The PSAT/NMSQT can be viewed as an audition where you get lots of helpful feedback. A two-hour and ten-minute exam, it contains verbal sections, math sections and a writing skills section. If you're never taken a College Board or similar test, this may be your first chance to see how your skills compare to those of college-bound high-school students across the country in your age group.
Because writing skills are critical no matter what you major in, a new writing skills section was added in the fall of 1997. This section tests writing skills via multiple-choice questions and includes three kinds of questions: identifying sentence errors; improving sentences; and improving paragraphs.
The SAT I measures verbal and math skills and abilities. Much of the SAT I: Verbal Test focuses on your ability to read critically. Almost half of the questions in the verbal sections are based on reading passages of 400 to 850 words that reflect the thinking and reading levels colleges will expect of you.
In some cases, a pair of reading passages on the same topic is presented. One passage will oppose, support or complement the point of view expressed in the other. You will analyze and compare the two points of view. Questions that test your verbal reasoning skills and knowledge of vocabulary are measured in the context of reading passages. Also included in the Verbal Test are analogies and sentence-completion questions. Two 30-minute sections and one 15-minute section comprise the Verbal Test.
The SAT I: Mathematics Test emphasizes your ability to apply mathematical concepts and interpret data. The use of a calculator is allowed. Ten questions ask you to produce your own answers and enter them on grids. Other questions are in a multiple-choice format.
Questions cover arithmetic, algebra and geometry, along with topics such as the slope of a line and basic statistical concepts such as mean, median and mode. The Mathematics Test includes two 30-minute sections and one 15-minute section. There is also an "equating" section that does not count toward your score.
The SAT II Subject Tests fall into six general subject areas: English (Writing and Literature); English Language Proficiency (for ESL students); History and Social Studies (American History & Social Studies and World History); Mathematics (Math Level I; Math Level IC [Calculator], Math Level IIC [Calculator]): Sciences (Biology, Biology E [ecological emphasis], Biology M [molecular emphasis], Chemistry and Physics); Foreign Languages (Chinese with Listening, French and French with Listening; German and German with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening, Latin, Spanish and Spanish with Listening).
SAT I and II are normally scheduled on the first Saturday of October, November, December, May and June, and on the last Saturday of January and March. Tests are also given on the Sunday following the Saturdays on which the test is given, with some exceptions.
Sat II exams are not part of the standard three-hour SAT I, but are usually given on the same day and at the same place. Each test lasts one hour and you can take up to three of them on a test day.
Check the PSAT/NMSQT Student Bulletin and the SAT Program Registration Bulletin for specific dates, registration and late registration dates (approximately 3-4 weeks before test date), fax registration and standby policy.
To register for the SAT, you can also turn to College Board online www.collegeboard.org . This site will help you to learn about various careers; get on top of the college planning process; download software to practice SAT questions; estimate college costs; look for scholarships; apply to colleges; look through the College Board store and much more.