We Break Down The SAT, ACT, & PSAT
Last updated July 8, 2021
Feeling confused about the PSAT, SAT, and ACT? The coronavirus pandemic further complicates things - many schools and colleges across the US are waiving standardized test scores as an admission requirement for 2021. The SAT, PSAT, and ACT are here to stay for the near (think next 5 years) future, though. And we're here to break down the differences between each test.
Here's a brief overview with links to more information:
The PSAT provides practice for the SAT. You can take it in the 10th and 11th grade. If you score well your Junior year, you can also qualify for the National Merit Scholars program. The PSAT is offered each year in October with registration through your school counselor. The test costs $16, but many school districts administer the PSAT for free. If your doesn't offer it for free, the fee can be waived if you qualify for a fee waiver. Visit your counselor to get signed up.
There are five sections: two for reading, two for math, and one for writing. You have a total test time of 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete it. You can get a score between 320 and 1520 with the average PSAT score being between 920 and 1050.
The SAT is offered seven times a year with registration at collegeboard.org The test costs $47.50 without the Essay, $64.50 with the Essay, and fee waivers are available based on income. You can see if your schools require the essay here.
There are three required sections: Writing and Language, Math, Reading, and the optional Essay section. You have a total test time of 3 hours or 3 hours and 50 minutes with the Essay section. You can get a score between 400 and 1600 with the average SAT score being between 1050 and 1060.
Take the SAT if:
- You're not a fast reader. The SAT passages are slightly shorter than the ACT passages.
- You can work through math problems without a calculator (since 1/2 of the SAT math section must be completed without a calculator)
- You can explain your answers with evidence.
Schools may offer the PSAT 8/9. This exam is offered to eighth and ninth graders to help in college and career readiness during the transition to high school.
The ACT is offered five times a year with registration at actstudent.org The test costs $50.50 without the Essay, $67 with the Essay, and fee waivers are available based on income. There are four required sections: English, Math, Reading, Science, and the optional Essay section. You have a total test time of 2 hours and 55 minutes or 3 hours and 40 minutes with the essay. You can get a score between 1 and 36 with the average ACT score being 20.8.
Take the ACT if:
- You do well with time management.
- You are comfortable with geometry and trigonometry.
- You can analyze and interpret graphs and charts.
*Keep in mind, there will be changes to the ACT in 2020
Check out these general test taking resources to tackle your tests: