October 4, 2007
In high school, students were limited to more or less five core subjects. Yes, additional extras were offered, but the list wasn’t very extensive. Once students enter college, it becomes obvious that there is much more to choose from. And additional career options translate into additional entrance tests. Don’t be stumped when your friends rattle off their stressful exam plans. Below are top testing acronyms—no need to be confused.
ACT- The American College Test (ACT), like the SAT, is a college entrance test. It is usually taken during a student’s junior or early senior year of high school. Most colleges take ACT or SAT scores into consideration when making admissions’ decisions.
AP- The Advanced Placement (AP) test is taken by high school students who wish to receive college credit for their high school work. Test takers have usually taken advanced placement classes in high school. Students who score sufficiently well in one or more of the subject options (there are over thirty), may be able to bypass certain college class requirements.
DAT- The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is for students who wish to enter the field of dentistry. In addition to general academic skill, the test measures knowledge of scientific information and perceptual ability. Because it is more than four hours long (not counting breaks), you can say that it measures stamina as well.
GMAT- The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is used to assess a student’s readiness for business school. Plenty of students attempt the test during their senior year of college, but there are many others who wait a few years. Many business schools look for applicants with sufficient work experience, and that may require a few years of full-time work.
GRE- The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is less major specific. Students with a wide range of interests and plans take the GRE before entering graduate school. The test is composed of three sections, the Quantitative Reasoning, the Verbal Reasoning, and the Analytical Writing.
LSAT- The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a test taken by students who wish to attend law school. It may be retaken, but unlike the GRE, it is only offered a few times per year. The test measures a taker’s reasoning skills more than it does their acquired knowledge.
MCAT- The Medical College Admissions Tests (MCAT) tests a student’s preparation for medical school. It tests both thought process and acquired scientific knowledge. Like the DAT, the MCAT is very time consuming.
NCLEX-RN- The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is taken by students pursing a career in nursing. It is used to determine if students are ready to become registered nurses (RN) and composed of four major categories and eight subcategories.
PSAT- The Preliminary SAT (PSAT) is a preparatory version of the SAT. Students who take the test, in addition to working out their brain, may get the chance to compete for national merit scholarships based on scores.
SAT- The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a college entrance exam for high school students. Most students choose to take this test during their junior or senior year. The majority of colleges require that students submit either an SAT or an ACT score as a part of their application package. Depending on the college, one, the other, or neither may be required.
September 2, 2009
The University of Texas has announced plans to withdraw as a sponsor of National Merit, a popular national scholarship program that students qualify for based on standardized test scores. In an effort to focus on providing need-based financial aid, the university will no longer offer scholarships specifically for National Merit Scholars. The University of Texas, which was second only to Harvard University in the number of National Merit Finalists it enrolled, offered qualifying students awards worth up to $13,000 over the course of four years.
Texas is not the first major university system to choose to cease participating in National Merit, a program that offers $2,500 scholarships to high school juniors who do well on the PSAT, with the potential for honorees to receive much larger scholarship awards from partner companies and universities. Other institutions, including the University of California system, have previously chosen to withdraw sponsorship of National Merit, while many other schools have chosen not to offer awards specifically for National Merit winners.
National Merit has previously drawn criticism for its strong emphasis on high PSAT scores (other application materials are considered in selecting finalists, but semifinalists are chosen solely based on test scores). Students from wealthier families who have access to the best high schools and a variety of test preparation resources typically do best on standardized tests, such as the PSAT, which results in scholarship awards like National Merit skewing towards affluent students who need less assistance paying for college.
A University of Texas official cited similar reasoning in the university's decision to stop awarding National Merit Scholarships, stating that only one fourth of students receiving the scholarships typically bothered to apply for federal student financial aid, indicating the vast majority had access to other means of covering their college costs. The students who are most likely to be hurt by the loss of this scholarship opportunity will likely be helped by the increase in need-based financial aid that the university is promising.
University officials stressed that applicants who would have been eligible for this award will still be able to compete for other academic scholarships, and the undergraduate students currently receiving this award will continue to do so for their full four years of eligibility. Still, this announcement is likely to upset some students and to fuel the fires of the ongoing debate over merit-based versus need-based financial aid in colleges and universities.
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