1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Undergraduate Admissions Tests

Essential Information About the SAT and ACT

By

Teenage girl studying
uniquely india/photosindia/Getty Images
Before you start your distance learning program, you’ll probably need to turn in an application, complete with transcripts and test scores. The most common admissions tests are the SAT and the ACT. The scores for these tests are used to determine whether or not a student will be a good fit for a particular college. Make sure you understand the test before you sign up so that you can anticipate what kind of questions will be asked and know how much you will need to prepare.

SAT

The SAT is the most common college admissions test for undergraduate students and likely the one you’ll be sweating over if you’re applying to a university.

The purpose of the SAT is to determine how well you’ll do in your first year of college. The majority of colleges require that you send in scores from your SAT before you can be considered for admittance. The test takes three hours and measures both verbal and mathematical reasoning skills. The verbal section includes vocabulary, analogies, sentence completion, and reading comprehension. The mathematics section includes arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and other reasoning questions.

Students who plan to take the SATs right after high school will generally take the test during their junior year. Other students will take the exam well before their school’s enrollment deadline in order to make sure the scores will be received on time. Many students take preparation classes in order to prepare for the SATs. Such classes can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Other students purchase one of the many SAT prep books that are available online and through local bookstores. Students can find free preparation materials at the College Board’s website.

Points are awarded depending on how the student answers the multiple choice questions in both the mathematical and the verbal sections compared to other students who took the same exam. Students will be given a score from 200 to 800. The average score for each section is 500. The higher a student scores, the more likely he’ll be to be considered by a university.

ACT

Although it is not as widely accepted as the SAT, many colleges will accept ACT scores. The ACT is a national test which measures a students understanding of English, math, reading, and science. Instead of measuring a student’s aptitude (how well they can be expected to do) like the SAT, the ACT measures what a student has already learned.

The test consists of 214 questions and an optional writing prompt. The test is completed over a four hour and fifteen minute period, which includes two separate breaks. Students who choose to take the writing section of the exam will stay for an extra hour.

Students who are going to attend college straight after high school should take the test during their junior year. Other students should test at least two months before their school’s application deadline in order to ensure that their school receives the results on time.

Many students prepare for the ACT by taking courses or using study guides. Students can access free preparation materials at the ACT student website.

Test takers will receive a score for each section, as well as a composite score based on the number of correct answers. Unlike the SATs, there is no penalty for guessing incorrectly. The highest score is a 36.

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Distance Learning
  4. Distance Learning 101
  5. Undergraduate Admissions Tests - Acing the SAT and ACT

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.