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take the tests

tips and guidelines

What Tests Are For: Show What You Know

High schools vary from place to place, so colleges can't look at grades alone.

Standardized tests provide a consistent way for colleges to evaluate students. Most colleges require you to take one of the most common tests, the SAT® or the ACT®. Check with the colleges you plan to apply to for their testing requirements.

college q&a:    click to expand
"My SAT/ACT score was pretty important. And yes, had I studied more, I do think I would have been accepted into a few more schools."

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Success Strategy: Prepare, Study, Repeat

To take these tests, you should be armed with more than a #2 pencil. Both major testing organizations offer lots of resources to help you prepare and study. Both also offer preparatory tests you can take early. Your local library and bookstore have books that can help you prepare. And if you don't do well the first time, don't panic ” you can re-take the tests to try to raise your score.


Need More Help? Learn about free test preparation.


"When it comes to taking standardized tests, put the effort into them to study. You're making an investment in your future. There can be a very big gain out of taking the standardized tests two or three times, because most people improve when they take it again. In the long run, I was able to get more scholarship money simply because of my score on the standardized tests."
Kansas State University

The Tests: Take a Closer Look

The most common tests, with links to their Web sites:

  • SAT Reasoning Test„˘. This test measures your ability to think and solve problems. Almost all colleges and universities accept the SAT as part of the admissions process. You can take the test in your junior and senior years.
  • ACT. Like the SAT, the ACT is accepted by almost all colleges and universities. But instead of measuring how you think, the ACT measures what you have learned in school.
  • SAT Subject Tests„˘. These tests measure your knowledge and skills in a variety of subjects. Some colleges use them for admissions and to help students choose the right courses. Some schools require them. At other schools, they are optional.
  • AP® Tests. Short for Advanced Placement, AP tests give you the chance to earn college credit while still in high school. Many students take them after completing AP classes.
  • CLEP® Tests. Short for College Level Examination Programs, these tests can help you earn college credit in many different subjects. They are often taken by home-schooled students, or people who are returning to college after being in the workforce.
  • International® Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. This is a two-year program designed for college-bound high school students. It is accepted by hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. The course can help you earn college credit. Ask your guidance counselor if your school offers it.

Help to Pay: See If You Qualify

The tests above require registration fees. The fees can vary depending on the test options you choose. Check with your high school guidance counselor to see if you qualify for a fee waiver.