Testing for College Admission

Testing for College Admission

At most selective colleges and universities, students are required to submit the results of standardized tests as part of their application. To varying degrees, colleges use these results as part of their criteria for admitting students. During the college application process, staying on top of testing requirements and timelines is essential. We suggest making a calendar of test dates and topics well in advance.

Test Descriptions

1. PSAT/NMSQT – Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

This test is given in October to the entire sophomore and junior classes, as funding allows. Scores from the junior year are used for National Merit Scholarship Qualification (NMSQT) and for student and counselor use only. These scores are not sent to colleges.


SAT is officially called the SAT: Reasoning Test. It consists of reading, writing & language, and math sections, and an optional essay section and takes close to four hours.


These are one-hour tests measuring your knowledge of specific subject areas such as languages, math, sciences, and history. Students choose which tests to take. Most selective colleges require two (sometimes three) SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test. These tests can betaken at any time during one’s high school career. Three tests can be taken at one sitting, but we recommend that students only take one or two at a time. For more information about both the reasoning and subject tests, access the College Board website.

4. ACT – American College Test

An achievement-based test, the ACT is a popular alternative to the SAT and some students do better on this test. Students can submit the ACT in exchange for the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT Subject Tests, or both, depending on the college’s requirements. Almost all colleges accept the ACT. For more information visit the ACT website

5. AP – Advanced Placement Exam

These exams are not required for college admission and are used, instead, for college credit or placing in an advanced course in college. College may look favorably on strong results if available, but students are not penalized if they have not taken the AP exams.

Test Score Optional List

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers, and schools is fair, open, valid, and educationally beneficial. FairTest finds that over 830 four-year colleges do not use the SAT I or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree applicants. To view these colleges, go visit the National Center for Fair & Open Testing website.