College Admissions Standardized Tests


What is a “good score” on the ACT or SAT?

The ACT has a scale of 1-36; the national average for the Class of 2008 was 21.1. The SAT is scored on a 400-1600 scale.   The national average SAT score for the Critical Reading test was 502, the Math national average was 515, and the Writing Skills national average was 494. Different colleges have different standards: what is acceptable for one may not be acceptable for another. College literature, guidebooks, and college web sites give average ACT and SAT scores for colleges. Some colleges still use the critical reading and the math scores, and more colleges each year are using all three scores.

What is the difference between the ACT and SAT?

In general the ACT is a content-based test, whereas the SAT is more of a critical thinking skills and problem solving test.

  • The ACT includes a science section; the SAT does not.
  • The SAT includes Data Analysis
  • The SAT includes non-calculator use sections: the ACT does not.
  • The SAT is not entirely a multiple-choice test.
  • The SAT has 5 reading passages; the ACT has 4 reading passages

Why do colleges require an entrance exam, and how do they use its results?

Standardized test scores provide an “equalizer” for colleges as they make decisions. High schools offer differing levels of academic preparation. A “B” in one course at one high school might be much harder to earn than an “A” in a neighboring high school. In addition to determining admissibility, colleges use ACT and SAT for placement, to award course credit, for academic advising, in talent search programs, and for awarding scholarships.

Do all colleges require college admissions tests?

No. Howard Community College does not require an ACT or SAT score; however, it is recommended that students take the exam, because it may exempt them from taking the academic placement tests. In addition, here are some 4-year colleges that have gone to a "test optional" policy.

Do colleges prefer the SAT over the ACT scores?

No, both tests are accepted by all colleges and universities throughout the United States.

How do colleges receive a student’s test scores?

  • ACT and SAT - Students can request that scores be sent to four colleges at the time of registration for tests.
  • Additional score reports can be requested by the student to be sent to colleges by submitting a request online through or for an additional charge.

Should Students Take Multiple ACT and SAT tests?

Students and parents question the advisability of taking the ACT and SAT a second or third time. It is the impression of students that a second test will result in a higher score. The result of our surveys of recent classes agrees with the research conducted by the ACT and SAT testing companies. Re-testing results in higher scores about 50% of the time. If you decide to take a test multiple times, it is beneficial to do some practice on your own before the exam. Colleges utilize the best score that they receive from a student regardless of the number of tests taken. For the SAT, colleges will usually take the highest score from each of the sections: Crtical Reading-Math-Writing. For the ACT, colleges use the composite score only.