There are a series of tests that are required by many colleges and optional at others. No doubt you’re familiar with them: the PSAT, the SAT, the SAT Subject Tests, the ACT and TOEFL exams.
In October of junior year, students are given the PSAT, either during school hours or on a Saturday. The official name of this test is the Preliminary Scholarship Assessment Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. For most students, this can simply be thought of as a Practice SAT (PSAT), but for others this, exam and the index created by its scores will qualify a student as a Commended, Semi-Finalist, or a National Merit Scholar.
Being chosen as any of these is something about which you should be very proud; it is also a valuable advantage. Colleges will look favorably upon your application, and should you reach the status of Merit Scholar, substantial amounts of tuition money may be available for you, whether you are applying for financial aid or not.
Your PSAT results and answer sheets will be available in your Guidance Office in mid-December; definitely retrieve your score sheets so you can work on your weak areas. If you are going to hire a tutor, it would be wise to use the results to create your testing strategy. Incidentally, colleges do not see PSAT scores.
SAT Subject Tests are offered in Literature, US History, World History, Math (Levels I and II), Biology (Ecological or Molecular), Chemistry, Physics, and Languages. Each is an hour long, so you can take a maximum of three at each sitting. If your counselor and teachers recommend that you take these very rigorous tests (approximately one hundred colleges require them), you should take them as you complete the course in the corresponding subject.
ACT Tests are another version of a college admissions exams, and tests the students in areas of English, reading, math, science and writing. A college will accept either test; one is no more significant than the other.
TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is needed for students who have not been educated in English-speaking schools, that is, international students applying to US colleges.