Standardized Tests

Standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc.) are required for admission into many post-secondary colleges, schools, and programs. They were created to level the academic playing field, producing a fair baseline with which to compare all students. In Idaho, the State requires students to take a standardized test in order to graduate high school.  At Sandpoint High School, we are proud to offer not only the required standardized tests, but also preparatory tests in a student’s early high school career. We are also happy to offer most of these tests at no cost to the student. While a standardized test does not define a student, many colleges and scholarships will carefully consider a student’s test score when making decisions. How heavily weighted the test scores are in the decision process varies from school to school. So study for them and do your best, but know that colleges and scholarships will also be looking at things like GPA, course rigor, class rank, recommendations, work experience, community service, talents and extracurricular activities.

Note: SHS offers the following tests by grade level on a certain day at no cost to the students. Students are welcome to take/re-take the tests at other times but they are responsible to register and pay themselves. You can find dates, register and pay on the links under “resources”.

If you are eligible for free or reduced lunches, you may also be eligible for a test fee waiver. Check with your counselor!


PSAT 8/9
Sandpoint High School freshman take the 8/9 PSAT in the fall, usually sometime in October.The 8/9 PSAT is a practice for the PSAT, which students will take in 10th and 11th grade to practice for the SAT (the test colleges and scholarships will look at). This is basically the first practice test. 

The PSAT 8/9 is a test that will help you and your teachers figure out what you need to work on most so that you’re ready for college when you graduate from high school. It tests the same skills and knowledge as the SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and PSAT 10 — in a way that makes sense for your grade level” ~CollegeBoard 
Students will take the PSAT their sophomore year in the fall, at no cost to the student.  This Preliminary SAT is a standardized test that provides practice for the SAT. Taking the test as a sophomore will not qualify students for any recognition or scholarship, but does provide invaluable practice early-on and provides timely feedback on their skills. 

Juniors will take the PSAT/NMSQT (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualify Test) in the fall. They will then take the SAT in the spring. Both tests are administered at Sandpoint High School at no cost to the student.  Again, the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. As a junior, however, students can qualify for recognition and scholarships based on their PSAT score. The scores are used to find qualifying National Merit Scholars which entails scholarship money for college. 

“The PSAT/NMSQT helps students become college ready. It provides detailed feedback on skills, access to scholarships and personalized online tools, and excellent practice for the SAT.” ~CollegeBoard 

CIS PSAT Practice Tests
National Merit Scholarship Corporation

The SAT is required for all juniors and will be taken at SHS in the spring at no cost to the student.  The SAT is meant to test a student's innate ability to think and reason critically, containing math, verbal and writing sections. The average national score is 1000 (math and critical reading).  Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior years of high school. At least half of all students take the SAT twice, most improving their score the second time around. Other than the SHS testing day, students must register and pay for additional tests. Studying, taking practice tests, attending a SAT/ACT class, etc.—all are highly encouraged as they often greatly improve a student’s score.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SAT including dates and fees

Though SHS students are required to take the SAT as a junior, many students also take the ACT. Most colleges accept both and will take the better score. The ACT is meant to test specific instructional goals and is content oriented. It focuses on four areas: English, math, reading and science reasoning. The science reasoning measures a student’s ability to reason inductively from given data to a general conclusion. The ACT also has an optional essay section. The average national score is 21. 

Students can take the SAT or ACT as many times as they would like. Many times, a higher score means more scholarship funds and better chance of admission. If a senior is re-taking the SAT or taking the ACT, they should do it EARLY their senior year. SHS counselors encourage seniors to finish applying to colleges by December which means they need their test scores back by then. Try to take all the standardized test the summer before or early into your senior year.

The Compass is a computer-adaptive, college placement test that lets educators evaluate a student's skill levels and place them in appropriate courses. The Compass test is usually required for community college placement (North Idaho College, Spokane Falls Community College), and also in order to enroll and participate in any Dual Credit courses at PRLHS or at the community colleges. Unlike the SAT and ACT, there is no time limit, though the average testing time is 1 to 1.5 hours. You will receive your test scores immediately after completing the test. Call (208) 263-4594 to arrange your testing time at the Sandpoint Testing Center. 

Other practice options