If you intend to apply to 4 year universities directly from high school, you need to take either the SAT or the ACT. You may also have to take several SAT Subject Tests. The ONLY way to be absolutely certain to keep your options open is to take BOTH the SAT and the ACT and verify with your college of choice what they expect.
The PSAT is a “practice” SAT test that is useful for many reasons. First, it is a way for you to experience taking a test very similar to the SAT so that you get familiar with the questions/subjects that will be asked of you on the SAT. This will better prepare you for the SAT. Second, you will given a score report a couple months after you take the test which will explain your areas of strength and those that may need more improvement. This will help you know what you need to study more of before the next test. Lastly, Juniors who take the PSAT, with a high enough score, may qualify for the National Merit Scholarship. We encourage 10th and 11th grade students to take the PSAT and you can take it more than once. This test is offered in October of each year at West Hills High School. Sign-ups occur through the finance office. If your student requires accommodations please contacting counseling the spring prior to the test.
The PLAN is a practice test for the ACT, and should be taken in the 9th, 10th and/or 11th grade. The PLAN includes four multiple-choice tests: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Your PLAN test results can show you your strengths and weaknesses, as well as give you an idea of how you will do on the actual ACT. This test is offered in December of each year at West Hills High School. Sign-ups occur through the finance office. If your student requires accommodations please contacting counseling the spring prior to the test.
Register at: www.sat.collegeboard.org
Students should take the SAT in the spring of their 11th grade year and again (if desired) in the fall of their 12th grade year. The SAT test includes multiple choice English and math parts, as well as an essay component. Fee waivers are available in counseling if applicable.
Register at: www.actstudent.org
Students should take the ACT in the spring of their 11th grade year and again (if desired) in the fall of their 12th grade year. The ACT test includes multiple choice English, reading, math and science parts, as well as an essay component. The essay is optional but strongly recommended as many schools require the score. Fee waivers are available in counseling if applicable.
FAQ regarding the SAT and ACT:
Do all colleges require the SAT and ACT?
You do not have to take the SAT or ACT if you plan on attending a community college. There are also some 4 year schools that de-emphasize the tests. See a list of these schools here:http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional. However, it is important to remember that it is better to take the tests and not need them than not take them and need them. Keep your options open!
How many times can I take these tests?
You can take the SAT and ACT as many times as you like, and most colleges will look at your best score.
What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? How do I know which one to take?
Due to the differences in the tests, we encourage students to attempt both. It is hard to know which test a particular student will score better on so it is recommended to take both. Some of the differences between the tests can be found below:
| SAT|| ACT|
| Length: 3 hours, 45 minutes|| Length: 3 hours, 25 minutes (with essay)|
| Structure: 10 sections: 3 reading (comprehension & sentence completion), 3 math (up to Algebra 2), 3 writing, 1 experimental || Structure: 5 sections: English, reading (comprehension), math (up to Trigonometry), science, writing (optional but highly recommended)|
| Scores: 2400 is perfect; 800 for |
each section added up; national average is 1500
| Scores: 36 is perfect; average of total scores from all sections of the test; national average is 21|
| Scoring: Additional ¼ point off for each |
wrong answer (don't randomly guess –
blank answers better)
| Scoring: No additional penalty for wrong answers (don’t leave any questions blank!)|
| Philosophy: Aptitude test |
measuring reasoning and verbal abilities
| Philosophy: Achievement test measuring what a student has learned in school|
Where can I get test preparation material?
West Hills High School offers SAT and ACT prep classes for free annually. You must sign up for these classes in the finance office. Pay attention to the daily bulletin as test prep information will be posted there. If you have any additional questions, or are just curious, please contact your school counselor.
Test prep information can be found online on the SAT and ACT websites as well. These sites offer free practice tests, scoring keys, writing prompts with sample essays, daily questions, etc.
Additional prep options - you can purchase test prep books: