Frequently Asked questions
Which Test should I take?

Research has indicated that many students perform quite differently when they take both the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT. It may benefit you to take both tests. Colleges typically use the higher of the two scores for admission and scholarship choices. The option is yours to take one or both of the tests. You might want to look at practice tests online or MOCK exams during the spring semester at Mission Hills to see which test seems like a better fit for you.

What is the difference between the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT?

The main differences between the two tests are as follows:

SAT Reasoning Test


Length of Test

Three hours, forty-five minutes

3 hours, plus 30 minutes for the writing sections

Content Covered

Critical Reading/Verbal

Math (up to Algebra 2)



Math (up to Trigonometry)


Science Reasoning

Writing (optional)


Scores are based on the total number of correct answers minus a guessing penalty for incorrect answers.

Verbal, Math, and Writing raw scores from 200-800 and then added together.

The highest score possible is 2400.

Scores are based on the total number of correct answers. There is no guessing penalty.

English, Math, Reading, and Science scores from 1-36 and then averaged together.

The highest score possible is 36.


Better to skip than guess - you lose points

for wrong answers.

Guess away - you don't lose points for wrong answers.

Which test do the colleges want?

While some colleges may prefer either the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT for admission, most institutions will accept either score equally. Check with your target schools about their requirements. If you have specific colleges in mind, find out from an admissions officer which test the schools require or accept.

If I want to go to a community college, do I need to take the SAT or ACT?

You do not need to take the SAT or ACT to attend a community college.

When should I take the PSAT?

The PSAT is offered once a year in October at Mission Hills High School. Students should register to take this test during their junior year in high school. It is great practice for the SAT reasoning test. It can also be used for scholarship information for all juniors that take the test.

Sophomores are encouraged to take the test if they can. Freshmen are also allowed to take the test. Check with your counselor to see if you should sign up to take the PSAT.

All registration for the PSAT is done at Mission Hills during registration and the months leading up to the test day in October.

When should I take the SAT Reasoning test or the ACT test?

Both the SAT and ACT encourage students to take the test in the spring of their junior year in high school. The tests are designed to test information that students have seen in classes completed by their junior year. You can take it before your junior year, but more than likely the best results will be seen when you wait to take the test your junior year. If you take the test in the spring of your junior year, you will have your scores and other information early enough to impact your senior year. It may help you decide if you should retake the exams or sign up for test prep.

How do I know which SAT subject tests I should take?

If the college you are interested in requires an SAT Subject test, you will want to take the SAT Subject test after you have completed the course. Most students choose to sign up and take the tests in June. It is best to check with the college you are interested in applying to find out if they have any requirements on which tests you take. There are schools that specify which tests you need, particularly if you are interested in Engineering.

How many times should I take the test?

You may take each exam as many times as you want, however, research has found that students do not significantly increase their scores after taking the test three times. Both the SAT and ACT will allow you to choose which scores you send to the college. It is best to wait and take the test your junior year and do well on it than to start taking the test your freshman year and not score well.

What if I do not score well on the test? Can I retake it?

You can retake any of the SAT or ACT tests again.

Which scores will the colleges see?

The SAT and the ACT have Score Choice, which allows you to decide which scores are sent to the schools. The SAT also has the option of having all of your scores sent to the schools so you can ensure that the highest score is given to the school to be used with your application. Colleges will use the highest score on the ACT or SAT for application purposes.

How do I register for the test?

To register for the SAT Reasoning Test or the SAT Subject Test go to the College Board website.

To register for the ACT go to the ACT website.

Do I need to study for the test?

You do not need to study for the material on the test, but it is a good idea to become familiar with the tests before you take them. There are lots of resources and materials out there to help you prepare. Some cost money, some are free. Visit the College and Career Center for study material. The following websites can also help you prepare.

SAT Reasoning


SAT Subject Test

Prep courses may help, but the degree of help depends on the student's individual strengths, weaknesses, and willingness to study.

For additional information on “prep” courses, you can check with the College and Career Center which has up-to-date information about local prep services with dates and fees.

How long are the tests?

The SAT Reasoning Test is three hours and forty-five minutes.

The ACT is three hours. If you take the optional writing portion it is an additional 30 minutes.

Each SAT Subject Area test is one hour long. You can take up to three tests at one administration time.

How do I apply for accommodations?

Students can apply for special testing accommodations if they have two sources: current, independent testing evaluation (within the past three years) and documentation of accommodations granted to them here at school to confirm a learning difference and the need for special accommodations. Your report from an independent education consultant must include an evaluation based on test results from diagnostic testing they administered and must be dated within the past three years.

If a student has registered for the PSAT with extended time in the junior year (this must be completed no later than the spring of the sophomore year), a letter qualifying the student for extended time on SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject tests will be mailed to the student from the Educational Testing Services. The original letter will be mailed to each student, and a copy will be sent to our SSD Coordinator, Sara Montooth, to become part of the student's file. Students must include a copy of this letter, or cite its SSD code in online registration, in order to test with special accommodations. Special accommodations normally suggest a student is allotted time and a half; in some cases, students qualify for extended breaks, a large-print test booklet, or are permitted to use a computer for the writing section.

A separate application must be completed if a student seeks extended time for the ACT Plus Writing, including the registration form for a particular ACT test date. Interested students should be advised that the ACT organization and College Board can prove more discretionary in their review of extended time requests and often denies requests, even when MHHS recommends extended time and documentation is provided.

Students are responsible for registering for their standardized test, with the exception of the PSAT and AP exams, which MHHS handles. When it comes time to apply for college, students also are responsible for sending score reports directly from the College Board and/or the ACT to colleges. It is worth noting that scores achieved in tests taken with accommodation look the same as those for tests taken under standard conditions, so a student testing with accommodation has the option of letting a college know about a learning difference, or not. In any case, this is a conversation to be had with your Counselor, who will always recommend that students consider the resources available on the campuses to which they are applying.


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