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College Admission Tests and Preparation

There are two college entrance exams, the ACT (American College Test) and the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test), which are used for admission, placement, and scholarships. Most colleges accept scores from either the ACT or SAT. Check directly with each institution being considered for admission policies. Registration materials are available in the College/Career Information Center and online.

The ACT test (American College Test)

The ACT is a set of four multiple choice tests covering english, mathematics, reading, and science. The ACT Plus Writing Test includes the four multiple choice tests plus the writing test.

ENGLISH – 75 questions, 45 minutes

The ACT English section includes five passages accompanied by a sequence of multiple-choice questions. This section covers written english (punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure) and rhetorical skills (strategy, organization, and style. Spelling, vocabulary, and memory or grammatical rules are NOT tested.

MATHEMATICS – 60 questions, 60 minutes

The ACT Math section covers pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.

READING – 40 questions, 35 minutes

The ACT Reading section includes four passages with 10 multiple-choice questions each. This section tests reading comprehension skills.

SCIENCE – 40 questions, 35 minutes

The ACT Science section includes seven sets of scientific data followed by multiple-choice questions. This section tests interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills.

OPTIONAL WRITING – 1 prompt, 40 minutes

The optional ACT Writing section includes one prompt that defines an issue and describes two points of view based on that issue.

There is a registration fee for the Assessment Plus Writing Test. To find out if the Writing Test is required, visit the website or call the admissions office of the college or university. Students may be eligible for an ACT Fee Waiver. Information about eligibility requirements and how to request a fee waiver are available in the College/Career Center.

Scores are generally available online within 2½ – 8 weeks after the test. The service allows students to view their scores before the official score report arrives by mail. Scores are based on the number of correct answers; there is no penalty for guessing. Students must mail their ACT registration forms and fee in the pre-addressed envelope available in the College/Career Center or register online. For non-Saturday testing, visit the ACT website.

ACT Test Preparation

The SAT Test (Scholastic Assessment Test)

The SAT is a 3 hour (plus 50 minutes for optional Essay) test that measures a student's college readiness by assessing critical reading, mathematical reasoning and writing skills (optional). This test is administered seven times a year and is typically taken by high school juniors for the first time in the spring and again as a senior in the fall. Each section is scored on a 400-1600 scale as well as two cross-test scores in History/Social Studies and Analysis in Science, and subscores in Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. SAT Essay scores are reported separately from overall test scores.

Students may register for the SAT test by mail or online. It is highly recommended that students register online. Students may be eligible for a SAT Fee Waiver. Information about eligibility requirements and how to request a fee waiver are available in the College/Career Center as well as test registration forms.

The SAT includes a Math and Evidenced-based Reading and Writing.

READING – 52 questions, 65 minutes

The SAT Reading test consists of multiple-choice, passage-based questions that covers complex structure and vocabulary in the fields of history, social studies, and science.

WRITING AND LANGUAGE – 44 questions, 35 minutes

The SAT writing test contains multiple-choice questions based on passages in the fields of careers, social studies, humanities, and science

MATHEMATICS – No calculator: 20 questions, 25 minutes; With calculator: 38 questions, 55 minutes

The SAT Math test consists of two sections and covers application-based multiple-choice and grid-response questions in algebra, problem solving, data analysis, and advanced math.

ESSAY (optional) – 1 prompt, 50 minutes

The optional SAT Essay test requires an analysis of an author's argument presented in a substantial passage.

The SAT Subject Tests

The SAT Subject tests are designed to measure knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge. Subject tests are also used by some colleges for admission and placement purposes. Students may take up to three tests in one session, but may not take the Reasoning and the Subject Tests on the same day. It is recommended that a Subject Test be taken following the completion of the highest level of the course.

There is a basic registration fee in addition to a fee for each Subject test. The Language Test with Listening is only available in November and is an additional fee. Students are penalized for missing the regular deadlines and must pay additional late fees or Standby fees. Check the SAT Testing Bulletin or your College/Career Center for Test Center locations and schedules. Note: Most colleges do not require the Subject Tests. Check the college website to see if these tests are recommended.

CollegeBoard: SAT Practice and Preparation

CollegeBoard: SAT Subject Test Preparation

TOEFL (Test of English As a Foreign Language)

The TOEFL® test is the most widely accepted English-language test in the world. It measures the ability of nonnative speakers of English to use and understand English as it is spoken, written, and heard in academic settings. It is an internet-based test required by almost all U.S. colleges and universities for students whose principle language is not English. The test has four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing and takes up to four hours to complete. The registration fee includes one examinee core record and four score reports sent to your designated institutions. The TOEFL should be taken in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT. You can take the Internet-based Test or the Paper-based Test, depending on which format is offered at your test center.

TOEFL Test Preparation

AP (Advanced Placement) Tests

The Advanced Placement Program gives students the opportunity to take college-level courses with the possibility of earning college credit or advanced placement. There are thirty-seven AP courses across 22 subject areas available to students. The tests are administered in May. Visit the Advanced Placement program for test dates. There is a fee for each test. Students should discuss taking AP classes/tests with their parents, teachers and school counselor.

CollegeBoard: AP Information

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program)

The CLEP provides students of any age with the opportunity to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in college-level introductory subjects. All exams are scored on a scale of 20-80 with the recommended credit-granting score of 50, which equals a grade of C and are kept on file for 20 years. There are 2,900 colleges that grant credit and/or advanced standing for CLEP exams. Check the College Board website to locate a testing center. There is a fee for each CLEP Exam.

PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)

The PSAT is the only opportunity when high school juniors may be considered for the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program, and the National Hispanic Scholar Awards Program. The PSAT also serves as an important practice test for the SAT Reasoning Test. It is administered only once during the school year and consists of two 25-minute critical reading sections, one 30-minute math section, and one 30-minute writing skills section. All tenth grade students will take the test at no cost.

Testing For Special Needs Students

Students with a documented disability may be eligible for accommodations on SAT, SAT Subject Tests, AP, PSAT, and ACT. To receive accommodations for testing, students must submit a written “request eligibility form” and be approved before testing. When testing at a center on a national date, students normally receive up to 50 percent extended time and can use a regular or large type test book. Students receiving accommodations more than 50 percent extended time or who CAN NOT test at a national center will be assigned to the appropriate Testing Center; check with your Counseling Office. A student who requires the use of a reader and/or writer must test at his/her home school. ETS Special Needs Hotline is 1-(609) 771-7137. Once a student receives his/her admission ticket with the notation "See your counselor for test date and time," he/she must do that immediately to find out where to report.

CollegeBoard: Accommodations on College Board Exams

ACT Services for Students with Disabilities

Reminder: It is the student's responsibility to meet with his/her counselor in early September to discuss testing arrangements.

SAT Preparation Options

Montgomery College

The Montgomery College Workforce Development and Continuing Education Office offers a SAT Prep course which is conducted in various MCPS schools. This 32 hour course meets either after school, in the evening, or on Saturday mornings. The course is The Montgomery College Workforce Development and Continuing Education Office offers a SAT Prep designed to help students achieve a score that better reflects their knowledge and abilities by practicing with REAL SATs, teaching test format, teaching test taking strategies, reviewing content and raising test taking confidence.

There is a cost for the course and an additional cost for the textbook. Information on dates, locations and registration is available online or a brochure can be obtained from an MCPS College and Career Center.  Registration assistance and information can also be obtained by contacting 240-567-5188. Flyers advertising courses for the fall SATs are mailed to the homes of rising juniors and seniors at the end of July. A second mailing advertising spring SATs will occur in early December.

MC SAT Preparation Classes

MCPS-In school

Many MCPS high schools offer SAT Prep classes for credit during the school day for which a student receives a half credit for the semester.  These courses are free but students must register for them during the normal course registration time.

Grade 11 students: Free SAT/ACT during the school day

Grade 10 students: Free PSAT during the school day

MCPS Free Online Materials

MCPS is providing free online tools to prepare for the PSAT, SAT or ACT through the TCA Online Study Guides.  These guides can be used anywhere, anytime to review skills, take practice quizzes and track your progress.  A special section, FinalPrep, for the SAT and ACT is specifically designed for preparation the week before the test.  FinalPrep reviews the structure, format, skills, and test-taking tips for testing.

Free Test Prep for College Entrance Exams