You’ve taken the SAT and remember taking the PSAT a few years ago. Your best friend just took the ACT, and you both took the ASVAB.
So what are all these tests and what are they for?
Though each test assesses something different, they are all used as one way colleges and counselors can see where you measure up to other students in your age group. Some are used to give you feedback on your readiness for college, while others help you understand your interests and strengths.Preparing for college
The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, or PSAT, is administered to high school sophomores and juniors (and even freshmen and seventh and eighth graders, in some cases). According to CollegeBoard.com, PSAT scores give students feedback on strengths and weaknesses of skills necessary for college study, which can then help them prepare for the SAT.
The Scholastic Aptitude Test, better known as the SAT, is a standardized test high school juniors and seniors take before applying to college. These scores are submitted to colleges and universities, along with GPAs and transcripts, for review.
The ACT, originally known as the American College Test, is also taken by juniors and seniors before applying to college. Most four-year colleges and universities, depending on their location, require either ACT or SAT test results for admission, although a growing number no longer require them. (To find out more about who does and does not require such standardized test scores, check the institutions you’re interested in attending.)
High school sophomores have the option to take the ACT PLAN test to prepare for the ACT test. In fact, many U.S. schools actually require all their sophomores take the PLAN to give some foundation to their academic planning.
Though the PLAN is much like the PSAT is to the SAT in how one can get an idea of how well they’ll do on the following test, it also features a non-academic interest inventory that, when teamed up with one’s academic results, can offer students possible fits into the world of work. Students can then use this information to learn more about certain career areas and/or begin registering for courses that can get them ready for such career areas.
“Both tests are excellent, and we don’t recommend one over the other. In fact, we recommend both of them,” said Beth, a high school guidance counselor from Virginia (who requested that her last name be withheld for this article), regarding the SAT and ACT. “If a student doesn’t achieve the score they want for their dream school, they can prepare and retest. We recommend that students take the standardized tests 1 to 3 times. The first will give you a baseline, and the others will allow you to see if your scores improve.”Discovering your interests
In addition to standardized tests of aptitude, which measure individuals’ academic levels, students can take interest inventories like the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
According to Military.com, the ASVAB is the most widely used multiple-aptitude test battery in the world. It measures students’ strengths, weaknesses, and potential for future success. Scores from this test typically provide students with career information for civilian and military occupations. Each branch of the military requires a different minimum score for acceptance.
“Interest aptitude tests are good for looking at interests and strengths when planning college/career majors,” Beth said. “Some students don’t know what they want to do ‘when they grow up,’ and these tests can help guide students into a particular area of interest.”