Tests for study in USA: SAT, ACT, AP, MCAT

Sunday, 02 January 2011 14:04 administrator
Print PDF

YOU want to study in a college, which offers one of the best liberal studies programmes. Or perhaps, an advanced Engineering Degree in Nanotechnology.

Better still you want to study both Philosophy and Engineering with a little bit of Economics thrown in. If that is your ambition then the USA is the country you must look at seriously.

But studies in the USA will demand that you clear one of their entrance examinations.

We review five such entrance tests:

Almost all undergraduate programmes in the US require applicants to furnish the SAT score while some may require scores on SAT Subject tests also. Previously known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the SAT is a standardised aptitude test for undergraduate students, and tests students’ knowledge of subjects that are believed to be necessary for college success: reading, writing, and Mathematics.

The SAT is typically taken by students who are in Classes 11 and 12. It tests students on their ability to use the skills and knowledge they have attained in and outside of the classroom—including how they think, solve problems, and communicate. It is believed to be one of the best predictors of how well students will do in college. It is a paper-based test and includes several different question types, including: a student-produced essay, multiple-choice questions, and student-produced responses (grid-ins). Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200-800; the maximum possible score is 2400! The SAT comprises 10 total testing sections with the three types of sections interspersed in a random fashion. For more information on the test, please check www.collegeboard.com

What you MUST know about SAT I test

  • The test is administered six times a year in India.
  • Test-takers sitting next to each other in the same session may have test books with entirely different content orders for sections two through nine (Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing).
  • Each question in a section is worth the same point irrespective of the level of difficulty – do not spend too much time on tough questions. Do the simple ones first and return to the tough ones later.
  • If you do not know the answer and can still eliminate one or two choices to make an intelligent guess, do so. However, keep in mind that there is a guessing penalty on SAT. For each wrong answer, you lose one-fourth of the points earned on a correct answer except for the student-produced answers – no point is subtracted for the wrong answer.
  • At the Test Centre, the start and end of each section is called. You will not be allowed to go back to a previously completed section.
  • Scoring for the test relies on the student’s performance in nine sections only – three each of Critical Reading, Writing or Mathematics. There is an extra section called the wild card section that can consist of Mathematics, Critical Reading or Writing questions. This section does not count and is not considered towards the SAT score. However, it is unmarked and students will not be able to differentiate it from the other sections.

Structure of the SAT I test
The writing section includes both multiple-choice questions and a direct writing measure in the form of an essay. It tests the student’s knowledge of grammar, usage and word choice. The total duration of this section is 60 minutes. The short essay measures the student’s ability to organise and express ideas clearly. The multiple-choice writing questions measure the student’s ability to improve sentences and paragraphs and, identify errors such as diction, grammar, sentence construction, subject-verb agreement, proper word usage, and wordiness.

The Critical Reading Section includes short as well as long reading passages. Questions can be based on one, or sometimes two, reading passages. This section comprises two 25 minutes sections and one 20-minute section. The Mathematics Section includes Mathematics topics in the four main areas - Number and Operations, Algebra and Functions, Geometry and Measurement & Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability. Students are allowed to use a four-function, scientific, or graphing calculator.

How do I prepare for SAT I test?
Even though this is an aptitude test, students can increase their score by preparing for the test. Also, Indian students are not very familiar with the multiple-choice examinations. So getting used to the test requires practice and time.

  • Start preparing for the test after the class 10 final examinations.
  • Plan ahead because schools set a last test date for each application period.
  • Set aside a minimum of three months for the SAT I preparation.
  • Pick a test preparation programme that combines instruction with testing and review.
  • Take a minimum of 12 full-length tests to prepare for the test; do complete tests not a few sections at a time.
  • Practice taking the test under real time conditions..


Test Dates

Registration Deadline

December 11, 2010

November 5, 2010

February 12, 2011*

January 7, 2011

April 9, 2011

March 4, 2011

June 11, 2011

May 6, 2011

The ACT test, formerly the American College Testing programme, is an alternative to the SAT test. It consists of 4 multiple-choice tests and an optional Writing Test. Math focuses on basic algebra skills through to beginning level trigonometry skills. Reading focuses on the Arts and Literature, and Science focuses on evaluation and problem-solving skills. The optional Writing Test is similar to the SAT essay question. Students must write a short essay based on an assigned prompt. The actual testing time is 2 hours and 55 minutes. The writing part takes an additional 30 minutes. Each of the tests is graded on a one to thirty-six scale, with the optional essay adding points to the total score. The test is offered in India at centres in selected cities. Not all centres are scheduled to test on every test date. Most scores are available online within 2 ½ weeks after each national or international test date.

: Subject Tests
Some schools require that you take two to three SAT Subject Tests. These are hour-long, content-based multiple-choice tests measuring knowledge of particular subjects and the ability to apply that knowledge. The advantage of taking these tests is that you can normally choose the subjects/tests that best showcase your achievements and interests. Some colleges also use the Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, History, Languages, Mathematics and Science. Each test is scored on a scale of 200-800.


  • The ACT, an achievement test, measures what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, measuring reasoning and verbal abilities.
  • The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.
  • ACT continues to offer its well-established test, plus an optional writing test. You take the ACT Writing Test only if required by the college (s) you’re applying to. The College Board introduced a new version of the SAT in 2005, with a mandatory writing test.
  • The SAT has a correction for guessing. That is, they take off for wrong answers. The ACT score is based on the number of correct answers and has no penalty for guessing.
  • You can ask the ACT to release only the record from the test date you request. SAT recently allowed this facility but it has not been accepted across colleges in the US.

The Preliminary SAT (PSAT/ NMSQT) is a programme co-sponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC). It is a standardised test that provides first-hand practice for the SAT. It also gives US citizens and permanent residents a chance to enter NMSC scholarship programmes and gain access to college and career planning tools.

The PSAT/ NMSQT measures Critical Reading skills, Math problem-solving skills and Writing Skills. It has five sections: two 25-minute critical reading sections, two 25-minute Math sections and one 30-minute writing skills section. The whole test requires two hours and 10 minutes. This test is now being administered in India and is meant to be taken by students in classes 9th and 10th. It is held in October every year.

AP Tests
The AP (Advanced Placement) tests are taken by students in various subjects to earn credit at most colleges and universities in the US as well as colleges and universities in more than 40 other countries. With a little bit of planning and effort, you can save a lot of time and money in the United States.

Students currently in Class 11or 12 can take the tests. Students passing out this year would benefit by getting credit in the freshman year. Some of the subjects in which Indian students can take the AP exams are: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Psychology, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, World History, Human Geography, English Language and Composition, United States History, Computer Science, Calculus, Statistics, Environmental Science, etc.

These tests are administered by the College Board in the month of May every year. The last date for registering for the examination is March 1. In India this test is offered at centres in New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Chennai. The fee for each AP Exam is US$86.

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardised, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking and writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, Writing Sample, and Biological Sciences. Medical colleges consider MCAT exam scores as part of their admission process. Most of the US medical schools require MCAT exam scores. It is generally taken by students who are juniors in college, that is, in their third year of study. Many schools do not accept MCAT exam scores that are more than three years old.

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardised test administered four times each year at designated testing centres throughout the world. The All American Bar Association (ABA)-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many other law schools require applicants to take the LSAT. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier—in June or September—is often advised. The test consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions. Four of the five sections contribute to the test taker’s score. The unscored section, commonly referred to as the variable section, is used to pretest new test questions or for research. The placement of this section will vary. A 35-minute writing sample is administered at the end of the test. LSAT does not score the writing sample, but copies of the writing sample are sent to all law schools to which you apply.

A structured approach can surely help you in a big way in clearing these examinations. Be focused and prepare well.

Test dates, deadlines for SAT I & II test registration for India – 2010-11

Test Dates

Test administered

Regular Registration(must be received by)

December 4, 2010

SAT & Subject Tests

November 5, 2010

January 22, 2011

SAT & Subject Tests

December 23, 2010

May 7, 2011

SAT & Subject Tests

April 8, 2011

June 4,2011

SAT & Subject Tests

May 3,2011

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 March 2011 14:17