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Aptitude tests are the tests designed to check a person’s ability on a particular skill or a field of knowledge. Many US colleges use aptitude test as a method of checking applicants’ ability to perform in their college. However, some colleges do not require such tests depending upon their method of evaluating applicants. This is because such colleges do not consider such tests as the real reflector of the students’ ability to perform in the college.

Aptitude tests come to be an important part of every student’s application. So performance in such tests is a matter to be serious upon. Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Test (ACT) are two popularly used aptitude tests in US colleges. Some colleges accept ACT only and some accept SAT only, whereas some other colleges accept both. In case of the colleges where such tests are mandatory, you need to send scores of the tests as a part of application package. Some colleges even have their own aptitude tests.

Here we will detail about SAT and ACT since they are used by most applicants.


The Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, is a global recognized test admitting students into colleges and universities all over the United States.

About the SAT

SAT is taken by high school students to demonstrate their prospect in the college and ability their ability to apply knowledge gained in the school for learning in the college. The SAT is owned, developed, and published by the College Board, a private, non-profit organization in the United States.


The SAT is designed to check students’ ability in reading, critical writing, and mathematics. And there are three main skill sets accordingly. The three skill sets are all assessed during the same day. The timed test lasts for 3 hours and 45 minutes excluding breaks. Within these three skill sets—reading, mathematics, and writing—there are 10 separately timed sections. Three sections of the test focus on reading, three on mathematics, and three on writing. The tenth section is a variable section that could be any one of the three subjects. This last section is not scored.

Possible SAT questions are being tested on students every year. This final section is made up of questions that a board of educators has already approved for the SAT question bank, but need to be tested on current high school students. SAT questions are constantly being changed and updated. Questions are tested on current high school students to determine whether they are learning these topics in school or not. The SAT is a test that assesses the reading, writing, and mathematical skills that students have been taught from grades Kindergarten to Grade 12 (with perhaps the exception of English if that is your second language).

Skill Sets Number of Questions Time Allotted
Evidence-based reading 52 questions 65 Minutes
Writing 44 questions 35 minutes
Mathematics 58 questions 80 minutes; 55-minute calculator-optional section and 25-minute no-calculator section

Question Content

In order to prepare for the SAT, you must know what type of questions to study for. Questions on the SAT are multiple choice, student-produced responses (in the math section) and there is an essay format as well.

Critical Reading

The critical reading section of the SAT includes reading passages and sentence completions. Passages are provided and students will be asked to answer questions about the passages. Students will also be given a sentence, and asked to choose the word that best completes the sentence. Students preparing for the SAT should prepare for these questions by studying common vocabulary words.


The multiple choice questions and student produced questions in the math sections are divided into three sections and focus on arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics, and probability. By the time this test is taken, junior or senior year in high school, a student should have taken courses covering all of these mathematical topics. A test taker is allowed to bring an approved calculator, and a reference sheet of conversions will be provided.


The writing section has multiple choice questions as well as a hand written essay portion. The multiple choice questions ask students to identify errors in sentences and passages and improve grammar and usage. The short essay is an opinion piece. A prompt is given to the test takers on the day of the test. After being given the prompt, the student has a set amount of time to write a complete short essay with a beginning, middle, and end.

Once you know the type of questions and format for each skill set assessed, you can then start to review the content. There is a SAT prep soft cover book that can be purchased at a nationally known bookstore or borrowed from your public library. This SAT prep book will give you sample tests with SAT questions used in the past. It is not the exact test that you will be taking, but a simulation of the number of questions and types of questions to expect, and will give you an accurate score of how well you did on the sample test.

SAT Registration

Registration for the SAT exam can be done online. The SAT exam is offered seven times a year in the US and six times a year internationally. The months in which the test is offered are October, November, December, January, March (U.S.A only), May, and June. The registration deadline for the SAT exam is a month prior to the date in which you plan to take it. For most, the SAT exam needs to be taken two times. In order to figure out when you need to take the test, determine the application deadlines of all the schools to which you plan to apply.

SAT Scoring

What is the SAT scoring system? Each of the three subjects tested on the SAT is scored separately, giving you three separate scores for the SAT exam. The scores are combined to form the overall SAT score. Colleges and universities look at each skill’s score separately as well as the overall SAT score.

The SAT exam gives the test taker points for getting the answer correct. One point is awarded for each question answered correctly. For wrong multiple choice answers, ¼ of a point is subtracted. For wrong student produced answers, zero points are given or subtracted. For omitted questions, a test taker does not get positive points or subtracted points, just zero points for each of the omitted questions. This being the case, students should not guess on the SAT, but rather skip questions they do not know how to answer.

Your raw score which could be between 20-80 points per each math and reading section is then converted to a scaled score (reported on a 200-800 scale) by a statistical process called equating. The writing essay portion is based on a 0-6 scale, 6 being the highest score. This score is equated to the 200-800 scale as well. Equating allows comparisons among test takers who take different editions of the test.

The American College Test (ACT)

When applying to colleges, there are numerous factors to consider, including coursework, location, size and expenses, just to name a few. However, in order to narrow down the possibilities, taking the ACT exam is beneficial, and, in some cases, required. While this exam can be both difficult and time consuming, consistency and preparation are key, and once finished, you will have a better idea of which university is right for you. Learning more about the ACT, what it is, the parts involved and how to best anticipate what to expect is not only crucial for success, but will also help to optimize your results.

What is the ACT?

The ACT exam, or American College Test, is a national standardized test that serves as a measurement of aptitude and critical thinking.


Registering for the exam can be done in two ways: online or via post. Of course, registering online is the most efficient manner. Credit cards can be used for payment. Extra charge is taken for the writing section. For additional registration fee questions, you can reference the ACT website.


The ACT exam is composed of four different sections, as well as one optional writing section. Some schools recommend taking this optional writing section, while others do not. Whether you should or not depends on the school you are applying to and what kind of programs you are applying for. It is essential to research the schools you are interested in and understand the requirements before signing up for the ACT. When in doubt, however, it might be best just to take the writing portion of the exam, as it only adds 30 minutes to the clock.

Unlike the SAT exam, the ACT has a science section, which requires additional preparation, of course. That being said, however, all the information provided in the questions is sufficient and drawing on outside knowledge is by no means necessary.

Let’s look at a basic breakdown of the ACT according to the section, number of questions and time allotted.

Section Number of Questions Time Allotted
English 75 questions 45 minutes
Mathematics 60 questions 60 minutes
Reading 40 questions 35 minutes
Science 40 questions 35 minutes
Writing (Optional) 1 prompt 30 minutes

With the exception of the Mathematics section, which offers a five-choice multiple-choice structure, the other sections are all four-choice multiple choice. The writing section is an essay prompt, and therefore does not include multiple choice style answers.

Question Content


This section primarily tests grammar & usage, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style.


Some subjects reviewed in this section include pre-algebra, elementary algebra, intermediate algebra, coordinate geometry, plane geometry, and trigonometry.


This section of the exam challenges reading comprehension based on question content. Just as with the other sections of the exam, you must deduce based on the information provided.


The science portion of the test challenges interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving.


The writing section tests just that: writing skills. It will test your ability to create and defend an argument in a clear and concise manner.

ACT Scoring

Each subject area (English, Math, Reading, and Science) is given a scaled score between 1 and 36. Those area scores are then averaged into your composite score, which also ranges between 1 and 36.

So where do those scaled scores come from? The scaled scores from 1 to 36 are converted from your raw scores on each of the subject areas. Your raw score is simply the total number of questions you answer correctly in each section. There is no point deduction for wrong answers on the ACT.


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