Search
Close this search box.

College Test Prep

HOW DO THE TESTS COMPARE?

Explore The Differences Between SAT & ACT

COLLEGE TEST PREP

PSAT

The PSAT (Preliminary Standardized Achievement Test) gives students firsthand practice for the SAT. The test allows students to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in Math and English and is designed to help students become familiar with the questions that they will see on the SAT. The PSAT offers a National Merit Scholarship to those students that do exceedingly well, typically in the top 5%. Students who feel that they may be in contention for a National Merit Scholarship might consider additional preparation before the test. The test is given in October of a student’s junior year. The test can also be taken for even more practice in October of a student’s Freshman or Sophomore year.

  • Takes place October of sophomore year (Practice PSAT) and October of junior year (Actual PSAT).
  • Purpose: Qualifies you for National Merit distinctions: semifinalist, finalist and scholarship opportunity.
  • Overall: The content is more evidence and context-based, featuring real world scenarios and data analysis. Emphasized skills include depth of analysis, interpretation of a word or idea in context, and multi-step problem solving.
  • Takes place October of sophomore year (Practice PSAT) and October of junior year (Actual PSAT).
  • Purpose: Qualifies you for National Merit distinctions: semifinalist, finalist and scholarship opportunity.
  • Overall: The content is more evidence and context-based, featuring real world scenarios and data analysis. Emphasized skills include depth of analysis, interpretation of a word or idea in context, and multi-step problem solving.
  • The SAT is a slightly more difficult test due to some content.
  • The two scoring scales coincide with one another, but the PSAT is shifted down to account for its differences in difficulty level.
  • No penalty for wrong answers. Do not leave any questions blank. 
  • Writing & Language: Focuses on the meaning and connotation of a word within the context of a passage. Grammar asks you to revise sentences within the context of passages, not as stand-alone sentences.
  • Math: Focuses more on algebra and data analysis and less on geometry. The geometry problems that are still there will ask one to solve problems involving area, volume, or line, angle, and triangle theorems. This section emphasizes understanding literary terms and elements, depth of analysis and interpretation, and working knowledge of various mathematical concepts. The math sections expect you to back up your answers with evidence, whether it is from a passage or chart, and to understand the relationships among words and numbers.

Scoring

How is the PSAT test scored?

Math 160 – 760
Reading/Writing 160 – 760
Writing 320 – 1520

Time Breakdown

How long is the PSAT test?

Total: 2 hours & 14 minutes – 98 questions

  • Reading & Writing: 64 minutes – 54 questions
  • Math: 70 minutes – 44 questions

Cost

What does the PSAT test cost?

Free 

COLLEGE TEST PREP

PRE-ACT

The ACT is a national college admissions examination that is accepted by all 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. The ACT is administered 6 times a year. Some students who do not do well on the SAT find that they score better on the ACT and vice versa. Although the ACT is more widely used in the Midwestern and Southern States, it has been gaining increased popularity on the East Coast.

  • Will be offered in the fall 
  • PSAT only offered during October, whereas the Pre-ACT can be offered at different points during the school year
  • Can be administered any time between September 1st and June 1st. 
  • Offered to 10th grade students only
  • Goal: Prepare Sophomores for the full-length ACT
  • Difference from the PSAT: The PSAT tells you how you would have fared on the SAT. The Pre-ACT will predict your performance on the ACT
  • Length of the exam: 1 hour and 55 minutes 
  • Pre-ACT has an English, Math, Reading and Science section, but no writing portion
  • The Pre-ACT allows for direct score predictions and is scored very similar to the regular ACT, on a scale from 1-35 for the Pre-ACT and 1-36 on the ACT
  • Pre-ACT will provide valuable insights on college and career readiness to students, educators and schools while students still have time to make adjustments and improve
  • The paper-based Pre-ACT is patterned after the ACT, using the same types of test questions, same score scale, and same format. It is designed to model the ACT test experience, providing students with the ultimate preparation and practice.
  • Cost of the exam: $12 dollars per student. 
  • PSAT releases scores 6 weeks after testing, whereas the Pre-ACT releases scores within two weeks of taking the test
  • If you plan on taking the ACT it is recommended you consider taking the Pre-ACT in 10th grade

SAT (Digital)

ACT

Total Sections

4

4

Totla Questions

98

215

Weight of Math

50%

25%

Calculator Usage

Yes

Yes

Scoring

Combined Score: 400-1600 (sum of 2 scores):

  • Reading & Writing: 200-800
  • Math: 200-800

Composite Score: 1-36 (average of 4 sections):

  • English: 1-36
  • Math: 1-36
  • Reading: 1-36
  • Science: 1-36

Answer Choices

4 per question

4 per question

5 (math only)

Total Length of Test

2 hours & 14 minutes

2 hours & 55 minutes

Format

Section 1: Reading/Writing – 27 questions – 32 minutes

Section 2: Reading/Writing Adaptive (Easy module or Hard Module) – 27 Questions – 32 minutes

Section 3: Math – 22 questions – 35 minutes

Section 4: Math Adaptive (easy Module or Hard Module) – 22 questions – 35 minutes

Section 1: English – 75 questions – 45 minutes

Section 2: Math – 60 questions – 60 minutes

Section 3: Reading – 40 questions – 35 minutes

Section 4: Science – 40 questions – 35 minutes

Reading Content

Questions on the Reading and Writing section represent one of four content domains—Craft and Structure, Information and Ideas, Standard English Conventions, and Expression of Ideas.  The passages represent the subject areas of literature, history/social studies, the humanities, and science.

Comprised of four passages:

1 Prose Fiction, 1 Social Science, 1 Humanity, and 1 Natural Science. Contains 4 Passages

Math Content

Algebra, Advanced Math, Problem Solving & Data Analysis, Geometry & Trigonometry

Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry and Trigonometry

English/Writing Content

See “Reading Content”

Grammar and sentence correction. Revise a passage of writing according to standard English grammar and punctuation, rhetoric, and structure. Vocabulary not emphasized.

Science Content

None

Six passages, testing reading/interpretation of graphs/formulas and charts. Not a test of science knowledge.

Reading Question Types

Information and Ideas:  Measures comprehension, analysis, and reasoning skills and knowledge and the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, and integrate information and ideas from texts and informational graphics (tables, bar graphs, and line graphs).

Craft and Structure: Measures the comprehension, vocabulary, analysis, synthesis, and reasoning skills and knowledge needed to understand and use high-utility words and phrases in context, evaluate texts rhetorically, and make connections between topically related texts.

Focuses on reading comprehension. Main Idea, Vocab-in-Context, Inference, Detail-Oriented. Questions do not follow a specific pattern with less time per question.

English/ Writing Question Types

Expression of Ideas: Measures the ability to revise texts to improve the effectiveness of written expression and to meet specific rhetorical goals.

Standard English Conventions: Measures the ability to edit text to conform to core conventions of Standard English sentence structure, usage, and punctuation.

Has almost double the amount of questions. Focuses on usage and mechanics questions, which cover sentence structure, grammar and punctuation. Includes main idea questions.

Math Question Types

Algebra: Linear equations, linear functions, systems of equations & linear inequalities

Advanced Math: Equivalent expressions, nonlinear equations, systems of equations & nonlinear functions

Prob. Solving & Data Analysis: Ratios, rates, proportional relationships & units, percentages, one & two-variable data, probability & conditional probability, inference from sample stats and margin of error, evaluating statistical claims

Geo & Trig: Area & volume formulas, lines, angles & triangles, right triangles & trig, circles

1/4th of the questions are geometry or trigonometry. No formulas are provided. Greater amount of topics such as; logarithms, graphs of trig functions, and matrices.

Science Question Types

None

Test reasoning more than knowledge, and the ability to interpret tables, graphs, and charts in the context of topics from these fields: Biology, physics, chemistry & earth/space science.

The Benefits of Experience

Experience The Difference JumpStart Can Make!