College Entrance Exams & Prep

The SAT and the ACT are the two major college entrance examinations required for most colleges.  Practice examinations, such as the PSAT (preparation for the SAT) or the ACT Aspire and PreACT (preparation for the ACT) should be taken before your senior year to get an understanding of how well you will do on a specific test and what areas on which you may need to focus.

This exam consists of four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning, and includes an optional Writing test. The purpose of this test is to measure the skills and knowledge that have been developed since middle school.

It is recommended that junior students take the ACT during the spring. All juniors at Henry Sibley will take the ACT in April. If necessary, students will have additional opportunities to re-test in June or in the fall. (Student should be aware that testing in October or later may mean their results are not ready in time for a November 1 Early Decision/Early Action deadline.)

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The SAT Reasoning Test consists of Writing, Math, and Critical Reading sections. The purpose of this test is to measure the writing, reading, and mathematical reasoning abilities that students develop over time, both in and out of school, which are related to successful performance in college.

The College Board has made changes to the SAT in 2016. The redesigned SAT focuses on knowledge, skills, and understanding identified as most important for college and career readiness. The first administration of the redesigned SAT is in spring 2016. The New SAT has an optional Essay, no penalty for incorrect answers, and a score scale ranging from 400 to 1600. For more information on the revised SAT, and a comparison with the previous SAT, visit College Board's comparison table.

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These tests are hour-long exams in mathematics, US History, world languages, literature, and the sciences. Students are able to self-select the exams that they take, however, they should review college requirements to ensure that they are taking the appropriate tests. (For instance, many schools will “strongly recommend” that a student take the SAT Subject Test, math – either IC or the IIC (the more difficult of the two), and then an additional test of the student’s choice. Some of the colleges that require the SAT Reasoning Test will also require the SAT Subject Tests. 

Students who are considering competitive colleges and universities – for example, the Ivy League or the University of California system – will need to submit two separate SAT Subject Test scores, however some schools will now accept ACT’s in place of SAT Subject Tests. It is strongly recommended that these students take the SAT Subject Tests in the spring – especially if they are currently taking an AP course, because the test aligns well with the AP test.

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The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a program co-sponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It's a standardized test that measures critical reading skills, math problem-solving skills, and writing skills, as well as providing firsthand practice for the SAT. It also gives students a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programs and gain access to college and career planning tools. Sophomore and junior students at Henry Sibley can choose to take the PSAT, which is administered annually in October.

PreACT simulates the ACT testing experience within a shorter test window on all four ACT test subjects: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. This is taken in the 10th grade.

If the ACT's and/or SAT I's were taken in the spring, should one or both be repeated?
In general, it is to the student’s advantage to retake either one or both of the tests. Why? Because colleges are looking to accept, not deny applicants. They will usually make admissions decisions based on the highest ACT composite score, or the highest SAT combined score of the Writing, Critical Reading, and Mathematics sections. In addition, seniors who are applying to schools with published admissions criteria, usually public institutions, have a good idea of their chance for admission. As a result, they can determine the necessity of re-taking the test. ACT will allow students to pick the best test date to send, whereas SAT sends all tests taken.

A final note – it may also be to the student’s advantage to retake a test, as many scholarships are awarded with a student’s ACT or SAT score being a piece of the criteria. The difference of one composite point on the ACT may be the difference between a scholarship and no scholarship.