• Standardized Testing Overview

    Every year standardized tests – the PSAT/NMSQT, ACT, and SAT – are administered to millions of students.  For some colleges, standardized test scores are part of the student’s admission file, which includes: high school grades, extra-curricular activities, recommendations, and a student’s essay.  However, there are some universities and colleges where tests are optional and some that don’t use test results at all. For more information on test optional colleges, go to www.fairtest.org.

    Important considerations to keep in mind:

    • Go to www.actstudent.org and www.collegeboard.org for excellent resources regarding the ACT and SAT, including practice tests (some abbreviated and some full length) and daily Question of the Day posts. 
    • To best prepare for standardized testing, students should become familiar with the testing format of the ACT and SAT by utilizing practices tests.  These can include the PSAT/NMSQT and other practice tests offered through our school. Click here for more practice test information.
    • The Preliminary SAT, also known as the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test), is a preparatory version of the SAT exam. You can only take the PSAT/NMSQT once per year, and many students take the test in both 10th and 11th grade.
    • If you earn a high score on the PSAT/NMSQT your junior year, you could qualify to receive a National Merit Scholarship - $180 million dollars in merit scholarships are awarded to students each year! Testing your skills in reading, writing, and math, the PSAT/NMSQT is 2 hours and 45 minutes long. Unlike the SAT, the  highest score possible on the PSAT/NMSQT is 1520.
    • Colleges do not see a student’s PSAT/NMSQT scores, nor are they used for admission purposes. They are simply meant to be risk-free tools to help students.
    • The College and Career Center offers practice tests throughout the school year that are open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  Our practice tests are proctored by local test prep companies.  
    • The purpose of taking practice tests is to determine whether you are more comfortable with the ACT or the SAT format. Once you have a preference, it is recommended that you focus on preparing for that test only. Try a practice test of each and decide for yourself which one you prefer.
    • Generally, students take an official ACT or SAT the spring of their junior year. We strongly recommend that students take the optional writing test when taking the official ACT or official SAT.
    • With each test administration, students can send up to four score reports to different colleges at no cost. Even if you are not yet sure which colleges you'll apply to, consider taking advantage of this free service with each test administration as it will save you a lot of money down the road!
    • Expect to take the SAT or ACT twice, unless you are satisfied with your scores on the first try.
    • There are free, low, and high cost options for test prep. Students and families should consider the best test prep strategy for them. There is a no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to the best test prep. A number of local test prep companies and tutors advertise their services in the College and Career Center so feel free to stop by and pick up flyers. 
    • For low-income students, fee waivers are available in the College and Career Center for standardized testing. This means it won't cost money to take an exam. Please contact Lisa Neumaier (lneumaier@tamdistrict.org) before registering for an official exam if you think you may qualify.
    • SAT Fee Waiver brochure
    • ACT Fee Waiver Eligibility Requirements brochure
    • To do well, become familiar with the test, get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast and arrive at the testing center early.
    • Do not spend too much time preparing for standardized testing at the expense of your high school coursework.
    • Key differences between the SAT and ACT are outlined here.
    • To learn how colleges use test scores, click here.

    SAT Subject Tests - As of 1/19/21, College Board is discontinuing Subject Tests!!

    Navigating College Admission Tests: A Presentation for Families at AWHS & Redwood

    Sophomores, juniors, and their parents were invited to join Compass Education Group on Monday, December 6, 2021 at 6:00 pm for a thoughtful and pragmatic discussion of college admission testing that will be useful to students and parents alike. 

    The following topics and more were covered:

    • COVID’s ongoing impact on college admission testing
    • Making sense of the subtlety and variety of testing policies
    • Test-optional: what’s changed and what remains the same
    • Making the best choice between the SAT and ACT
    • Finding the optimal timeline for your testing and test prep

    To access the recording, click here:


    Here are the questions and answers that came through during the 12/6/21 event.