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SAT & ACT Testing Information

Changes in the UC Requirements for SAT Subject Tests

For all students (beginning with the 2012 graduating class) interested in or planning to apply to a University of California school, the SAT Subject Tests are NO LONGER REQUIRED.  Some UC’s may still require certain subject tests to be taken, depending on your major or field of study.  It may also be helpful for placement and scheduling purposes as well as college level preparation.  But these SAT subject tests are no longer mandatory for enrollment.  If you are interested or the college you plan to attend is advising you to take them, please stop by the Guidance Office for more information and how to sign up.


What's the Difference Between the ACT and SAT?

Test Structure and Format




Type of Test Reasoning test Content-based test

Test Format

Critical Reading: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Math: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Writing: 1, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section, and 1, 10-min section

English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 30-min essay (optional)

Content Covered

Reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math Grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)

Test Style

Tricky, questions can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher Straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher
 Scoring Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between a 200-800; total SAT score ranges between 600-2400 English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; scores range between 1-36
Penalty for Wrong Answers? YES – you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions) NO – you do not lose points for incorrect answers
Score Choice? YES – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges YES – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges
Difficulty Levels Questions increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section (except reading passage questions, which progress chronologically through the passage) Difficulty level of the questions is random
Math Levels Arithmetic, data analysis, algebra I and II, functions, geometry; formulas are provided in the test booklet Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided
Offered when? Seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December Six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December (note that some states offer the ACT as part of their state testing requirements; these tests are not administered on the national test dates)
Registration deadline? Typically about four weeks before the test date Typically about five to six weeks before the test date



Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension
Sentence Completions


Algebra II

Algebra II


Basic Content
Problem Solving

Not applicable


Optional Final Section

30 Minutes

Not Included in Composite Score

Topic of importance to high school students

First Section

25 Minutes

Factored into overall score

More abstract topic


Understanding the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT (American College Testing)

  • If your child is planning to attend a 4-year college/university it is very important for them to take either one of these assessment and placement tests at least twice before the end of the first semester in their senior year. You or your child may pick up more information on registration, test dates, and Practice Test booklets in the school Guidance Office. Colleges now accept your ACT or SAT scores interchangeably. This means that you have the opportunity to decide on which test you'll perform better. And in many cases, students prepare for and take both exams.
  • All sophomore students and some juniors will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday, October 13. The PSAT is the “practice or pre-test” for the SAT. It is basically a shorter version of the SAT. It measures the same skills and has the same format.  Juniors who take the test may also be eligible for scholarship and other special recognition opportunities.  
  • Please do not hesitate to call or stop by the Guidance Office if you have any questions on either test or need further information.  More information on the SAT testing program is available at:  Also, here is a document (link) to help you decide if the ACT or SAT is better for you?


The Anatomy of the SAT

  • What It Means for Your Child

The SAT is a 3-hour-and-45-minute test that measures the critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills that students need to do college-level work.

  • What Is the Test Like?

The test's three sections are divided into nine subsections, including a 25-minute essay, which are timed separately:


Tests Ability To

Critical Reading
(3 sections)

  • Understand and analyze what is read.
  • Recognize relationships between parts of a sentence.
  • Understand word meaning in context.

(3 sections)

Solve problems involving:

  • Algebra and functions
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Number and operations
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability

(3 sections)

  • Use Standard Written English.
  • Identify sentence errors.
  • Write an essay and develop a point of view.

There are several breaks between sections, during which your child is welcome to eat or drink any snacks she has brought.

  • How Can My Child Prepare?

Find resources to help your child prepare. Choose from our online SAT preparation or SAT preparation books. All include SAT questions, tips, and strategies from the test makers.

  • College Board Online Store

Visit the College Board online store to browse other test-preparation and college- planning resources.

  • How Does the Scoring Work?

The SAT is designed so that a student who answers about half the questions correctly receives an average score. Each SAT section is scored on a scale of 200-800. The average score on the SAT is about 500 on the critical reading portion, 500 on the mathematics portion, and 500 on the writing portion. Some of the questions are easy, and some are hard, but the majority are of medium difficulty. Medium-difficulty questions are answered correctly by about 1/3 to 2/3 of students.

  • How Important Are SAT Scores?

The most important factor for college admissions is your child's high school transcript—judged by grades received and the rigor of the courses. SAT scores are intended to supplement your child's record and other information, such as extracurricular activities and recommendations.

  • When Should My Child Take the SAT?

Most students take the SAT at national administrations during their junior or senior year in high school. However, there are no age or grade restrictions for taking the test. At least half of all students take the SAT twice—in the spring of junior year and in the fall of senior year. What's more, most students improve their scores the second time around. Research shows that taking the test more than twice won't significantly improve a student's score. The online score report and the report sent to your child's high school (if the high school code was provided) show the current test score in addition to scores for up to six SAT and six SAT Subject Test administrations.

  • What is “Score Choice”?

Students have the option to choose which scores (by test date for the SAT and by individual test for SAT Subject Tests) to send to colleges—in accordance with an institution's stated score-use practice. They can choose scores from one, several, or all SAT test dates.

The Anatomy of the ACT

Like the SAT, the ACT is a nationally administered, standardized paper-and-pencil test that helps colleges evaluate candidates. Generally, you'll take the ACT for the first time in the spring of your junior year. This allows you to reserve the summer months for college applications or enough time to re-take the test during the fall of your senior year if you're not satisfied with your score. The ACT lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes (excluding the optional Writing Test) or 3 hours and 25 minutes with the Writing Test. The order of test sections and the total number of questions covered in each test section never changes:



Question Types


45 Minutes

40 Usage/Mechanics Questions
35 Rhetorical Skills Questions


60 Minutes

14 Arithmetic Questions
10 Elementary Algebra Questions
9 Intermediate Algebra Questions
9 Coordinate Geometry Questions
14 Plane Geometry Questions
4 Trigonometry Questions


35 Minutes

10 Social Studies Questions
10 Natural Sciences Questions
10 Prose Fiction Questions
10 Humanities Questions


35 Minutes

15 Data Representation Questions
18 Research Summary Questions
7 Conflicting Viewpoint Questions

Writing Test

30 Minutes

You write in response to a question about your position on an issue

For more information, please click on the following links:

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