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About three million high school students each year take either the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) or the American College Testing Assessment (ACT) because approximately 78 percent of colleges and universities require one of these tests as part of their admission process.
SAT--This test has 138 questions, divided into verbal and math sections. There are 5 thirty-minute sections and 2 fifteen-minute sections. The verbal section consists of 19 sentence completions, 19 analogies dealing with word meanings, and 40 reading comprehension questions. The math portion includes 60 questions on arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The two sections are scored separately on a scale of 200 to 800. Currently the nation's three hundred most selective colleges seek a combined score of higher than 1200. Fewer than 10 percent of students score above 1300.
ACT--Administered to the majority of college-bound juniors and seniors in thirty-eight states, it is the more popular of the two major college entrance exams. This test is divided into four sections--English, reading, mathematics, and science reasoning--with subsections that include subjects such as English grammar usage, rhetorical skills, and trigonometry. Each section is scored on a scale of 36 points, then integrated into a composite score, the mathematical average of the four sections. The mean for this test is 20.7; only a very small percentage of students score above 30.
Colleges use these tests as measures to predict the success students will have in college. The ACT Assessment User Handbook (1991) says the program is constructed "to measure as directly as possible [the] mastery of knowledge and skills required for success in college studies." Several studies have shown the ACT composite scores to be a reliable predictor of the first year of college student grade point averages and the subscores for the specific tests to be valuable in predicting specific course performance. The following are some suggestions for taking the entrance exam.
In addition, well-developed verbal skills give a child an advantage in standardized tests, in college admission, in all college course work, and in future life work. The following are some practical suggestions about how to develop this crucial commodity.