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College Entrance Exams

Most colleges and universities require one set of scores of either the SAT or the ACT as part of the admission requirements. The SAT is a multiple-choice test that measures verbal and mathematical abilities and can help indicate how prepared a student is to do the kind of academic work most colleges require. The ACT is similar to the SAT, but also includes a science reasoning portion on the test. Some four-year schools, including the University of California system, also require the SAT II tests. These tests are one-hour content area exams, which measure knowledge on a particular subject and the ability to apply that knowledge. Some colleges require some combinations of the SAT II, allowing the student to have some choice. 

PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). The PSAT/NMSQT is a multiple-choice test that measures developed verbal, mathematical reasoning abilities, and writing skills important for academic performance in college. The PSAT/NMSQT is administered once a year only, in October, at the OCHSA campus. The test compares students with a nationwide group of students (juniors) taking the test.   PSAT/NMSQT scores can be used to estimate performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The PSAT/NMSQT is the route of entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Achievement Scholarship Program for Outstanding Negro Students, and the National Hispanic Awards Program. Students who take the PSAT/NMSQT may take part in the Student Search Service of the College Board to receive information from colleges about educational and financial aid opportunities. 

SAT  (Scholastic Assessment Test): The SAT is a multiple-choice test that measures critical reading, mathematical, and writing abilities for college entrance. The critical reading questions test vocabulary, verbal reasoning, and understanding of what one reads. The math questions test ability to solve problems involving arithmetic and geometry. The writing component of the test reinforces the importance of writing throughout the student’s education. SAT scores help indicate how prepared a student is to do the kind of academic work most colleges require. The SAT is required for college entrance by most colleges and universities. Check college catalogs for information about tests necessary for entrance as well as the number of times the test may be taken. The tests are administered seven times per year at test centers. 

SAT II which some colleges require for admissions or placement purposes, are one-hour multiple-choice tests in specific subjects. The subject tests measure knowledge of a particular subject and the ability to apply that knowledge. The subject tests should be taken as soon as possible after the last course is taken in that subject. While there are numerous subject tests offered, some colleges require various combinations of the SAT II and some allow students to choose. Check requirement of the colleges to decide which tests to take if the college requires the subject tests. There are six test dates to choose from throughout the school year. The University of California schools require applicants to submit scores from at least two SAT II exams from two different subject areas.

PLAN is a multiple-choice test that measures developed science, verbal, and mathematical reasoning abilities. It is similar to the ACT and a good predictor of how a student will perform on the ACT assessment. Additionally, it contains a career interest inventory. The assessment is for sophomores only. Students in the 10th grade are strongly encouraged to take the PLAN during their sophomore year to assist in determining if the format of the PLAN/ACT is better suited to them over the SAT assessment.

The ACT Assessment (American College Testing Program). Many colleges use the ACT as part of the admissions process. Most colleges accept either the SAT or ACT for college entrance. Check college test entrance requirement for specific information regarding required testing. The ACT can help with educational and career planning by collecting information about a student, analyzing it, and reporting it. Students provide information about themselves, the past experiences, and their abilities in the ACT Interest Inventory (part of the registration process). The student is tested in English, mathematics, reading, and science reasoning. Additionally, there is an optional writing portion, which students applying to a four-year college are encouraged to take and in some cases required to take and submit scores as part of their application.

The Student Services Office has more information concerning registration, test dates, deadlines, and cost. It is important to note that the SAT, SAT II, and ACT are three separate exams. All three are not required for college entrance. Check college catalogs for information regarding required tests and possible choices.

TOEFL(Test of English as a Foreign Language). The major purpose of the TOEFL test is to evaluate the English proficiency of people whose native language is not English. The test uses a multiple-choice format and is given in a single session of about three hours, including the time required for admitting examinees. It consists of three sections:

  1. Listening Comprehension measures the ability to understand spoken English.
  2. Structure and written Expression measures the ability to recognize language that is appropriate for standard written English.
  3. Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension measures the ability to understand non-technical reading matter.

Check the college catalog to determine if the TOEFL is required for you. For further information regarding the TOEFL, log on to

Students are encouraged to take relevant SAT II Subject Tests immediately upon completion of associated courses, particularly if the subject area is related to an intended major. Students are urged to check campus websites for the latest testing information.


National College Entrance Exam Testing Schedule

SAT: You can take either the SAT Reasoning Test or up to three SAT II: Subject Tests on a given date or testing period. Register separately for each date you plan to take tests. Admission tickets are mailed about 8 weeks before the test date. About 3 weeks after the test, score reports are mailed to you, to our Registrar’s office and to any colleges you designated.

SAT Reasoning Test & SAT II: Subject Tests
SAT I: Reasoning Test & SAT II: Subject Tests

Registration Bulletins and information on the SAT can be obtained in the Student Services Office

You can register by mail or online at

ACT Assessment and ACT Assessment Plus Writing

Registration Bulletins and information on the ACT can be obtained in the Student Services Office

You can register by mail or online at

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Testing Timelines For College Admission

Sophomores: Students may take the PSAT at our school site. Sophomores are not eligible to enter the competition for National Merit Scholarships. Students should take the June SAT II exam(s) in area(s) related to any sophomore course, if they are UC bound and strong in the course.

Sophomores should take the PLAN, which is offered, at OCSA in the fall. The PLAN scores can be used to estimate performance on the ACT Assessment. The PLAN also has a career interest inventory component.

Juniors: Students should take the PSAT in October. PSAT scores are returned to students in January. PSAT scores may help juniors:

  • Assess their ability to do college work
  • Firm up college plans with parents
  • Predict their college entrance exam scores for the SAT
  • Enter the competition for scholarships awarded by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation
  • Participate in the College Board’s Student Search Service which provides information about college and scholarship opportunities

Juniors should take the SAT and/or ACT at any of the spring test dates. The SAT/ ACT/SAT II scores may be sent to college(s) under consideration. Colleges will save scores until the student applies for admission. Students should take the SAT II in June if they are considering application to a UC campus. 

Seniors: Seniors should take the SAT or ACT in October, November, or December if still needed. The SAT II should be taken in November, if still needed. If both the ACT and SAT are taken or either test repeated, the highest total score will generally be used for college admission. Students planning to apply to competitive UC campuses should have all remaining testing completed during December.


College Admission Tests: All tests are on Saturday morning. Register by mail or online at least six weeks before the test date. Registration materials are available in the counseling office. The SAT and SAT II are given at the same time on the same date; students wishing to take both the SAT and SAT II must register for two different test dates. OCHSA’s code number for registration is 053266.

Test Preparation: The Princeton Review, the nation’s most popular SAT/ACT preparation company, hosts a vast array of free, college related events. Visit for more information.


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