Strategies For College Testin

Q: What is the PSAT and how is it used in the college admission process?
Ans: The PSAT is the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test. It is available for high school students to take in October of their 10th and/or 11th grade years. Basically, it is a mini-version of the SAT I ( Scholastic Achievement Test ). It consists of four 30 minute sections alternating between verbal and math. It provides a trial run for students prior to taking the SAT I test as they approach the college selection process. Scores from the PSAT are not used by colleges and universities in their selection of students for admission. Only the 11th grade PSAT relates in any way to college admission, since the results of that test are used to determine eligibility for National Merit Scholarships. Thus, it is also referred to as the NMSQT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Registration for the test and pamphlets describing the details of the PSAT program are available in high school guidance offices. Also available is a Student Bulletin which has a complete practice test including test taking tips and regulations. The fee for the 1995 administration is $8.25. Fee waivers are available for low-income families through your counselor’s office. You may also call (609) 771-7070 for information from the PSAT/NMSQT program.
Take the PSAT at least once – in the 11th grade. If you have a history of testing well, you may qualify for a National Merit Scholarship. Trial runs really do no harm; and, likely you will develop skills and confidence.

Q: What tests will I be required to take for admission, and when should I take them?
Ans: Students need to be aware that many colleges and universities give applicants the option of reporting scores from either of two testing programs – the ACT or the SAT I. However, applicants need to be aware that some institutions may require or have a stated preference for one test or the other. Following are brief descriptions of each program. Bulletins describing the programs more completely are available in high school guidance offices, or you may call for information sent directly to you – ACT (319) 337-1270 and SAT I (609) 771-7600.

The ACT ( American College Testing ) Program
The test consists of four parts:

* English – 45 minutes, 75 questions (grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, style, organization).
* Math – 60 minutes, 60 questions (pre-algebra, algebra, intermed. algebra/coord. geometry, plane geometry, trigonometry).
* Reading Comprehension – 35 minutes, 40 questions. Selected readings to include: history, political science, fine arts, biology, fiction.
* Science Reasoning – 35 minutes, 40 questions (analysis, evaluation, reasoning, interpretations, problem solving).

SAT I (Scholastic Achievement Test)
The cost of the test is $21.50. You may use a calculator, although it is not required. The test consists of two parts:

* Verbal – Two 30-minute sections plus a 15-minute section, 78 questions
* Math – Two 30-minute sections plus a 15-minute section, 60 questions ( ten questions require students to produce their own response and enter it in special grids on the answer sheet.

SAT II (Subject Tests)
These are one-hour tests in specific subject areas. Pamphlets and materials describing each test are available in high school guidance offices or you may order directly from The College Board by calling (609) 771-7600. Students may take one, two, or three tests on a registered test date. Note, however, you may not take SAT I and SAT II tests on the same test date. You may register using the SAT I registration form. Costs: $18.00 for one test; $23.00 for two tests; and 28.00 for three tests.

1. You will want to develop the strongest possible testing profile you can. Since many institutions will give you the option of reporting scores from either or both testing programs, you should take both the ACT and SAT I at least once. The tests should be taken by the June, 1996 dates at the end of the Junior or 11th grade year. See College Testing Schedule. Retakes may be needed in the Senior year, since students do not always score to their potential in one test sitting.
2. Take SAT II (Subject Tests) when appropriate and as soon as possible. In fact, you should take them as soon as you finish a course in that subject, while the material is fresh in your mind. Subject Tests may be required or recommended with applications in the Senior year. Reserve a test date to take as many as three Subject Tests. Often application requirements specify the Writing test, a math level I or II test, and a third test in a subject area of the applicant’s choice. Programs such as pre-medicine and engineering often require tests in the sciences – i.e. biology, chemistry, physics.

Q: Do you have to show your work – i.e. scratchwork – on the math test?
Ans: No. Scratchwork may be done in the testbook, but only the answer „bubbled in“ on the grid will be scored.

Q: Are calculators allowed on the math test?
Ans: Yes. Calculators are allowed but not required on the math section of both the PSAT and SAT I. Calculators are also now allowed on the ACT.

Q: What kinds of calculators are allowed?
Ans: For the PSAT and SAT I, any four-function, scientific, or graphing calculator is allowed. Calculators have been allowed on the ACT since September 1, 1996.

Q: Do you have to write an essay on the SAT II: English Subject Test?
Ans: Yes. If you take what is now called the SAT II: Writing Subject Test, there is an essay. This test is often required on admission applications. Watch carefully!

Q: What tests are available for advanced placement at the college or university where I choose to enroll?
Ans: You need to inquire about the requirements and options available at the institution you choose. There is a wide variety. The best known is the Advanced Placement Program of The College Board Admission Testing Program. It offers comprehensive tests in all the core subject areas – English, math, history fro, sciences and foreign languages – and others in elective areas such as studio art. Another option is enrollment in The International Baccalaureate Program. For more detailed information regarding these programs refer to the Glossary of Terms for The College Selection Process.
The problem with using these programs for placement is that not all high school curricula are designed to accommodate the challenges of the programs. Usually very bright students are sectioned into accelerated courses designed to prepare students to take the test at the completion of the courses. However, there are some options available to students who have achieved well in regular tracked courses. The best known and most widely used are the SAT II (subjects tests) described above. In addition, there is the College Level Entrance Placement (CLEP) Program.
The key here is advanced planning. Determine what courses will best prepare you to take these tests. Plan your course of study with your counselor well before your 11th and 12th grade years.

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