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Know Your College Admissions Tests

Planning to take the PSAT, SAT, or ACT? Feeling stressed out at the thought? Learning more about them will help ease your anxiety.

The PSAT, SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests are the four standardized exams you will likely encounter on your journey from high school to college.

The PSAT

The formal name for the PSAT is a mouthful: Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It is typically taken by juniors as a practice test for the SAT. It also qualifies some students to become National Merit Scholarship Finalists, a status highly regarded by colleges.

The SAT

The SAT is one of two major college entrance exams. The test assesses the academic skills and content knowledge students have acquired in high school. The SAT has two required sections: Evidence-based Reading and Writing, and Math. It also includes an optional essay, which may be required by some colleges. Students have three hours to complete the test plus 50 minutes for the optional essay.

The ACT

The ACT is the other major college entrance exam. The ACT is two hours and 55 minutes long and examines how well students have mastered a typical college preparatory high school curriculum. It consists of four sections: mathematics, English, science, and reading. A 40-minute writing test is optional but may be required by some colleges.

The SAT Subject Tests

There are 20 Subject Tests covering English, history, foreign languages, mathematics, and sciences. Some colleges, especially highly selective ones, require students to submit Subject Test scores for admission. Other colleges only recommend submitting Subject Test scores or will review them if submitted. These tests show colleges your academic strengths and interests.

How Colleges Use Your Scores

It's not always easy to compare the grades of students attending different high schools. These tests give colleges another measure of your academic skills and your readiness for college-level work.

Colleges may also use test scores to:

  • Find desirable candidates, and invite them to apply
  • Award scholarships as incentives to enroll
  • Help place students in college classes that are appropriate for their skill level
  • Award college credit

Strong test scores won't guarantee your admission, and weak test scores won't necessarily disqualify you. But strong test scores will support the rest of your application. And high scores relative to other applicants will help keep your application in the running, particularly at highly selective colleges.

What's Next?

For Students Age 18 and Older

Have you received a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit card?

Learn how to qualify for a Personal Invitation to apply for a Student Credit Card


1st Financial Bank believes students who pick colleges wisely will also want to learn how to use credit cards wisely.

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COLLEGEdata Dollars are
points you earn by
completing certain
COLLEGEdata activities

Ways to earn
COLLEGEdata Dollars:

  • Complete your Admissions Profile.
  • Add colleges to your College Choices.
  • Update your Admissions Statuses.
  • Use the College Match tool.

What are COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$)?

COLLEGEdata Dollars (CD$) are points you earn by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. The maximum number of CD$ you can redeem is 5000. Once you have earned at least 2500 CD$, you can redeem them for $25, which will be provided to you on a Loyalty Card, and once you earn another 2500 CD$, you can redeem those CD$ for a second $25, which will also be provided to you on a Loyalty Card.

Earn points and redeem them for
U.S. Dollars

Complete certain COLLEGEdata activities (for example, signing up, starting your Admissions Profile, searching for colleges, calculating your chances for admission, searching for scholarships, updating your Profile with your admission decisions). Each activity is worth a specific amount of points (CD$). You can redeem the points you earn for U.S. Dollars that will be issued to you in the form of a 1st Financial Bank USA Loyalty Mastercard®.

How do I earn COLLEGEdata Dollars?

You can earn CD$ by completing certain COLLEGEdata activities. As soon as you sign up and activate your COLLEGEdata account, explore COLLEGEdata and begin completing COLLEGEdata activities to earn points.

Here is a full list of COLLEGEdata activities for which you may earn CD$ and the number of CD$ you can earn by completing each activity.*

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Check your CD$ Dashboard at the bottom of the page to view your CD$ balance, find other activities that you can complete to earn CD$, and redeem the CD$ you have earned for U.S. Dollars.