-12.  Multiple choice questions are reported on a range of 20-80.

The SAT Subject Tests (also known as SAT II) are content-based tests that measure a student’s knowledge in five general areas – Math, History, Science, English and Languages – and allow a student to showcase achievement in subject areas that they excel.  This is the only test wherein the student can choose the tests to best show their achievements and interests.  The specific areas include anything from English Literature, to Biology, to Modern Hebrew.  They are mostly in multiple-choice format and each takes about 1 hour to complete.  Score reporting is based on a scale of 200-800 with subscores based on a scale of 20-80.  For more information on SAT tests such as registration, testing centers, next available test dates, etc., visit www.sat.collegeboard.org.

The ACT Test

Not commonly required for international students, the ACT Test (an acronym for what was the American College Testing) is a standard college admission examination accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S.  The test covers the subject areas English, Mathematics, Reading and Science.  The ACT Plus Writing covers the aforementioned subject areas plus a 30-minute Writing test.  The test is comprised of 215 multiple-choice questions.  It takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, or a little over 4 hours if a test taker is also taking the Writing test.  These durations include a short break.  The actual testing time without the break is 2 hours and 55 minutes, or 3 hours and 25 minutes if a test taker is taking the Writing test.  The highest score possible for the ACT is 36.  For more information on how to obtain scores, how to register, when and where testing is administered, etc., visit www.act.org.

Other Common Tests

The Advanced Placement exams are qualifying tests for students to gain college credit or advanced placement in a certain subject in college.  Also known as AP exams, students take them after they have completed AP courses in particular subjects.  If a student scores well in an AP exam, one of the advantages is that the student, upon entering college, may be exempted from having to take freshman level courses in that particular subject.  The AP exams take two to three hours to complete and are comprised of multiple-choice and essay questions.  

The College-Level Examination Program, or CLEP, gives the test takers the opportunity to gain college credit through examination.  CLEP tests are usually taken at the colleges that the students are enrolled in.  Not all colleges give credit for CLEP tests and every college gives different amounts of credit for each exam.  Therefore students must research within their colleges what benefits they will get by taking the CLEP exams.For more information on any of the exams described above, visit www.collegeboard.org.

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