students taking a test at a desk

College Entrance Exams (SAT & ACT)

Many colleges require scores from either the SAT or ACT as part of their admissions process, making it essential for prospective students to register and perform well. 

The SAT has three sections and an optional essay:

  • Reading
  • Writing and Language
  • Math (consists of two subsections: no calculator and calculator
  • Essay (optional, but some schools require or recommend it)

SAT total scores range from 400-1600. The total score is the sum of the section scores, including 200-800 for Reading and Writing and 200-800 for Math. The optional essay is scored separately.  The national average SAT score is between 1050-1060. An impressive score is considered at or above 1340. A low score is considered at or below 910.


  • The SAT is offered several times a year.   SAT dates

  • You can take the tests more than once. 

  • Take it for the time early in your junior year. You can take it again in your senior year. 

  • To prepare for the SAT, take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) to practice for the exam. Your results can help you track your improvement and get recommendations on AP courses that are a good fit. Your counselor can provide more information, including where you can take it. 

For more information about the SAT and PSAT, visit

The ACT has four sections:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing (optional – check with the colleges to see if this is needed)

The ACT scores range from 1-36. The overall composite score is an average of four subject area scores, which are also scored on a scale of 1-36. Students can choose to take the optional writing section, which is scored separately. Scores range from 1-12. New York State's average ACT score is 24.5, with the national average of 20.8.

Preparing for the ACT

To prepare for the ACT, take the PreACT to practice for the exam. Your school may arrange for you to take the PreACT in your sophomore year of high school.   

For more information about the ACT or PreACT, visit

The transcript is one of the most powerful documents provided in the application process and is often one of the first components of the college application that is considered.  A student’s GPA, found on a transcript, can be regarded as a significant indicator of success and, therefore, has an essential role when colleges are considering applicants.

So, how do you build a stellar transcript? 

  • Plan Ahead. It’s never too early to map out all four years of your time in high school. Be sure to consider graduation requirements as well as opportunities for academic rigor. 
  • Balance your choices.  Even if you have a high GPA, there's much more that can make your transcript stand out.  Look into extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities, and college prep courses you can take to strengthen your college applications. Showing that you're taking initiative and investing in yourself will make your transcript stand out more than just a good GPA.
  • Ask for an unofficial copy of your transcript.  Many students may be surprised to see the information listed on the transcript. For some schools, it might include tardies/absences, class rank, etc. It’s never too early or too late to see the information an admissions officer will see. It is also an excellent time to check for accuracy.
  • Ask for help when you need it. If you're struggling with a course or subject area, seek help from teachers, tutors, parents, and peers. Early intervention can help you get your academic performance back on track. 

Academic achievements can pave the way for not just admissions but also the procurement of scholarships, mitigating the financial burden of higher education.  High grades and taking rigorous courses on your high school transcript exhibit your dedication and capability to potential colleges. 


The AP Program offers college-level courses and exams that you can take in high school.  Taking AP courses and exams in high school could give you an advantage in college by letting you:

  • Earn college credit and placement.  Your AP score could earn you college credits before you even set foot on campus. In fact, most AP students who enroll in four-year colleges start school with some credit.

  • Save Money and Time. Earning credit or placement can open up time on your schedule or even let you graduate early.

  • Stand Out to Colleges. “AP” on your high school transcript shows colleges you're motivated to succeed, and taking the exam demonstrates your commitment to tackle and complete college-level work.

Talk to your school Counselor about the AP courses available in your school.

AP exams are given in May. There is an exam fee, but reductions and subsidies are available to students with financial needs. Talk to your counselor if you cannot pay the fee.

Learn more about the College Board's AP classes and exams.