PSAT/NMSQT. The Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, usually just called the PSAT, is the first exam students take. It is both a practice exam and scholarship competition. As a practice exam it gives students who plan on taking the SAT Reasoning Test a peek into what to expect from the real thing. As a scholarship competition, it qualifies students for consideration for much-coveted National Merit Scholarships, awarded annually by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation to a handful of students from each state.
SAT Reasoning Test. The SAT Reasoning Test is the oldest and possibly most familiar of the college entrance exams. It is in three sections: Writing (with both multiple-choice questions and an essay), Critical Reading and Mathematics. The SAT is intended to provide colleges with insight into how much students learned up until the end of their junior year in high school and how well they will perform in their first year of college. As a "reasoning" test, it assesses students not only on material that they should have learned in school but also on their ability to derive logical answers.
ACT. The ACT is the other major college entrance exam. It tests a student's knowledge in English, mathematics, reading comprehension and science, with three of the tests (English, Reading and Mathematics) further divided into "Subscore" questions. This mainly multiple-choice exam demonstrates to colleges how well students have mastered the high school curriculum necessary for a successful transition to college. An optional 30-minute Writing Test is now available for those colleges requiring it.
SAT Subject Tests. The Subject Tests, as their name implies, are not a single exam. There are 20 Subject Tests on specific subjects in the humanities (like English, history and foreign languages), mathematics and sciences. Each hour-long, multiple-choice exam assesses a student's knowledge in a particular area. Some colleges, especially highly selective ones, require students to submit Subject Test scores for admission. Other colleges recommend them or will review them if submitted.