There are many standardized tests for high school and college-bound students. However, the PSAT, SAT, and ACT, are the most prominent tests. Kaplan offers test preparation for each. The PSAT is given to high school sophomores and juniors as a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship. The SAT is an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT is more of an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in high school. It is vital to know the significant differences between each test to determine which one is right for you. Find out which test is required by any colleges to which you intend to apply.

Components and Sections

The ACT has five components--Mathematics, Reading, Science, English, and an optional writing test. The SAT consists of ten sections-- three in mathematics, a required writing section, and three in critical reasoning. Each test is approximately three hours and 25 minutes, according to Kaplan. The PSAT mimics the SAT, "except there is no essay and Algebra II concepts are de-emphasized on the PSAT," according to Compass Prep. The PSAT exam is two hours long.


Each PSAT score scale ranges from 20 to 80, whereas each subject score on the SAT varies from 200 to 800. The scores are essentially comparable with the notable caveat that the SAT is a slightly longer test. Many students pick up new skills between taking the PSAT in their sophomore year in high school and their SAT towards senior year. The ACT score ranges from one to 36, based on the average scores from the four test sections. There is no penalty for wrong answers, unlike the SAT and PSAT.


The SAT is given at specific tests centers throughout the United States, for which students must register through the College Board. The PSAT is usually administered at a student's own high school. The qualifications for taking the PSAT are determined by the school. College counselors and school administrations can offer the PSAT on one of two dates in mid-October, according to Compass Prep. The ACT is offered six times throughout the year at specific testing locations.


Juniors who take the PSAT can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. The qualification for National Merit selection is based on a student's Selection Index, or the sum of the student's three scaled scores for math, reading, and writing. The score for commended students is set for the top 50,000 scorers. Students are eligible for scholarships as National Merit Scholars. Students with high scores on the SAT and ACT are eligible for a variety of university scholarships and college honors programs.