SAT, ACT, and CLEP; Oh my!
21 September 2018
By Michael Cole

Tick, tock...

Time is getting closer.

As you start to inch closer and closer to college, it dawns on every student that it is time to start looking at schools. 

With that, you need to decide which test to take. Every school wither has a test they prefer, or some will take either. 

So that helps a lot.

The decision to decide which College Board test will depend on a few factors.

How are you at tests?  The SAT is about thirty minutes longer than ACT with the Essay option, other than that, they are about the same length. With the CLEP test,  you will be tested on a more narrow, content specific topics.

All of them have one thing in common, the college testing vocabulary will stump you if you are not prepared.

[caption id="attachment_872" align="alignnone" width="728"] A foundation of a good lexicon can help with any college test[/caption]

College Testing

In a nutshell, college testing is any test that is required or recommended to be enrolled in a college or a university.  There are some universities that still have their own entrance exam, but those are rare.

You might wonder why you are even being asked to take an examination to attend college, after all, you just finished at least thirteen years of school, shouldn't your performance there count?

It does, but only to a point. Colleges do take high school rank and grades into consideration, but this test gives them an idea of where you rank in cognitive, and learning areas. 

For the most part, the standardized testing offered through a college testing will vary from university to university. Your university of choice will have the desired test and scores for entrance on their website or admissions packet.

If you are unsure of which school to attend, then it is highly recommended that you prepare for both. 

On the onset, it might look like both tests are very similar.  They are both timed, they both require you to schedule for the test at least a month in advance. 

Beyond that, the tests could not be more different.

ACT tests what knowledge that you already have. You will draw on years of experience and knowledge to complete it. That means that those lessons in derivatives and Shakespeare can easily come back to haunt you.

Ironic that the Ghost of Hamlet's Father could actually hurt your college future.

The SAT is not as concerned with what you know as to measuring your verbal and quantitative reasoning abilities.

On a different level, CLEP measures your knowledge and reasoning on a specific topic such as History or English. The testing structure and requirements are totally different. We will explore that in more depth later.

[caption id="attachment_871" align="alignnone" width="600"] Most college leve tests are designed by College Board[/caption]

College Board

Most tests these days are designed by the College Board  according to their website:

The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.

Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of over 6,000 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education.

Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators, and schools.

Their website has a wealth of knowledge and above all, practice tests and study material. It will help you delve into the subject of testing much more prepared.

No matter how prepared you think you are, you can always use that extra oomph to get over the hump.

Just remember the following, no matter how good your skills may be in science, English, History, or any other host of categories, rest assured that the vocabulary will be on a plane that you never experienced in High School.

This makes preparing for the vocabulary you will be inundated with will be an absolute must.

You must not only know how to spell these words correctly, but you must be able to use these words coherently and correctly. College is on a totally different level than High School.

If high school were a minor league, then the tests by College Board are the scouts to the Major Leagues.

Welcome to the bigs, my friend.

Luckily there are many options available to you. You can get a tutor. You can try your luck here at SpellQuiz. Make Flashcards; write the definition to the words over and over till it just clicks.

In my personal experience, I have found that just using them works best. 

Read. A lot.

Write. A lot.

The brain is a muscle, unless you take it out of its wrapper and use it, exercise it, you will never have a good grasp of the language.

Pump that brain up!

Find every book that you can find that is considered colleg level in difficulty. This is no time to stop at Harry Potter, you need to belt out some Tolstoi and Shakespeare. Put away Dr. Suess, it is time to expand your brain with Dr. Hawkins.

You have waded out a bit into the water of life, about ankle deep. But now life is going to push you into the deep end, and the only salvation you can count on is understanding how the world around you works.

It is for all intents and purposes, sink or swim.

So you might as well do the breast stroke.

[caption id="attachment_873" align="alignnone" width="600"] SAT vocabulary is more diverse[/caption]

SAT Vocabulary

To help you with SAT Vocabulary, it first stands to reason that you should have a rough idea of how it works and what is required for you to pass it.

There are two versions of the SAT; the SAT Reasoning Test and the SAT Subject Test.

On the SAT Reasoning Test, questions are used primarily as an entrance exam. While  SAT Subject tests are more or less an equivalent to a placement test.

The SAT measures reading, writing and math skills and have 10 individual timed sections. The entire test lasts about four hours. The first section of the SAT is a 25-minute essay. The following sections include six 25-minute sections and two 20-minute sections. The sections cover math, critical reading, and writing.

The SAT also includes a 10-minute multiple-choice writing section toward the end.

Each portion of the test is scored from 200 to 800. Your total score is composed of the writing, reading and math sections. There is a total possible score of 2400 (a perfect score).

The average score for the SAT nationwide is about 1500, so do not fret about it should you not make the 2400 perfect score. It is a very rare occurrence for people to ace the test.

The SAT costs about $45. Make sure to request that your SAT scores be sent to the colleges of your choice. You can register online for the SAT or pick up a registration form at your high school or at a local college.


Preparing your vocabulary for the SAT will not require you to delve into many technical or science related vocabulary. That means that you should focus more on a general growth of your post-secondary vocabulary.

SpellQuiz has an excellent SAT vocabulary builder here

Most of all, usage is the key to success. The more you use it, the better you will grasp and retain it. You cannot expect to build SAT vocabulary if you do not study SAT vocabulary words.

Waiting to study for the test, especially the SAT vocabulary portion of the test, guarantees failure.  Do not be someone that waits until the last minute to prepare for the test.

College testing should not be taken lightly.

SAT vocabulary should enhance your life and open more doors. Not be a chain that drags you down and away from your future goals

[caption id="attachment_874" align="alignnone" width="500"] ACT is recommended for science majors[/caption]

ACT Vocabulary

The ACT looks at college testing in a totally different way. This test is more geared to what you know. It wants a snapshot of your current aptitude. Many colleges and Universities like this for the simple reason that they have a clue where you are at currently in your studies.

The ACT covers four subject areas; English, math, reading and science reasoning. The English section of the test consists of 75 reading and writing questions designed to assess punctuation, grammar, and usage, strategy, sentence structure, style, and organization. The ACT Plus also includes a writing test.

The reading section of the ACT is composed of 40-questions designed to measure reading comprehension. Reading passages cover natural sciences, social studies, prose, fiction, and the humanities.

The science section of the ACT is composed of 40-questions designed to measure problem-solving skills. Topics covered include biology, physics, chemistry, and earth sciences.

The ACT takes about four hours to complete. The national average score for the ACT is 21.1 out of a possible 36. The ACT costs $32 and the ACT Plus is $47. Make sure to request that your ACT score is sent to your colleges of choice. You can register online for the ACT or pick up a registration form at your high school or a local college

Vocabulary will be more technical and science-based.

In this test, you will need to be familiar with more science-based technical terms. For the ACT, you should have either a desire to go into a science or technical field such as engineering, or be interested in attending a school that is known for its sciences and engineering based degrees.

So that means one of two things, a lot of cramming in your senior year; or, a lot of science classes during your high school years.

It is not enough to understand what the word evolution means, you must also grasp the concept around it.

My best advice is that you grab every piece of study material that you can find. Use vocabulary builders such as SpellQuiz, and read like there is no tomorrow.

Might I also recommend that you read books by such greats as Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Richard Dawkins. Their book shares a lot of ACT vocabulary words used in proper context.

You not only learn the terms and ACT vocabulary, but you also grasp the subject and context the words are in. Above all, their books are aimed at non-Science types. You do not have to be a genius to understand what they are talking about.

As in SAT vocabulary buiding, usage is key.

Use it.

Learn it.

[caption id="attachment_875" align="alignnone" width="785"] CLEP can save time[/caption]

CLEP Vocabulary

AS was said earlier, CLEP is very differnet that either SAT or ACT. Many students like CLEP, becuase it allows them to save a lot of money on tuition by avoiding paying for classes that they already have knowledge on.

CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. The CLEP exams enable students to “place out” of certain required college courses by providing them course credit based on their existing knowledge of the subject matter. There are 34 CLEP exams, which are usually administered by the specific college where credit is being awarded. Each CLEP exam costs about $75.

Additionally, many colleges also charge a fee per credit hour to put the CLEP score on your transcript. So be aware of your school's policy concerning CLEP. Many schools also will not accept more than 15 credit hours from CLEP.

In a CLEP examination, you test to show that you have a college level grasp of a particular subject or field.  For instance, if you feel that you are comforatble enough with United States History that you already have a college level understanding of it, you can sign up to take the Unithed States History CLEP test. 

In case you were curious, the United States History test is broken into two sections, part one and part two, just like the actual courses. 

You usually would take a computerized test in your schools testing center and upon completing the test, making a 73 or higher will give you credit for the class. 

This means that there are no CLEP vocaulary words per se that you can study. However studying ACT vocabulary and SAT vocabulary can give you a big leg up on the competititon. 

My suggestion to you is that you study the vocabulary of the subject that you are hoping to test out of. It makes no sense to study poetry terms when you are itnerested in testing out of Biology or Chemistry.

CLEP vocabulary will be harder than either ACT vocabulary or SAT vocabulary words for teh simple reason is that it will be so much more focused and limited. There is no real study guide for it, sans actually reading textbooks and study guide meant for that particular field.

However, do not dispair, that also gives you an opportunity to enrich your CLEP vocabulary. It stands to reason that if you are interested in taking the biology CLEP test, that your biology CLEP terminology is already reasonably built. 

You cannot know about evolution without encountering words like natural selection, artificial selection, punett squares, or other Biology releated CLEP vocabulary. So in this area, you can build your CLEP vocabulary as you learn.

The terminology os far more narrow, so the study guides and material is far easier to apply.

But the same advice for CLEP vocabulary that was given for SAT vocabulary and ACT vocabulary words.  Use them to learn them. 

It is no godd that you just look at the words, or study them with flash cards, it is paramount that you use them as often as possible.

Back when I studied for CLEP, I tried to pick a word or two each day and see how many times in a day I could use it properly.

People might look at you using the word evolution as away to describe your growing vocabulary strangely, but hey that is how the planet rotates on its axis.

[caption id="attachment_876" align="alignnone" width="780"] Harvard awaits the graduate with a well developed vocabulary[/caption]

Bring it all together

Vocabulary words should never be looked at as a abstract concept to be studied and discarded. They exist to enrich your life. Learning post secondary vocabulary words are not just for a test, but the test of life.

It is a known and given fact taht men and women that have an excellent grasp of the English language will go much further than those that do not. PEople stand up and notice a well spoken person.

They are respected, they are heeded.

Their advice carries far more weight than those that do not have as deep a vocabulary.

Learning SAT vocabulary, ACT vocabulary, and CLEP vocabulary words will not just prepare you for a test, byt they prepare you for life.

In your classes at college you will encounter everyone of these words and often. Not having a strong grasp of these words by the time you go to college will only stunt your development in your chosen field.

But do not fret, you can learn the SAT vocabulary words, the ACT vocabulary words, and the CLEP vocabulary words you need to be a success in college and the life beyond school.

In the immortal wirds of the great comic-philosopher Steve Martin,

"Some of us have a way with words; and others...have not way!"



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