Standardized College Aptitude Tests

SAT, ACT College Entrance Testing Information

Most colleges in the U.S. require that students submit scores from standardized tests as part of their application packages. The most commonly accepted tests are the ACT Assessment®, SAT Reasoning, and SAT Subject Tests. For information about which you should take, talk to your high school counselor or to the admissions office(s) at the college(s) to which you will apply.

The ACT Assessment®

The ACT Assessment® consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, reading, mathematics, and science reasoning. It is offered several times a year at locations across the country -- usually at high schools and colleges.

To register for the test at ACT's site, click here.

The SAT Tests

SAT Reasoning (formerly SAT I). The SAT Reasoning Test is a three-hour test that measures a student's ability rather than knowledge. It contains three sections: writing, critical reading, and math. Most of the questions are multiple-choice.

SAT Subject Tests (formerly SAT II). The SAT Subject Tests measure knowledge in specific subjects within five general categories: English, mathematics, history, science, and languages. The specific subjects range from English literature to biology to Modern Hebrew. SAT Subject Tests are primarily multiple-choice, and each lasts one hour.

Both the SAT Reasoning and SAT Subject Tests are offered several times a year at locations across the country.

To register for the test at the College Board Web site, click here.

Other common tests

For information and registration for any of the tests described below, visit

The Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, commonly known as the PSAT, is usually taken in the student's junior year. It's a good way to practice for the SAT tests, and it serves as a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation's scholarship programs. The PSAT measures skills in verbal reasoning, critical reading, mathematics problem solving, and writing.

The two- to three-hour Advanced Placement (AP) Program exams are usually taken after the student completes an AP course in the relevant subject. (Speak to your high school counselor about taking AP classes.) A good grade on an AP exam can qualify the student for college credit and/or "advanced placement" in that subject in college. For example, if a student scores well on the AP English Literature exam, he or she might not have to take the college's required freshman-level English course. Most AP tests are at least partly made up of essay questions; some include multiple-choice questions. The tests are offered each spring; each test is offered once, with a makeup day a few weeks later.

The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) offers students the opportunity to gain college credit by taking an exam. Usually, a student takes the tests at the college where he or she is already enrolled. Not all colleges offer credit based on CLEP tests, and different colleges offer different amounts of credit for the same test, so do your research before committing to an exam. Your best source of information is your college.

The information on this site was produced by the US Dept. of Education and has been compiled by the site owners. We are not responsible for accuracy or completeness. Site design (c)2007

Other Topics: