St. Mary Catholic High School


During a student’s high school career, a variety of tests are used to help determine his or her interests and strengths, as well as to determine preparedness for post-secondary education. PLAN and PSAT testing programs are managed through this department for sophomores and juniors. The Guidance Office also distributes and provides information regarding the ACT and SAT. was created with a federal grant which students can study for their ACT and SAT exams for free on a state website. This site has tutorials and interactive practice sessions for the two college entrance exams.

The most commonly used tests are described below. Click on the name of a test in the text for a link to the test’s website.


PSAT/NMSQT stands for Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is a standardized test that provides firsthand practice for the SAT Reasoning Test. It also gives students a chance to enter National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) scholarship programs.

The PSAT/NMSQT measures:

  • critical reading skills
  • math problem-solving skills
  • writing skills

The PSAT is administered in the fall of a student’s junior year of high school.

The most common reasons for taking the PSAT/NMSQT are:

  • to receive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses on skills necessary for college study. You can then focus your preparation on those areas that could most benefit from additional study or practice.
  • to see how your performance on an admissions test might compare with that of others applying to college.
  • to enter the competition for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (grade 11).
  • to help prepare for the SAT. You can become familiar with the kinds of questions and the exact directions you will see on the SAT.
  • to receive information from colleges when you check “yes” to Student Search Service.


The ACT Test ©, which was originally known as the American College Test, provides an indicator of college readiness by assessing high school students general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. It consists of both a multiple choice and written portion.

The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas, and each section receives a separate score, with scores ranging from 1 to 36. The composite score is the average of all four test score. The four areas tested are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science

The optional writing test is scored separately and measures a student’s skill in planning and writing a short essay. Writing scores range from 2 to 12. Also included are a “combined English/writing score” ranging from 1 to 36 (based on the writing score and English score), and one to four comments on the essay from the essay scorers. The writing score does not affect the composite score.

Quick facts about the ACT©:

  • The ACT© is the most widely accepted test for college admission.
  • Each year, more colleges and universities that require an ACT score as part of their application process are requesting the writing test as well.
  • The ACT is not an aptitude or an IQ test. Instead, the questions are directly related to what students have learned in high school courses in English, mathematics, and science.
  • Because the ACT tests are based on what is taught in the high school curriculum, students are generally more comfortable with the ACT than they are with traditional aptitude tests or tests with narrower content.
  • The unique interest inventory that provides valuable information for career and educational planning.
  • The student profile section provides a comprehensive profile of a student’s work in high school and his or her future plans.


The SAT is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is administered by the not-for-profit College Board Corporation in the United States, and is developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The SAT measures critical thinking skills that are needed for academic success in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. SAT consists of three major sections: mathematics, critical reading and writing. Each section receives a score on the scale of  200-800. All scores are multiples of 10. Total scores are calculated by adding up scores of the three sections.