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College Entrance Exams

Tests for Undergraduate Programs

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.

Most community colleges have open enrollment and don’t require standardized test scores. However, they will usually require placement tests. SAT or ACT scores may exempt you from placement tests. If you want to enroll in a selective program at a community college (nursing, computer science, law enforcement), then standardized test scores may be required. Later, if you transfer from a community college to a university or another school, test scores may be required.


The SAT measures your ability rather than knowledge. The 3 ¾-hour test contains three sections: writing, critical reading, and math. Most of the questions are multiple-choice.

Some colleges may also require you to take an SAT Subject Test. SAT Subject Tests measure your knowledge in specific subjects within five general categories: English, mathematics, history, science, and languages. 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 and SAT Subject Tests are offered several times a year at locations across the country. The College Board provides detailed information about the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, including information about preparing to take the test, what to take with you on test day, and understanding your scores.


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’ve learned in school.

The ACT consists of four multiple-choice tests: English, reading, mathematics, and science. If your college requires a writing test, you can take the ACT Plus Writing, which includes a writing test in addition to the other four tests. These tests are offered several times a year at locations (usually high schools and colleges) across the country.

Other Common Tests

Test Description

Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT)

A good way to practice for the SAT tests. Students typically take the PSAT in their junior year of high school. The test also serves as a qualifying exam for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s scholarship programs. The PSAT measures skills in critical reading, mathematics, and writing. Check out detailed information about the PSAT, including preparing for the SAT and qualifying for scholarships.

Advanced Placement (AP) exams

You usually take AP exams after you’ve completed an AP course in the relevant subject at your high school. A good grade on an AP exam can qualify you for college credit and/or “advanced placement” in that subject in college. For example, if you score well on the AP English Literature exam, you may not have to take the college’s required freshman-level English course. If you are interested in taking an AP class at your school, talk to your high school counselor.

Most AP exams last two to three hours, and include essay questions and possibly multiple-choice questions. The tests are offered each spring. Each test is offered only once, with a makeup day a few weeks later. Check out detailed information about AP exams, including courses and exams.

College-Level Examination Program (CLEP)

CLEP gives you the opportunity to earn college credit in different subjects by taking exams. 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. Check out detailed information about the CLEP, including getting college credit for what you already know.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)

The IB is a two-year curriculum designed for college-bound high school students. It is accepted by hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. and can help you earn college credit. Ask your high school counselor if your school offers the IB.

Visit the following websites for more detailed information:



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