Francis T. Maloney High School

Standardized Test Info: The PSAT, SAT, and ACT

What is the PSAT?

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) measures the skills your student has developed over the course of his or her education. These include:

  • Critical reading skills
  • Math problem-solving skills
  • Writing skills

The PSAT/NMSQT is the best preparation for the SAT. Students take the test in the 11th grade to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation's scholarship programs. Students can also benefit from taking the test in the 10th grade or sooner because they'll get personalized feedback on the academic skills needed for college. By taking the test before the 11th grade, students have more time to develop these skills and to begin the college planning process.

In addition, the PSAT/NMSQT allows students to:

  • Qualify for scholarships
  • Compare scores with other college-bound students in the country
  • Forecast SAT scores
  • Get free information from colleges and scholarship programs through the Student Search Service®
  • Use My College QuickStart™ to plan ahead for their future college and career

What is the SAT Test?

The SAT is a globally recognized college admissions test that lets you show colleges what you know and well you can apply your knowledge in a college setting. It tests student knowledge in critical reading, math problem-solving, and writing. Most students take the SATs during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SATs to make admissions decisions.

Taking the SATs is your first step in finding the right college for you. But SAT scores are just one of many factors that colleges consider when making admissions decisions. High school grades are also very important. In fact, the combination of high school grades and SAT scores is the best predictor of your academic success in college.

What is the test like?

The SAT is a 3-hour and 45-minute test that measures the critical thinking, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills that students need to do college-level work.

The test's three sections are divided into nine subsections individually timed sections, including a 25-minute essay.

The different test sections and what they measure are outlined as follows:

Section Tests Ability To…
Critical Reading (3 sections)
  • Understand and analyze what is read
  • Recognize relationships between parts of a sentence
  • Understand word meaning in context
Mathematics (3 sections)

Solve problems using:

  • Algebra and functions
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Numbers and operations
  • Data analysis, statistics, and probability
Writing (3 sections)
  • Use standard written English
  • Identify sentence errors
  • Write an essay and develop a point of view

The SAT II (Subject) Tests are one-hour multiple-choice tests, designed to show your student's knowledge, and ability to apply that knowledge, in specific subject areas.

What is the ACT?

The ACT consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The ACT Writing Plus includes the four multiple-choice tests, and a writing test.

Test # of Questions Minutes Long Content
English 75 45 Measures standard written English and rhetorical skills
Mathematics 60 60 Measures mathematical skills students have typically acquired in courses taken up to the beginning of grade 12
Reading 40 35 Measures reading comprehension
Science 40 35 Measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences
Optional Writing Test 1 prompt 30 Measures writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and entry-level college composition courses