Tests help college determine entrance

Although tests play an important role in school, there are two that play a vital role in the future of one’s college career – the Student Assessment Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT).

Most colleges require students to take these tests. Scores assist colleges in the evaluation of prospective students.

As reported by 2002 edition of “The Princeton Review Guide to the Best 345 Colleges,” the average SAT math scores varied between 780 and 480; SAT verbal, between 750 and 500; and ACT, between 33 and 19.

Most schools have a minimum score requirement of 440 for both SAT math and verbal and have a requirement of 18 or better for ACT.

Harriet Williams, a senior guidance counselor at James S. Rickards High School, said SAT and ACT scores can be the deciding factor when selecting a student into a college.

In order to help students prepare for entry tests, she encourages them to take the PSAT, which is the practice test for the SAT.

“PSATs are offered to students for free as early as 8th grade until 10th grade,” said Williams. “When students enter the 11th grade, they take the actual tests.”

Williams said both the SAT and ACT measure the same thing but are scored differently.

The SAT is longer with a total of 10 sections and tests students at peer level on math and verbal comprehension. Students are penalized via point deduction if they get an answer wrong on the SAT.

The ACT only has four sections and tests students on the information in the curriculum of all core classes, including math, reading and comprehension. Students are not penalized for guessing or getting an answer wrong.

“Most students who are strong in math, do better on the SAT because they accumulate more points,” said Williams.

Some schools may have other options available for those students who might not have performed well on either test.

“We consider some students who fall below the minimum requirement,” said Barbara Cox, director of admissions at Florida A&M University. “We use a sliding scale.”

On a sliding scale, college prep classes, GPAs, and college entry test scores are averaged together. If a prospective student has a high GPA, a lower test score may be accepted. If he or she has a lower GPA, a higher score may be required for consideration.

Cox said students who may not meet either of those circumstances, may be given the option of enrolling in summer freshman studies. A student may also write an essay that must be reviewed by the admissions committee.

Good scores can be rewarding, not only in admittance to college, but in scholarships as well. “The more times a student takes the ACT or SAT, the better their chances are,” said Williams.

Visit www.collegeboard.com/testing/ for more information on test preparation. Preparation books and online guides for the SAT and ACT are available at www.princetonreview.com.