PSAT: Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test
(Also NMSQT: National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)
This test is taken by sophomores and juniors each October. The PSAT offers you a preview of how well you will score on the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and it is an opportunity for juniors to qualify for the National Merit scholarship competition. Use this test to assess your strengths and weaknesses.
SAT Reasoning Test
The SAT, administered by the College Board, measures critical reading skills, math skills, and writing skills that you have acquired over a long period of time. Each section is scored on a 200-800 scale. Most colleges use this test as an important criterion in their admissions decision. Most students take this test twice—once in the spring of their junior year and once in the fall of their senior year. There is no limit on the number of times you can take the test. Students should note that most colleges will use the student's best scores, regardless of when they were taken. The University of California system will use the student's best scores from a single test date. While the emphasis a college places on your test scores will vary widely, colleges will use the scores to:
- predict your success in college
- compare you with other students from similar backgrounds and schools
- assess your high school record based on your scores
SAT Subject Tests
These are hour-long standardized tests in the individual subjects. Administered by the College Board, they are designed to measure how much you have learned in the particular subject area. These tests are also scored on a 200-800 scale. Many colleges require two SAT Subject Tests and a few of those require specific tests (i.e., one math and one science). There are also a few highly selective colleges that require three SAT Subject Tests. Other colleges do not require any subject tests, so please check individual school requirements as you research your schools. A few colleges will accept SAT Subject Test scores in place of SAT scores, or ACT with writing to replace SAT and SAT Subject Test requirements.
Usually, the SAT Subect Tests are taken in June of the junior year and fall of the senior year, and most only need to be taken once. The timing of these tests is important and varies from student to student, depending on the course work.
ACT: American College Test
In addition to measuring aptitude and achievement in English and math, the ACT also has a Reading and Science Reasoning section. Scores are based on a 1–36 point scale. All colleges (including California state colleges and universities) will accept the ACT in place of the SAT. If you take the ACT, you must take the optional writing portion of this test which is required for the UCs and some other schools.
AP: Advanced Placement Exams
These are tests administered at Marin Academy in May. They are designed to test specific subject areas, and while MA does not offer AP classes, students are able to be successful on these exams with some independent studying and guidance from their teachers. Scores range from 1 to 5. Some colleges will give college credit for courses in which a 3 or above is achieved on the test.
**It is the student's responsibility to insure that colleges receive official copies of their score reports. After all testing is complete, students must ensure that the College Board or ACT sends their scores to all of their colleges. MA does not send test scores to the colleges.**