Cheshire High School - Standardized Testing

The standardized testing process causes different reactions among students. Some are petrified; some view it as a mild annoyance. Others are a little shocked when they don’t do quite as well as expected. But like it or not, they’re here to stay - at least for a while.

Most colleges require the SAT or ACT tests. Originally the ACT was preferred or required in the mid-west, while the SAT was preferred in the northeast and on the coasts. Now it is common for colleges to take either, which is a nice advantage. Some students take both in order to see if they do better on one style than another. This is certainly a valid idea, but can be costly if you are trying to prep for both. Some students report a significant difference in results between the SAT and ACT, while others perform about the same on both. This is a decision that is yours alone, and you should do the necessary research to make an informed choice. Again, the college websites will almost certainly indicate what they accept and/or prefer.

The Tests


This test is designed for juniors to give them an estimate of how they will score on the real SAT Reasoning Test. It is shorter, but similar in content and approach. It is generally offered once per year in October. This test is also used to award National Merit Scholarships, so it’s very important. Some high schools offer practice PSATs and SATs as early as freshman or sophomore year. This is a good idea for high achievers or students looking to prepare ahead of time. The PSAT resembles the new SAT Reasoning Test, except that it does not include an essay. You can roughly multiply your PSAT scores by 10 and use that to guess what you might receive on the Critical Reading and Math sections of the SAT if you were to take it then.

The SAT Reasoning Test

The SAT Reasoning Test is used to measure certain abilities that are believed to be predictors of success. It changed for the high school class of 2006. The test now includes an essay and a 3-part structure. Here are some highlights of the SAT Reasoning Test:

WRITING: (60 minutes)

  • The SAT includes a student-written essay – you will need to take a position on some issue and you must support it with examples (25 minutes). This will be the first section.
  • This section replaces what used to be the SAT II Writing Test

CRITICAL READING: (70 minutes) (This section may be compared to the old Verbal section)

  • Analogies have been eliminated
  • Grammar and usage multiple choice are added
  • Short and long reading passages as well as sentence completion remain

MATH: (70 minutes) (This section may be compared to the Math section on the old SAT)

  • New content from third-year college preparatory math - some Algebra II questions such as absolute value, exponential growth, negative and fractional exponents, linear functions, scatter plots
  • Quantitative comparisons have been eliminated

The bottom line – it’s LONG! Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before and bring snacks and water. Concentrate on staying focused and watch your pacing.

Scoring and Comparing the SAT Reasoning Test

Each section uses the familiar 200-800 scale. So the “perfect score” is 2400. You also receive two writing sub-scores: a score of 20-80 for the multiple choices and 2-12 for your essay. You are able to access your score report on-line along with a copy of your essay. Sometimes you are offered a QAS (Question and Answer Service) for a fee (certain dates only). This gives you the questions, correct answers, and your answers. For others, the SAS (Student Answer Service) is available, which provides less detail but gives summaries by difficulty levels and how you fared in each. So check as you register to see if your dates offer QAS or SAS.

To compare old (pre class of 2006) SAT scores to current, you can roughly equate the Math sections, and you can equate the Critical Reading section to the old Verbal. To convert a total old SAT score to a total current Sat score, multiply the old times 1.5 and that will roughly approximate it. Many colleges are not using the Writing Section for admission decisions. Visit the College Board website  for more detailed information.

The SAT Subject Tests

These are subject tests that measure knowledge or skills in a particular subject. Each test is one hour, and many subjects are offered. Not all colleges require the SAT Subject Tests, and some don’t even consider the scores. Those that do will generally want two or three in different subject areas and will probably weight them equally to the SAT Reasoning Test. So once again, research pays. Find out what your prospective colleges require or recommend, and watch for changes. Take the SAT Subject Tests whenever you peak in that particular subject. For instance, if you’ve taken AP Biology, take the Biology test that May or June.


for more information.

The ACT Test

The American College Testing (ACT) Assessment is designed to test your skill levels in English, Math, Reading, and Science reasoning. On the test, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete a variety of multiple choice questions divided into four sections – one for each tested subject area. The English, reading, and science sections each include several reading passages with anywhere from 5 to 15 questions per passage. The Math section includes 60 questions – each with 5 possible answer choices.

ACT has an optional 30-minute Writing Test as a component to the ACT Assessment. Prompts used for the ACT Writing Test describe an issue relevant to high school students and ask students to write about their perspective on the issue. As a starting place, two different perspectives on the issue are provided. Examinees may choose to support one of these perspectives or to develop a response based on their own perspective. They will need to clearly state their position and provide reasons and examples. 

You will actually receive 12 separate scores on the ACT: 1 composite, 4 subject scores, and 7 sub-scores. However the composite – or scaled – score is the most important. It ranges from 1-36. Nearly half of those who take it fall in the 17-23 range. The ACT test has traditionally been more content-based than the SAT, which focuses more on critical thinking and problem solving skills. The ACT more closely reflects core curriculum taught in high school classes, although the new SAT does more of the same. Some other significant differences are that the ACT has a science reasoning section while the SAT does not. The ACT has trigonometry while the SAT does not. The SAT penalizes you for incorrect answers; the ACT does not. Finally, the SAT is not entirely multiple choice – the ACT is. ACT provides a comprehensive 80-page prep booklet free of charge at  and one to help you interpret your scores at . Visit  for more info.

AP Exams

Advanced Placement exams are taken in order to earn college credit in a particular course. AP tests are administered in early May and scored on a point system, 1-5. Obtaining a 3, 4 or 5 may earn you college credit at some colleges, but you will need to confirm this. AP tests taken junior year or earlier may be reported on applications but are not required as are the SAT Reasoning or ACT tests. There are 37 classes and tests across 22 subject areas. Over a million students per year take these exams, and there is little doubt that they bolster your admission package. Find out more at:

and download their booklet at:

 (available in Spanish also)