Do I need to take them?
Many colleges have changed their testing rules. Most schools no longer require you to submit test scores. However, if your scores are good, it may be worth submitting them. Most schools fall into one of these categories:
- Test optional: You can choose whether to submit your scores. They’re not required for admission.
- Test blind: Your test scores will not be considered, even if you submit them.
Visit fairtest.org to find a full list of colleges and universities that are test optional or test blind. When in doubt, check with the school you’re applying to.
How do I choose?
Wondering whether you should take the SAT, the ACT, or both? Every college that accepts the SAT will also accept the ACT. So you can take whichever one you feel most comfortable with. Or you can take both tests and send both scores, or choose your best scores.
The SAT and ACT take roughly the same amount of time and cover many of the same areas. The SAT tends to be a bit more math-heavy. The ACT has a science section that tests your logical and critical thinking abilities.
Bottom line: There’s no harm in choosing one test, or taking both! Talk to your high school counselor if you’re unsure or need advice.
The SAT is a national college admissions exam offered by the College Board. It’s accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. except for test-blind schools. You can score from 400 (lowest) to 1600 (highest). The SAT tests two subject areas: math and evidenced-based reading and writing. There may also be an optional essay, depending on a school’s requirements.
The SAT aims to focus on the skills and knowledge you learn in high school – and what you need to succeed in college. Most students take the SAT during a planned day in school, during the spring of junior year. It’s a good idea to take it during your junior spring. This way, if you’re unhappy with your score, you can re-take it during your senior fall.
Some colleges allow superscoring for the SAT, which means they accept your best score in each section. If you take the SAT multiple times, you can use your best math and reading scores, even if you earned them during different tests.
You can register for the SAT at collegeboard.org.
The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is also known as the PSAT/NMSQT® (National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test). It’s a practice version of the SAT that’s offered by the College Board to help students prepare for the SAT. Taking the PSAT helps you get comfortable with the SAT test format and subject matter. Students who earn high PSAT scores during their junior year can earn National Merit Scholarships. This means money for college and an impressive honor for college applications.
You can take the PSAT in the fall of your sophomore and junior year. It’s a good idea to take it both years to get extra practice. Check the College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT page to find out when the PSAT will be offered and learn more about the test.
The ACT, or American College Test, is a national college admissions exam. Like the SAT, it is accepted by all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. except for test-blind schools. You can score from 1 (lowest) to 36 (highest). The ACT tests four subject areas: math, English, reading and science. There’s an optional essay, too.
The ACT aims to be a curriculum-based achievement test. This means it measures what you’ve learned in school. You can take it either in spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year. If you take it more than once, you can submit your best score.
Register for the ACT at Act.org.
The TEAS, or Test of Essential Academic Skills, is designed for prospective nursing students. The TEAS measures entry-level skills and abilities of nursing school applicants or first year nursing school students.
For more information, including how to register for the TEAS, visit atitesting.com.
If you’re planning to take one or more standardized tests, preparation is key. You’ll want to study the test material. You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the format and learn strategies for doing your best. While you can sign up for a test prep course, there are lots of great materials available for free.