Part 12: College Testing

By Luke Denne, Transitional Guidance Counselor


            From elementary, to middle, to high school, high stakes standardized testing has become more and more important in determining a student’s educational success.  Evidence of this can be seen in the college entrance exams that students are required to take in order to be admitted into a college or university.  There are two different tests that students can choose from in order to gain their admission.  The first test is called the ACT, which originally stood for American College Testing but was shortened to ACT in 1996 in order to better reflect the broad range of programs that the company provides.  The second test named the SAT also went through a name change in 1993.  Originally the test was called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, but has since been changed to the SAT which is an umbrella for the SAT I Reasoning Test, and the SAT II Subject Test.

            It is very important for prospective students to do their research on the colleges and universities that they are interested in attending.  Each institution is different and the requirements may vary depending on the admission standards.  Some schools may accept scores from the ACT, some may prefer the SAT, and many will accept both the SAT and ACT.  The admissions departments at the individual schools will set the standards for general acceptance into their school.  Another important use for these college entrance exams is qualification for scholarships that are often offered through the schools, individual states, or private businesses.  One of the more publicized scholarships in the State of West Virginia is called the Promise Scholarship.  Like many other scholarships, the Promise program is contingent upon grade point average and also ACT or SAT scores. 

            As a guidance counselor I am often asked by students, “How can I prepare for these tests?”  Many times my response is that they are already preparing for these tests by taking a rigorous schedule of college preparatory classes.  Higher-level courses such as Honors and Advanced Placement high school classes give students the background that they will need to succeed at this next level of education.  For those students that are not enrolled in Honors or AP classes there is no need to worry.  There are literally thousands of books, computer programs, and extra prep classes that can help students to prepare for the SAT and ACT.  Just take a walk through the School/Study section of any bookstore.  The amount of time and money a person spends on the test preparation and materials is a matter of personal preference.  In my opinion, a good place to start is in your school’s guidance office.  Your counselors will be able to supply you with materials straight from the testing companies.

            Students can also get a good idea of what the tests are like by taking the practice tests that are provide by the ACT and SAT companies.  The West Virginia Department of Education should be applauded for promoting this in recent years.  In fact they have picked up the tab and are paying the fee for each student in the tenth grade to take the ACT Plan test.  This allows parents and students to get an idea of how they will fare on the ACT when they take it in their junior and senior years of high school.  Students also have the option of taking the PSAT test.  This is usually administered to juniors but some schools have started testing sophomores and freshman.  It’s never too early to start preparing!

            For more information contact your school’s guidance office or visit these websites: Making it Count....Overview of testing timeline and information ACT College Entrance Exam..... Test Dates and registration information Collegeboard.Com (SAT).....College source for student opportunities ACT - GRE - SAT Test Prep..... Free service for preparing for taking tests Practice Tests..... Free online practice test site


Additional Resources:


All "College Tips" columns are available at



Wired Scholar 


The Princeton Review at


American Education Services (1-304-345-7211; or toll free: 1-800-437-3692)


Mineral County Technical Center at

Eastern Community and
Technical College at (304-434-8000; or toll free: 1-877-982-2322)

Potomac State College of West Virginia University at or (304-788-6820 or toll free: