Overview of Standardized Tests

  • The PSAT is not only great practice for the SAT, it’s also used as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. All Irvington students may take the PSAT (funded by the district) in October of your Junior year.  Sophomore students may register to take the exam as well, but at a cost to the individual family. The junior year scores are used to determine the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Please note: The PSAT is not seen by colleges or used for admissions decisions.  However, depending on the information you provide on the answer sheet during the PSAT administration, you may receive promotional materials from specific colleges.

    The PreACT is a practice exam offered in the spring of sophomore year (funded by the district), that gives students an introduction to the ACT.  PreACT simulates the ACT testing experience within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects: English, math, reading and science.  Results predict future success on the ACT test, and provide both current achievement and projected future ACT test scores on the familiar 1-36 ACT score scale.

    The SAT is one of the oldest and best known college admissions tests. Created by the College Board, the SAT is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. The goal is to provide colleges with one common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. There are two SAT sections:  Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, plus an optional Essay. The Essay results are reported separately. Start to finish, the test will take you three hours and 50 minutes.  Each section is scored on a scale from 200 to 800. The SAT exam is offered nationally every year in August, October, November, December, March, May and June. Irvington High School is NOT a national testing site.

    The ACT is accepted equally by colleges as an alternative to the SAT exam. It is a three-hour multiple-choice test that measures skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning, as well as an optional 40-minute writing test. Some schools may require the writing test, so be sure to ask before you take it.  Each section is scored from 1 to 36. The ACT is offered nationally every year in September, October, December, February (no testing sites in NY), April, June and July.

    The SAT Subject Tests, formerly known as the SAT II, are subject-specific tests. These are one-hour multiple choice tests offered in 15 different subject areas such as Math, Chemistry, Latin, History, and Literature. There are around 40 schools that require them; however the majority will accept the ACT exam as an alternate. Most schools requiring SAT subject exams require that you take two, however a few of the most competitive schools ask for three. It’s always a good idea to check with the schools you’re applying to and find out if they require SAT Subject Test scores, and if so, if they require any particular tests. You may take up to three tests in one day but not on the same day as the SAT Reasoning Test. Note: Not every subject is offered at every administration.  Please refer to the Collegeboard calendar for the most up to date information on testing dates..

    Advanced Placement (AP) is a program run by College Board (the makers of the SAT) that allows you to take courses right in your high school that can earn you college credit and/or qualify you for more advanced classes when you begin college. If you take an AP exam and score high enough, you can earn college credit while in high school. The score needed to credit is not only college specific, but also course specific.  For the most accurate information, please refer to the individual college’s registrar office. Additionally, most college admissions officers look for AP coursework as a sign of a challenging high school curriculum. The more opportunities you take to academically challenge yourself, the more impressive it is to colleges and universities. In some cases, you can enter college in sophomore standing for completing enough AP exams with passing marks.

    Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a test for non-native English speaking students. Most colleges will not require this unless you’ve been in the country for four years or fewer. In the U.S., students take the TOEFL exclusively by computer. There are four sections: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The test is offered year-round at a number of test sites. If you do not speak English at home or if English is not your first language, the results of the TOEFL may help to explain a lower-than-expected verbal SAT score.