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ACT/SAT Test Prep


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FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions

1. When should I take an ACT/SAT?

  • You should take the ACT and/or SAT at least once during your junior year of high school. Most students take their choice of test once or twice their junior year and once in the fall of their senior year. You have until December of your senior year to test. Exception: Early Action and Early Decision Programs

2. Which test should I take?

  • You should try to take the PSAT and PreACT to gain practice and to get a feel for both tests. If you are unable to take these practice tests, you can find free practice tests online at the College Board and ACT websites. These practice tests will help you to determine which test is right for you. See chart below to see the main structural differences.


3. Do I have to take an ACT/SAT?

  • If you want to apply to a 4 year college right out of high school, you should take an ACT or SAT test. Community colleges (2 year colleges) do not require an SAT/ACT for admission. If you are unsure what your college path will be, we recommend you take one of these tests. Keep your options open.

4. Do I have to take the optional writing section?

  • Yes!!! Always take the optional writing section. Many colleges require it.

5. How many times can I take the SAT/ACT? Will the colleges see all my scores?

  • You can take these tests as many times as you would like, however it is the best strategy to prep well and test 2-3 times.

  • You get to decide what scores you send colleges. Some colleges will super-score your tests (combine the highest scores from different sections and test date sittings). Most of the CSU's will super score. The UC’s will only look at the highest overall score from one sitting.

6. Do I have to pay to take the ACT/SAT?

  • Yes, there is a registration fee ($50). However, if you cannot afford to take the test come see us to check if you qualify for a fee waiver

7. Do I need to take the SAT Subject Tests?

  • SAT Subject Tests are exams designed to test knowledge in a specific subject area such as math, biology, chemistry, or US history.  The SAT Subject Tests are required by many highly selective schools. The CSU's do not require them. The UC's do not require Subject Tests, however they recommend them for specific majors (Engineering and Sciences). If you decide to take Subject Tests, always take the Math 2 and another subject of your choice that is closely related to your college major. 

8. How long does it take to get my scores back?

  • 2-4 weeks.

9. What is a good score?

  • It totally depends on where you want to attend college. For ex: a 25 on the ACT might be a high enough score to ensure admission to one college, but at another college, it is considered low. Come check with us and we can help you determine what score you need to shoot for based on your college goals.

10. How do I register for the ACT/SAT?

Register online at:


11. How do I prepare for the SAT/ACT?

  • Preparation is very important - Handouts in the College and Career Center

    • Free Online SAT/ACT Prep (handout with free online prep resources)

    • Naviance Online Test Prep Course - FREE (log in to your Naviance account and get started at any time)

    • Local Test Prep Companies (handout with a list of private test prep tutors)

SAT & ACT Prep

The SAT is an important test!

It's different from the tests that you're used to taking in school. However, don’t worry, the SAT is a predictable test and can be well prepared through practice. Preparing for the SAT is like studying for any tests. You need to review the test’s format and become familiar with its content. Here are some options for preparing:

Free Online Prep

I Need A Pencil:
Khan Academy:
Dome SAT: 


Schools That Do Not Use SAT or ACT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs

Fair Test

SAT Reasoning Test & ACT

The SAT Reasoning Test (previously called SAT I): The California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems and most private colleges require the SAT Reasoning Test or the ACT, which must include the writing exam, be taken for college admission. Most colleges accept either exam or both. The UC system also requires SAT Subject Tests (see below). The SAT Reasoning Test is made up of three sections: Critical Reading, Mathematics (includes Algebra 1, Geometry & Algebra 2), and written English. Therefore, it is recommended that students complete Algebra 2 by the Spring Semester of their Junior year so they are prepared for the May or June SAT Reasoning Test.

The ACT also offers an optional section that evaluates written English. Sign-up to take the writing section as it is also required by the UC/CSU systems and most private colleges. The ACT also has sections for Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. ACT registration packets are available in the Counseling & Career Resource Center. October through June ACT tests are given locally at Soquel High School. Soquel’s Test Center Code is 208-210. When applying, have scores sent to us by indicating SVHS’s High School Code of 053-598 so the results can be added to the SVHS transcript.

NOTE: Showing test scores on transcripts is appreciated by universities, but they are considered unofficial. All universities will require that official results be sent to them directly from the testing company. Also, if a student is applying to universities that require SAT Subject Tests (previously called SAT IIs), they must be taken in addition to the ACT.

> See SAT vs ACT document

When should the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT tests be taken?
Students generally take the SAT Reasoning Test and/or the ACT test (plus the Writing Test) by the spring semester of the Junior year. We often recommend that Sophomores take it in the spring semester as practice, especially those who have completed Algebra 2 in the 10th grade. Since the PSAT, given every October, is the qualifying exam for National Merit Scholarships, taking the SAT Reasoning Test in the spring of 10th grade could be excellent practice to optimize ones chances for a coveted merit scholarship. In general, test scores will improve by taking challenging college preparatory classes and retesting is best after completing additional courses or after taking specific steps intended to improve test-taking skills.

NOTE: Those Juniors who intend to apply for the UC Scholars program, which requires a 3.8 weighted GPA and a score of 1250 on the Math and Reading portions of the SAT Reasoning Test, should take the SAT Reasoning Test by May their Junior year so UCSC has it when reviewing UCSC Scholar Applications in June.


SAT Subject Tests - (previously SAT II)

Two SAT Subject Tests in different academic areas are required by some private colleges and recommended by some UC's and should be taken by the spring semester of the Junior year. Up to three subject tests can be taken on any given test date (check the testing schedule for availability of specific Subject Tests). The only Subject Test for Mathematics that counts is the Math Level 2 (Math Level 1, which covered Math through Algebra 2, is now included in the new SAT Reasoning Test.)

When should the SAT Subject Tests be taken?
Since the SAT Subject Tests are testing acquired knowledge, the rule of thumb is that these tests should be taken in January or June at the completion of the most advanced course the student intends to take in that subject area. For instance, regardless of grade level, if a student completes Honors Physics in the fall semester, s/he should take the SAT Subject Test for Physics in January of that year, while acquired knowledge is still fresh.

How does one know what to take?
Since both subject tests are the student’s choice, in general students should take the tests in areas of their academic strength. A student’s intended major might dictate what at least one of the tests should be. For instance, if the student plans to pursue a major in engineering, the college might stipulate that it would like to see a subject test in Chemistry and/or Physics and Math Level 2, which includes Trigonometry and above. If a student has taken advanced classes in a World Language, it might be a good idea to illustrate through the SAT Subject Test his/her proficiency in their second language. English Literature or U.S. History might be good choices if these subjects are areas of academic strength. Multiple SAT Subject Tests may be taken. The universities will use the two highest scores in different academic areas.


SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Test - Practice Booklets:

The College Board has always provided booklets called “Taking the SAT Reasoning Tests” and “Taking the SAT Subject Tests,” to help students prepare for the SAT tests. Both booklets (available in the Scotts Valley High School Counseling & Career Resource Center) give examples of test questions and test-taking tips. We recommend that you use the College Board’s website for their most up-to-date resources.


Registration Packets

For SAT Reasoning Test, SAT Subject Tests, and ACT exams, registration packets are available in the Scotts Valley High School College & Career Resource Center. Registration for the SAT may be accomplished by mail or on-line through the College Board’s web site: The website for ACT is


Test Prep Courses

The best way to prepare for all college entrance and placement exams is to take the most challenging college preperatory courses offered at SVHS. Many students also benefit from test preparation courses, study guides, and taking practice tests.


Special Accommodations

Students requiring testing accommodations because of a physical or learning disability must make special application to the ACT and SAT programs. Because extensive documentation and local administrative sign-off is required, the application process needs to be initiated well before test registration deadlines. In fact, if classroom accommodations were not in place and being used in high school classes since the student began high school, it is possible the testing accommodations will not be allowed. See your student's counselor for more information.


Retesting and last date to test

If you think you need to re-take tests to improve scores, the last chance is in the Fall of your Senior year. Seniors applying to the UC or CSU systems should have all testing completed by the December test dates to meet application deadlines. Some colleges, such as; Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, San Diego State, and Long Beach State indicate that the last test they will accept is the October test date. Check college websites to confirm individual testing deadlines.

Begin Preparation Early - take the psat

Begin preparation early and get diagnostic feedback on your skills by taking the PSAT.
PSAT/NMSQT is a standardized test that students are encouraged to take in their Junior year. Some students take the exam in the Sophomore year. The PSAT is used to qualify students for National Merit Scholarship program of recognition and college scholarships. The PSAT provides practice for the SAT, the college entrance qualifying exam. Students are notified regarding registration for the PSAT through the Daily Bulletin.

Some commonly asked questions:

Why should students take the PSAT/NMSQT?
The PSAT/NMSQT is the best preparation for the SAT Reasoning Test. Students in eleventh grade who take the test and meet other program entry requirements may enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs. Most important, the PSAT/NMSQT is a comprehensive tool that gives valuable feedback to both the student and the school. All students who take the PSAT/NMSQT will receive an official Score Report. They will receive scores in critical reading, mathematics, and writing skills and will see how their scores compare to those of other students across the country. Through a question-by-question review of answers, students will be able to see which answers they got right or wrong. They will also receive a personalized statement of specific academic skills that need attention along with suggested steps to improve those skills. Students will receive free information from colleges and universities by using My CollegeQuickStart to access free resources and information about college and career planning.

Who should take the PSAT/NMSQT?
Typically, students take the PSAT/NMSQT in the Junior year of high school. It is also beneficial for Freshmen and Sophomore students to take the test to get a head start on improving academic skills needed for success in college and beyond.

How many times may a student take this test?
Only once a year, but there is no limit to how many years a student may participate. If students do not do well on the test will it hurt their chances of getting into college? Absolutely not. If anything, the PSAT/NMSQT will improve their chances, since it provides personalized information on the types of skills that the student needs to improve to prepare for the SAT and college. PSAT/NMSQT scores are NOT sent to colleges.

When may we expect to see the results from the PSAT/NMSQT?
Schools will receive Score Reports in December and will notify students regarding when, where, and how to get their individual reports. Schools also receive an extra copy for the student’s file.

See your Counselor if you have any further questions.

Community college assessment tests

If you plan to go to a community college, you must take assessment tests in Writing, Reading Comprehension, and Mathematics to enroll. These exams are used to determine which courses you are eligible to take. It is important to review and take practice tests to do your best on the assessment tests so you don’t have to repeat curriculum that you already know. SVHS Seniors will have a specific date set aside to test at the Cabrillo Assessment Center. Call the Assessment Center at 479-6165 for an appointment if you miss the SVHS test date.