The following information is an attempt to answer some
of the basic questions that parents and students might have about
entrance exams. You can scroll through the information provided below,
or click directly on a listed question to jump directly to that item:
Should I take the PSAT? If so, when?
Begin preparation early and get diagnostic feedback
on your skills by taking the PSAT (only offered once each year,
generally the 3rd Saturday in October). The PSAT is a practice test that
is shorter than, but similar to the SAT. When taken as a junior, the PSAT is the initial qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
We recommend that freshmen and, especially, sophomores take the PSAT
for practice. Registration is with the SCHS Finance Office Clerk during
the month of September. The price is usually about $25. Results are
mailed to the high school and typically available for pick up in the
Assistant Principals’ Office the 2nd or 3rd week of December.
What is the Scholastic Aptitiude Test (SAT)?
Register for the SAT at
The SAT (sometimes referred to as the SAT Reasoning
Test) is a national college admission examination, provided through the
College Board and accepted by most colleges. The SAT is taken to measure
the critical thinking skills you'll need for academic success in
college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problems—skills
you learned in school that you'll need in college. The SAT is made up
of three sections: critical reading, math (includes Algebra 1, Geometry
& Algebra 2), and written English. Therefore, it is recommended that
students complete Algebra 2 at least by the Spring Semester of their
junior year so they are prepared for the May or June SAT.
The California State University (CSU) and
University of California (UC) systems and most private colleges require
the SAT or the ACT (including the Writing Section), for college
admission. Most colleges accept either or both exams. All colleges
will require that official results be sent to them directly from the
It is important to note that if a student is
applying to colleges that require SAT Subject Tests, they must be taken
through the College Board in addition to the SAT. See section below that
refers to SAT Subject Tests for more information.
What is the American College Test (ACT)?
The ACT is a national college admission examination, accepted by most
colleges and universities. The ACT has sections for English, Math,
Reading and Science with an optional writing section. Be sure to sign
up to take the writing section as it is required by the UC system and
most private colleges.
ACT registration packets are available in the SCHS Counseling/Career
Center. The October through June ACT tests are given locally at Soquel
High School. Soquel’s Test Center Code is 208-210. All colleges will
require that official results be sent to them directly from the testing
It is important to note that if a student is applying to colleges
that require SAT Subject Tests, they must be taken through the College
Board in addition to the ACT.
What is the difference between the ACT and SAT?
The ACT and SAT are both national college admission examinations. Most
colleges accept either exam or both. We recommend students check the
Admission Guidelines for the specific college(s) they would like to
attend. If taken more than once, the University of California and
California State Universities use the best combined score of a single
test date. However, some private schools will take the best individual
scores from different test dates.
In general, the SAT is an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal
abilities, while the ACT is more of an achievement test, designed to
measure what has been learned in school. The SAT has three sections:
Critical Reading, Math and Written English. The ACT has four required
sections (English, Math, Reading and Science) with an optional Writing
Section, which is required by the University of California and many
private colleges. The best test for you is a matter of personal
preference, assuming both are accepted by the college of interest. If
you are unsure of which test to take, discuss this with an SCHS
It is important to note that if a student is applying to colleges
that require SAT Subject Tests, which are available from the College
Board, they must be taken in addition to the ACT and SAT.
When should the ACT or SAT be taken?
All college entrance tests should be completed by the end of the junior
year of high school. Most colleges will accept an SAT or ACT in the fall
of the senior year, but it might suggest poor planning if that is the
first time either test is being taken. Check with college websites to be
sure which test date (October or December) is the last date accepted
for their college application process.
In general, take the SAT as soon after finishing Algebra 2* and American
Literature as possible. On our block schedule, the January test date is
recommended if, for instance, Algebra 2 and American Literature were
taken in the fall semester. If one or both classes are taken in the
spring semester, sign up for the June test. Some students have found
taking the ACT or SAT two months in a row, such as May and June
helpful—the May test is virtually practice for the June test.
Test scores will improve by taking challenging college prep classes.
Retesting is best after completing additional courses or after taking
specific steps intended to improve test-taking skills. See section on Test Prep Courses below.
*Some students will take Algebra 2 in their sophomore year. Because
the ACT and SAT also measure student performance in reading, writing,
etc., a sophomore, who has not yet taken the more advanced junior year
English, history and science classes, will likely score less well on the
overall test. Therefore, it is recommended that sophomores completing
Algebra 2 take the SAT or ACT, at the end of semester they finish the
class, to experience the test, considering it as practice. Then, take it
again in the junior year. As juniors, even if they taking more advanced
math, it is recommended they fully review the concepts of Algebra 1,
Geometry, and Algebra 2 as preparation for the test.
What are the SAT Subject Tests?
Two SAT Subject Tests in different academic areas* might be required by
the UC system and some private colleges and should be taken by the
spring semester of the junior year.** Up to three SAT Subject Tests can
be taken on any given test date. Check the College Board testing
schedule to confirm when specific SAT Subject Tests are offered. The
only Subject Test for math that counts is the Math Level 2. Math Level
1, which covers math through Algebra 2, is now included in the regular
*The SAT Subject Tests are in the following academic areas:
Literature, Science (Biology E/M, Chemistry, Physics), Mathematics (only
Level 2 counts), History (U. S., World History), and Languages (French,
Spanish, German, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Italian). Students must take two
Subject Tests in different academic areas, such as Literature and Math.
Therefore, taking two different language Subject Tests or two science
Subject Tests would not meet the criteria unless they also took a third
test in another academic area.
**Beginning with the college freshman class entering in fall 2012, UC will not
require SAT Subject Tests for admission. (Check individual private
college entrance requirements). However, as counselors, we have been
cautioned that some UC departments/majors, such as, math, science, and
engineering might still expect SAT Subject Tests in Math Level 2,
Chemistry and/or Physics. Therefore, if entering UC in the fall of 2012
and thereafter, we suggest students carefully follow the testing
recommendations stipulated by individual UC departments/majors to which
the student is applying for acceptance.
When should I take the SAT Subject Tests?
Since the SAT Subject Tests are testing acquired knowledge, the rule of thumb is that these tests should be taken in January or June, at the completion of the most advanced course the student intends to take in that subject area.
For instance, regardless of grade level, if a student completes Honor
Physics in the fall semester, and does not intend to take AP Physics,
s/he should take the SAT Subject Test for physics in January of that
year, while acquired knowledge is still fresh. The Math Level 2 Subject
Test should be taken after finishing Trigonometry/Analytic Geometry or
Intro to Calculus or Math Academy 2.
Which SAT Subject Tests should I take?
In general, use the SAT Subject Tests to demonstrate areas of your
academic strength. A student’s intended major might dictate what at
least one of the tests should be. For instance, if students are pursuing
a major in engineering, the colleges to which they are applying might
stipulate that subject tests in Chemistry and/or Physics and Math Level 2
are required. If a student has taken advanced classes in a world
language, it might be a good idea to illustrate through the SAT Subject
Test proficiency in their second language. English literature or U.S.
History might be good choices if these subjects are areas of
academic strength. Multiple SAT Subject Tests can be taken. The
universities will use the two highest scores in different academic
If a student’s primary language is not English, they can use the SAT
Subject Test to demonstrate proficiency in their primary language.
Therefore, the subject test meets the college prep World Language
requirement. Check with a SCHS counselor regarding the minimum subject
test score required.
How do I register for the tests?
The testing companies require on-line registration at the College Board or ACT
Websites. SCHS is a Test Center for SAT administration. Our Test Center
Code is 05-774. The October through June ACT tests are given locally at
Soquel High School. Soquel’s Test Center Code is 208-210.
All colleges will require that official results be sent to them directly
from the testing company when completing college applications the
senior year. Unofficial SAT/ACT scores are no longer included on the
How do I obtain a practice booklet or find sample questions?
The College Board provides booklets called “Taking the SAT” and “Taking
the SAT Subject Tests,” to help students prepare for the SAT tests. Both
booklets give examples of test questions and test-taking tips, and are
available in the SCHS Counseling/Career Center and online at the College Board website.
The College Board Website also posts an SAT Question of the Day.
If you create an account on their website, you can have the question
of the day emailed to you. In addition, we recommend that you use the College Board's Testing Page
to find their most up-to-date resources. Become familiar with this
website as it is an excellent resource for sample tests and questions.
Should I take a Test Prep Course?
The best way to prepare for all college entrance and placement exams is
to take the most challenging college prep courses offered at SCHS. Many
students also benefit from test preparation courses, study guides, and
taking practice tests. Check the SCHS Daily Bulletin and eNewsletter to
learn about test prep opportunities at or near SCHS.
The College Board and ACT also offer on-line courses.
What if I require special accommodations?
Students requiring testing accommodations because of a physical or
learning disability must make special application to the ACT and SAT
programs. Because extensive documentation and local administrative
sign-off is required, the application process needs to be initiated
several months before test registration deadlines. In fact, if
classroom accommodations are not in place and being used in high school
classes since the student began high school, it is possible that testing
accommodations will not be allowed. Check in with the Assistant
Principal in charge of testing accommodations.
When must I finish taking tests (or retests)?
If you think you need to re-take tests to improve scores, the last
chance is in the fall of your senior year.
Seniors applying to the UC or CSU systems should have all testing
completed by the December test dates to meet application deadlines.
Some colleges, such as Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, San Diego State,
and Long Beach State indicate that the last test they will accept is the
October test date. Check college web sites to confirm individual testing deadlines.
What are Community College Assessment Tests?
If you plan to go to a community college, you must take assessment tests in writing, reading comprehension, and math to enroll. These exams are used to determine which courses you are eligible to take.
It is important to review and take practice tests to do your best on
the assessment tests so you don’t have to you already know. SCHS
seniors will have a specific date set aside to test at the Cabrillo
Assessment Center. Watch the Daily Bulletin and eNewsletter at the
beginning of 3rd Quarter for details. Call the Assessment Center at 479-6165 for an appointment if you miss the SCHS test date.
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