College Entrance Exams

Confused about which college entrance exam to take? Will SAT be the right fit you or will ACT do the job? This article will help you know all about SAT, ACT, the exam dates and a few other college entrance exams.

Updated by Shrestha Dey on 2nd March 2020

According to the National Association for College Admission Counselling (NACAC), 58.3% of colleges place considerable importance on admission tests. ACT and SAT are the two most common admission tests which are nationally recognized standardized tests. The idea behind both exams is similar: to demonstrate college readiness. But despite similar aims, the tests vary in structure and timing as well as the content matter and scoring. However, it is important to remember that both the tests are given equal importance and there is no particular advantage of taking one test over the other. 

Table of Contents:


SAT

Scholastic Assessment Test, commonly known as SAT is a tool used by colleges and universities to gauge the college - readiness of the applicants. 

Key points about the SAT:

  • There are 2 main subjects under SAT: Math ( arithmetic, geometry, algebra 1 and 2) and Evidence-Based Reading (reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage) and Writing 

  • There is also a 50 minutes optional essay which is one-third of the total in the writing section

  • The total testing time for the SAT is 3 hours 50 mins

  • The SAT test takes place 7 times per year - August, October, November, December, March, May, and June

  • It is traditionally taken in the spring of junior year and fall of senior year

  • You can obtain a maximum score of 1600; 1 score for each correct answer

  • For the essay, two graders will score the essay between 1-6 and the total score you can yield is between 2-12 points


ACT

American college test commonly known as ACT is another tool used by colleges and universities to gauge the college readiness of students who want to pursue higher education post-high school.

Key points about ACT

  • There are four main subjects under ACT: Math ( arithmetic, algebra 1 &2, geometry and limited trigonometry), Reading, English (grammar and usage) and Science

  • There is also an optional writing section under the ACT

  • The ACT is offered six times a year: September, October, December, February (except in New York), April and June

  • It is traditionally taken in the spring of Junior Year and fall of senior year

  • Each of the 4 subjects is scored on a scale between 1 to 36. 1 point is awarded for every right answer

  • Scores of each section are averaged to yield a score between 1 and 36 

  • The optional essay is scored by 2 readers who award points between 1 and 6


Other Tests - PSAT & AP

Apart from the SAT and ACT, there are other tests to assess a student’s college -readiness. Let us discuss them below:

PSAT

PSAT also is known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) is a mock test for college-bound students. However, a superior score on PSAT can lead to recognition as a National Merit Scholar during students a junior year. This scholarship offers monetary awards and looks good on a college application.

Key Points about PSAT :

  • The subjects under PSAT are: Critical Reading, Writing (vocab, grammar, and usage) & Math (arithmetic, geometry, and algebra)

  • There is no optional essay portion in the writing section 

  • PSAT is administered once a year in the month of October to Juniors since only they are eligible for the National Merit Scholarship.

  • Each subject is scored out of 80 and the maximum points that can be scored by a student are 240

  • One point is awarded for each right answer and .25 points deducted in case of a wrong answer

  • The scores are distributed to school guidance departments from the college board

Advance Placements (AP)

Advanced Placements is a college-level accelerated course taught in high school. It is offered to students to allow them to gain college credit or receive advanced placement for satisfactorily completing college-level courses in high school.

Key points about AP:

  • There are over 30 subjects under AP including various sciences, foreign languages, math and English

  • AP exams are usually held on 2nd and 3rd weeks of May

  • Students may take multiple AP exams and enroll in multiple classes in a year 

  • The AP exams are rated between 1 and 5 based on how successful the student have been in a similar course if taught in college

  • If your scores are 3 or higher, you might be eligible for course credit from colleges (varies from college to college)


Test Dates - SAT & ACT

All important SAT test dates for the year 2020-2021 is projected  in the table below:

SAT Exams Dates

Regular Registration Deadline

Late Registration Deadline

Score Release Dates

Aug 29, 2020

Jul 31, 2020

Aug 14, 2020

Sep 17, 2020

Oct 3, 2020

Sep 4, 2020

Sep 18, 2020

Oct 22, 2020

Nov 7, 2020

Oct 9, 2020

Oct 23, 2020

Nov 26, 2020

Dec 5, 2020

Nov 6, 2020

Nov 20, 2020

Dec 17, 2020

Mar 13, 2021

Feb 12, 2021

Feb 26, 2021

Apr 1, 2021

May 8, 2021

Apr 9, 2021

Apr 23, 2021

May 27, 2021

Jun 5, 2021

May 7, 2021

May 21, 2021

Jun 24, 2021

All important ACT test dates for the year 2020-2021 is given in the table below:

Act Exams Dates

Regular Registration Deadline

Late Registration Deadline

Score Release Dates

Sept 12, 2020

Aug 7, 2020

Aug 21, 2020

Sept 22; Oct 6, 2020

Oct 24, 2020

Sept 20, 2020

Oct 4, 2020

Nov 3; Nov 17, 2020

Dec 12, 2020

Nov 6, 2020

Nov 20, 2020

Dec 22, 2020; Jan 5, 2021

Feb 6, 2021

Jan 8, 2021

Jan 15, 2021

Feb 16; Mar 1, 2021

Apr 17, 2021

Mar 5, 2021

Mar 19, 2021

Apr 20; May 4, 2021

June 12, 2021

May 7, 2021

May 21, 2021

June 22; July 6, 2021

July 17, 2021

June 11, 2021

June 25, 2021

July 27; Aug 10, 2021

Please note : 

  • No test centers have been assigned in New York for the July 17, 2021 ACT test

  • The first dates of ACT score release are only for multiple-choice questions, the second dates are for the final scores

* The above dates for both SAT and ACT have projected dates. Remember to verify before making any decisions


Concluding Thoughts

Know that most four-year colleges in the United States accept both ACT and SAT scores. If you are in your junior high or senior high and college bound the information provided above will help you sort when and which test you want to take. One strategy that may help you decide which test to take is by taking the practice tests for both SAT and ACT and then see for yourself where you score better.