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Test Preparation Guide

Tests are often one requirement of admission at many colleges. The SAT, ACT and other standardized tests play a part in college admissions, and in some cases, scholarship decisions. Therefore, the more you know about them, the better off you'll be.

Why are test scores so important?

When admissions officers juggle numbers around, sometimes a test score is the only objective and uniform way decisions can be made.

It's very difficult to choose students from vastly different backgrounds and different talents. Denying a student on the basis of low test scores takes away much of the pain of rejecting students, because it's done on the basis of a number, and not a personality. Test scores allow the pool of applicants to be narrowed quickly and determine placement in different college programs and course work.

GMAT is the abbreviation for the Graduate Management Admission Test. This is a computerized test created and administered by the Educational Testing Service on behalf of the Graduate Management Admission Council. This is generally a requirement for entry in to MBA programs, although some programs look only at your grade point average for admission. For those seeking entry to MBA programs, the GMAT a very important part of their business school application. Read More>>

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There are two major college entrance examinations administered in the United States today: the SAT and the ACT. Standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are designed to allow college admissions officers to judge all students by a common measurement. Scores on these tests can compensate for differences in high school curriculum, grade inflation, and quality of teaching. In addition, they serve as a reliable predictor of how you will perform academically in your freshman year of college.

Read more about the SAT from Top School .US Staff


The SAT is the most widely taken college entrance examination. It is designed to test your skill level in math, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. The test is divided into seven sections: 3 math, 3 verbal, and 1 experimental section. The math and verbal sections each have their own distinct question types, including quantitative comparisons, sentence completions, grid-ins, and more. The experimental section, used by the test developer to try out new questions, is not scored and can be either math or verbal. You will not know which section is experimental.

The SAT is scored on scale of 200-800 for both the math and verbal sections. The College Board sets the average for all test takers at 500 for each. A perfect score on the SAT is 1600. However, in recent years, fewer than 20 percent of all test takers achieve a math score of 600 or better. Fewer than 10 percent score higher than 600 on the verbal section.


The American College Testing Assessment (ACT) is designed to test your skill levels in English, math, reading, and science reasoning. On the test, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete a variety of multiple choice questions divided into four sections—one for each tested subject area. The English, reading, and science sections each include several reading passages with anywhere from 5 to 15 questions per passage. The math section includes 60 questions—each with 5 possible answer choices.

You will actually receive 12 separate scores on the ACT: 1 composite, 4 subject scores, and 7 subscores. However the composite—or scaled—score is the most important. It ranges from 1-36. Nearly half of all test takers fall in the 17-23 range.


Until recently, the ACT was required by colleges in the Midwest, while the SAT was the test of choice for schools in the Northeast and on both coasts. Now, however, most schools accept both. This increased acceptance of both exams gives students a strategic advantage. The ACT is a content-based test, whereas the SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving skills. Depending on your particular strengths and weaknesses, you may perform significantly better on one test than the other. Regardless, you should check with each of your target schools before taking either exam.

More Information

Learn More About Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions (

Copyright 2002 by Kaplan, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

Kaplan is a registered trademark of Kaplan, Inc. SAT, AP, and Advanced Placement are registered trademarks of the College Entrance Examination Board, which is not affiliated with this site. ACT is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc., which is not affiliated with this site.


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