Palos Verdes High School

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CEEB Code: 052358 PVPUSD

College Admission Tests

Mrs. Joanne Lewis
Director, College & Career Center
310-378-8471 Ext. 43618
[email protected]

Mrs. Teresa Hoffman
Scholarship & Financial Aid Coordinator
310-378-8471 Ext. 43347
[email protected]  







 The SAT or ACT: To Test or Not to Test…



Test Optional and Test Free Colleges

As of this moment, about 1950 bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities will not require all or most Fall 2025 applicants to submit standardized exam results before admissions decisions are made. Another 100+ schools have not yet announced their policies. Among the well-known institutions recently suspending admission test requirements at least through the next admissions cycle are: Claremont-McKenna, Louisville, Rensselaer Polytech, and Tulane -- Please check with individual institutions for their specific, updated information.






PSAT/NMSQT - October 


This year Palos Verdes High School will offer the PSAT/NMSQT Exam to our 11th grade students in October.  Palos Verdes High School is partnering with the PVPUSD to offer the PSAT/NMSQT to all Juniors at no cost

NO REGISTRATION IS NECESSARY as the entire class is registered by our school.  Beginning in fall 2023, the PSAT/NMSQT is going digital. The SAT will follow in spring 2024. The PSAT/NMSQT can qualify Juniors for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program and the National Achievement Scholarship Program.


Students who achieve top scores may receive recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. NMSC compares PSAT scores with those of other students in your state using its own Selection Index. The top 3-4% of scorers are named Commended Scholar. The top 1%, usually about 16,000 students, are named National Merit Semifinalists. 


The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) is structured similarly to the SAT®, has the same sections and timing, and measures the same Reading and Writing and Math skills students learn in the classroom. While the PSAT/NMSQT is not an exam that is required for any college, this exam provides parents and their students grade-level benchmarks that indicate whether students are on track for college and career readiness.






College Admission Testing



Each student's testing journey is different! Please consult with your counselor and the PVHSCCC to  create a testing timeline that best sets you up for success and for your college goals.  




SAT: What is the SAT?
SAT Test Dates 
SAT Registration






ACT: What is the ACT?
ACT Test Dates
ACT Registration



What is a typical testing timeline? 


Remember, each student's testing plan will differ, there is no one size fits all! That's okay! PVHS students will have the opportunity to take a practice Digital PSAT in fall of their 10th grade, and the PSAT/NMSQT in fall of 11th grade. These exams are preliminary and help track progress, college readiness, and are a helpful practice point. Keep in mind, as you grow in your classes and have more academic content under your belt, your scores will improve as well!  There will be opportunities for FREE full-length practice tests provided for our sophomores and juniors during both the fall and spring semesters.


After juniors take the PSAT/NMSQT exam in October and receive their PSAT results in November, we recommend taking a practice ACT to get a sense of which exam is strongest/best for the student. Once a student decides on an exam, it’s a good idea to register for an official exam in the spring of junior year. Taking one official exam allows students to see how they do on an official college entrance exam and can help them decide to pursue testing or not.


Students typically take an official exam (either SAT or ACT - colleges will consider BOTH and have NO preference over which exam, really!!) in the spring of junior year and can retake the exam if needed. Retaking the exam (2 to really max 3 times) is appropriate. Students will be able to send their highest score to colleges accepting test scores. Some colleges that allow super scoring will take the highest subsection of scores across test dates and will take the highest combined scores. Not all colleges do this, and not all colleges are accepting testing. It is up to the student to review testing policies of the colleges they're interested in applying to, to make the best decision on when/how to test. Counselors and the PVHSCCC are here to help you! Ask! Also don't hesitate to call a college admission office and gain some insight to their most recent testing policies and what's best. 


When is the latest I can test? 


Students can test up until fall of their senior year. If you are applying early to colleges, you will want to test before October. If you are applying regular decision you can test sometimes up to December. Again, it will depend on the colleges to which a student applies, so do not wait to create a testing plan. 


How do I decide which exam to take? SAT or ACT?


Colleges will accept both and there is no preference. Take a practice exam of both (by fall/early spring of your junior year) and decide which exam FEELS better and which one you test stronger in. Then look at registration testing dates and register for an official exam. 


Test structure - The NEW Digital SAT Test (March 2024) - SAT - Score of 400 - 1600


Format: Two-stage adaptive test design; one Reading and Writing section administered via two
separately timed modules. one Math section administered via two separately timed modules

Total number of questions: Reading and Writing = 54 questions  / Math = 44 questions

Total time allotted: Reading and Writing =  64 minutes  /  Math = 70 minutes
Sample questions for the digital SAT are available in the Digital SAT Sample Questions and
Answer Explanations document online. 



ACT - Score of 1 - 36


English 45 min 75 questions
Math 60 min 60 questions
Reading 35 min 40 questions
Science 35 minutes 40 questions


Note: Science is unique to ACT - don’t let the label put you off or draw you in! The science section doesn’t call for factual recall of bio or chemistry for example. It’s asking the student to quickly read descriptions of different experiments and then analyze that data in charts/graphs - there is no outside science knowledge that you need to bring in to do well on the section!


Do all colleges require SAT/ACT?


No. Many colleges are test optional or do not require testing at all as a part of their admission review.


NOTE: The UC and CSU system DO NOT require testing as a part of their review process for admission. Your score will not be seen or reviewed in admission decisions.


If a college is test optional, it is up to you as the student (with help from your counselor, the PVHSCCC and college admission counselors for guidance) to decide if your score will be an added value to your application and if it is appropriate to send it. Look at testing averages from past admitted applicants on each college your considering and see if your score falls within the ranges and will be helpful to your application. Each college is different so do check!


Remember, grades, GPA, and your academic schedule is important!! 

Testing is ONE component of your college application. It can be an added value to showcase your academic strengths and potential for success in college. Your day in day out course work and effort in your classes are the biggest component of the academic review in an application. Not JUST your GPA, but how you've grown over time, consistency or growth in grades, adding honors/AP/advanced coursework in academic areas of strength, etc. Take the time to do well in classes. 


How do I study/prepare for the exam? 


Remember, every student is different, so just as you prepare and study for a final, you will have different study strategies that work best for YOU. There is no quick fix or one size fits all to guarantee a score! Consistent studying is best (think about 2-3 months of consistent studying leading up to the official exam). Consistent studying can be logging online once a week and adding practice exams along the way, it can be with a tutor one on one, in groups, an online course, etc. There are many options. We offer free practice exams at at PVHS; dates/times will be advised and posted on our website.  



We do not endorse one company over another. If you are interested in receiving test preparation from any test prep company, we strongly suggest that you ask for references.


Test optional: National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) at


FREE SAT Kahn Academy Test Prep 


FREE ACT Kaplan Test Prep


FREE ACT Test Prep


Compass Education Group - in person or online exams:

Schedule an online exam, or an in-person exam to practice testing in a real testing environment

More information and scheduling options here




PSAT/NMSQT, College Day, October 18, 2023


School-wide programming for all grades;


Juniors will take the official College Board PSAT/NMSQT…  NO REGISTRATION IS NECESSARY.


Navigating the Critical Changes in Admission Testing, December 7, 2023, 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m., Virtual

All grade levels, students + families welcome


NAVIGATING COLLEGE ADMISSION TESTING: Making Sense of Test Results & Testing in a Test Optional World




Sign up for a practice test - FEBRUARY 2024!


The Palos Verdes High School College Career Center has partnered with Compass Education to offer at-home, computer-proctored Digital Adaptive SAT and ACT practice tests at no cost through Compass’ Online Testing Center. While the Digital Adaptive SAT will give students the opportunity to experience the new format of the test, the computer-proctored ACT practice test matches the current paper/pencil, linear version of the test.

These practice tests provide our students with just that… practice before taking a college entrance exam!


Many sophomores and juniors will attempt both tests in order to be thorough in their planning. We recommend prioritizing the Digital Adaptive SAT (the least familiar to students), then the linear ACT (a popular choice due to perceived stability in this transition year to a new SAT).



  • At-Home Online Testing Center ACT – available anytime between February 2-4 (linear, mirrors paper/pencil version) – AVAILABLE TO ALL GRADES
  • At-Home Online Testing Center SAT – available anytime between Feb. 23-25 (linear, mirrors paper/pencil version) – AVAILABLE TO ALL GRADES

Deadline to REGISTER is one week before the administration!