Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing Sequence and Rational:

PSAT Test Sophomore and Junior Year:  (Optional and given at St. Pius)   A practice test for those who might take the SAT.  It is also for those JUNIORS ONLY who believe they may be able to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.  Taking this on the sophomore level cannot qualify one for the National Merit Scholarship Program. To qualify the junior student must place in the top one half of one percent in the nation. Because of the small percentage who qualify, I encourage students and parents to be realistic about their chances.  If you are in the top 10% of your class and realistically expect to score in a 30+ ACT Composite, you should consider taking the PSAT.  BUT PLEASE BE REALISTIC IN YOUR EXPECTATIONS! I have seen the PSAT cause much too much unnecessary stress and turmoil within a family because of unrealistic expectations of being a merit finalist. Since the ACT and the SAT are now considered equally by colleges, I do not push very hard for students to take the PSAT.  That said, in the past, St. Pius students have achieved this honor and several more have been semi finalist.  Few of our students take the SAT – three in the last three years. Nationally, all four year schools now accept either the SAT or the ACT.  Some students take both and then submit the better scores to the colleges. They are slightly different in content areas.  The SAT now also has a mandatory writing component.  No area high schools offer the SAT.  The student will have to travel to St. Louis to take it.  It is also very long – nearly four hours!


But, if you are going to a two year school and expect to be an A+ graduate, then you need to score certain minimums on the ACT for placement purposes.

The two year colleges also have Placement Tests you can take at the college.

ACT Test Junior and Senior Years - This test is offered at St. Pius six times a year: October, December, February, April, June, and July.  Others sites also offer it in September.

The ACT will take closer to four hours total.  St. Pius is a testing center and we encourage our students to take it on their “Home turf.”  Familiar, comfortable surroundings can be important for this test because it does mean a lot in the college application and scholarship process.  We encourage our students to prepare for this test months in advance. offers an online ACT preparation class and there are other sites and classes in the St. Louis area. The days of walking in and taking the test are pretty much over.  Few students have that innate ability.  The best way to prepare for any standardized testing is to become an avid reader and to develop a love of learning. Get the most out of each and every class.   Of course the earlier this begins the better.  This is not to say short tern preparation is not also important.  Ideally, the student will do both.  Our English and Math departments both have incorporated ACT like questions and problems into the classroom work. St. Pius student typically take the ACT two or three times.  We also do not recommend the student take the ACT prior to the spring of the junior year.  My personal experience with students taking it early have only resulted in lower than hoped for scores and extra stress – especially from well intentioned parents.  I just do not think it is worth the time, stress and expense.  The above mentioned tests and preparations are much more effective.  

The ACT now has an optional writing section.  The regular test cost $46.  With the writing section added, it costs $62.50.  After the regular test, all the test takers leave except the ones taking the writing section.  They get a question to answer in writing in thirty minutes.  This score is a separate score from the Composite.  It is not figured in with the Composite score.  Currently, the only school in the St. Louis area to require the writing section is Washington University.  Thus, I do not recommend our students take it, unless they just really want to have a crack at it or they are already considering schools which require the writing section. 

Because most of our students take the ACT two or three times, there is often confusion about which scores to send to colleges.  At St. Pius we receive from ACT a score label for each student.  These are designed to fit onto the permanent transcript.  Colleges fully expect to see several labels on the transcript.  Now we also have an E-Transcript and our transcripts lists all the ACT scores.  All colleges accept the highest Composite score.  Some even take the highest sub scores from several tests.  This is called Superscoring.  For example, if the student receives a 20 on the English sub score and a Composite of 23 on the first attempt, and he then takes it again and receives a 21 on the English sub score and a 22 Composite, the school might use the higher English score to recalculate the Composite. Not many do this, but some do.  A growing number of schools are becoming Test Optional, meaning you do not have to submit ACT scores.