Alphabet Soup: Decoding The Testing Lingo

by Kinzie Click

Article by Kinzie Click, Photography by Abby Conn

As high-schoolers, we hear a lot about the importance of college prep tests, but do we really know what they are? 

Epic currently offers the PSAT, NMSQT (National Merit Scholarship Qualification Test), PSAT 8/9, PSAT 10, ACT and ASVAB. Melodi Trower, Epic’s state assessments director, said college prep tests can benefit students by helping them earn scholarships, gauge college readiness and assist with career planning. 

“College prep exams are a predictor for college preparedness,” she said.

Starting with the PSAT (pre-SAT) test, the first test you can take is PSAT 8/9. This test can be taken in both your eighth grade and freshman years. Sophomores would then take the PSAT 10. Taking both exams can help students discover strengths and areas needing improvement. 

“PSAT 8/9 and PSAT 10 provide baseline data for building an academic road map to reach achievement goals,” Trower said.

The PSAT/NMSQT is the most important of the PSAT tests. The PSAT/NMSQT is the only test in which you can qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. This program allows qualifying students a chance for part of $300 million in scholarships.

Taking the PSAT 8/9 and 10 exams “are excellent ways to become familiar with exam content and structure of the PSAT/NMSQT exam,” Trower said. 

Students must take the exam the fall of their junior year to qualify for National Merit Scholarships. 

The ACT can be taken as many times as someone wants. Taking the ACT is a great opportunity since it allows students to retake the test to improve their scores. While Epic does not host an ACT exam, many high schools and colleges do. The ACT helps students determine if they are prepared for college. 

Another exam many students take is the ASVAB, or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. While this test is administered by the Department of Defense, it is not just for military enlistees. The ASVAB exam taken through Epic also has a career exploration program that helps students determine what careers would best suit each student. 

Epic offers various tests to suit each student’s individual needs. But there are things they have in common. 

“Test taking strategies and familiarity with the exam seem small but it can make a big impact on your mindset going into the exam,” Trower said. 

Test dates are released in the fall.

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