College Entrance Exams

Students may need to take at least one college entrance test, such as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT) exam, for admission into a four-year college. Colleges often use scores from these standardized national tests to evaluate if students are academically ready for college-level work.

To support students to take these critical college access exams, the Department of Education  offers PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test) and SAT to all its students in grades 10 and 11 as a key part of College Access for All. These tests, are free of charge when students take them on a regular school day (PSAT School Day or SAT School Day). If a student takes the SAT exam on a Saturday, the cost is $46.

By offering these exams during a regular school day, the DOE ensures that students do not miss taking these important college entrance exams.  Saturday testing be difficult for some students because of schedule conflicts, family responsibilities, financial barriers, and traveling to an unfamiliar test locations.

Who takes these tests?

Students in tenth grade take the PSAT to practice for the SAT. Students in eleventh grade take the SAT.

When are these tests given?

Students usually take the SAT twice: once in eleventh grade and often again in twelfth grade. and the College Board offers the SAT several times per year. The DOE offers PSAT and SAT School Day on a regular school day in the spring. Refer to the Testing Calendar link, or speak to your child’s school, to find the specific dates for this school year:

What is on the tests?

The PSAT is a multiple-choice test that measures a student’s reading, math, and writing skills. It has two required sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math.

The SAT is a multiple choice and optional essay test that measures a student’s reading, math, and writing skills. It has two required sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math. There is also an essay section, which is optional and not included on SAT School Day.

Most colleges do not require the essay as part of their admissions requirements. Encourage your child to research College Board website to see if college of their choice requires the essay.  If your child does need to take the essay test, they can can retake the SAT at one of the Saturday test dates.

How to Prepare for the Tests

Doing well in class is the best preparation for the PSAT or the SAT.  In addition, taking the PSAT is the best way to begin preparing for the SAT. As test day approaches, students should create a Khan Academy account for a free personalized study plan. Linking your PSAT scores to Khan Academy will provide personalized practice for the SAT. On average, students can increase their SAT score 115 points with 20 hours of Khan Academy practice.

You can also determine what Advanced Placement classes might be suitable by reviewing the AP Potential section of your PSAT score report.

Find Out More

How is the test scored?

On the PSAT, the evidence-based reading/writing section and the math sections are each scored on a scale of 160-760 for a combined score of 320 to 1520.

On the SAT, the evidence-based reading/writing section and the math section are each scored on a 200- to 800-point scale for a combined score of 400 to 1600 points. For information on interpreting your child’s test scores, see the College Board website.

How are the results reported?

Students can access both PSAT and SAT test score reports if they have a College Board account. Encourage your child to speak to their school counselor if they need assistance with creating a student  account. Students can send their SAT score to up to four colleges for free within nine days of taking the exam. After this window, there is a cost for sending scores to colleges. Speak to your child’s counselor to see if your child qualifies to send scores to an unlimited amount of colleges for free.

How are the results used?

Some colleges require SAT or ACT scores as part of the college application. In addition to college entrance exam scores, some colleges will also review your child’s grades, class rank, rigor of classes, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendations, college essays, and college interview. Many colleges look at all these elements of the application to evaluate your child’s readiness to succeed at their college. View CUNY and SUNY admissions profiles to see average SAT scores for local colleges. Speak with your child’s school counselor to determine what colleges of interest require these exams.  In addition, to learn more about the college application process please visit the College and Career Planning pages:

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