What Are the Various Standardized Tests for Potential College Students?

A standardized test is defined as an exam that’s administered and scored in a very consistent manner. Standardized testing originated in China during the Han Dynasty. Now, this testing style is being used all over the world. The United States has been using standardized testing since 1900. Today, almost all the higher education schools in the United States require scores from at least one form of standardized test.   

Before students even reach their freshman year in high school they start to hear about the importance of standardized testing and the college admission process from friends and school officials. Students hear about the following standardized tests: Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT / NMSQT), Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), and American College Testing (ACT).

While many potential college students take all three of these standardized tests, some only take one. The PSAT isn’t necessary to get into college but your school might require it for basic academic assessment. Almost all (if not all) colleges/universities accept both scores from the SAT and ACT college admissions exams. However, some schools may prefer one over the other. 

SAT Practice + A Shot To Win Free Money = PSAT / NMSQT 

Each year about 3.5 million students take the Preliminary PSAT. High school students typically take this exam as sophomores or juniors. The PSAT is usually offered once a year, and students typically take the exam in the fall. Most high schools cover the cost of the exam, so students do not pay to take it.

The subtitle is pretty self-explanatory. By taking the PSAT exam, you will not only get SAT practice but if you get a high score you might also qualify for merit-based scholarships.

The PSAT includes two sections. The math component includes basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. The reading and writing component tests reading comprehension and analysis. You can get between 160 and 760 points on each section, for a perfect PSAT score of 1520.

Registering online is sort of impossible. With that being said, you will need to register with the help of your school  (or if you are a homeschooled student), you can find schools near you where you can take the test at. It’s the school’s job to register and schedule your testing date. 


The SAT is one of the two main college admissions exams. Most students take this exam during their junior or senior years. The test scores can help college admission officials determine if you should be accepted. In addition, the test scores can make you eligible to receive merit-based financial aid. The higher your test scores, the more chances you will have to receive public and private scholarships. 

There are three forms of SAT tests: SAT (without essay), SAT with essay, and SAT Subject Test.

If you get up early on a Saturday morning to take the SAT (not the Subject Test), you will encounter three basic sections, which are reading, writing, and math. In the test room, everyone will get 3 hours and 50 minutes to finish the exam. This includes 50 minutes for the optional essay. Essentially, the math section is divided into two sections: one with a calculator and one without. The math portion covers basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and data analysis. Keep in mind that on test day, you will need to bring an approved calculator along with other school supplies such as two No. 2 pencils with erasers. 

Your SAT score can range from 400 to 1600, with 1600 representing a perfect score. Your score comes from adding the math section (a score from 200 to 800), to the reading and writing section, which can also have a score from 200 to 800.

If you plan to take the SAT during the 2020-2021 school year, the cost will be $49.50 for the option without the essay and $64.50 with the essay. The most you will pay for individual Subject Tests will be $26. Soon you and your family will start to wonder what is the best course of action in terms of paying for the SAT. The good news is that low-income students may qualify for a fee waiver program which consists of not paying the testing cost at all. Click here to learn more about the cost and fee waiver program for the SAT.

Registering for the SAT has never been easier. You can complete the registration process with your parents or counselor. However, remember that your parents or counselor can’t register for you. The registration process must be completed by you but you can have a second person overseeing that you enter the correct information, read things carefully, etc. The process consists of a few steps that will ensure the best possible outcome. 

When you get to the final stages of the registration process, you will be asked to select your testing date and location. At that stage, you will be given seven dates to choose from since the test is offered only seven times each school year.

Now that you have a test date and location, you are probably wondering, “How can I prepare for this test?”, and you are not alone. Many students like you feel overwhelmed when thinking of what next steps to take to ensure successful results. To help guide you in this frightening journey, we put together a how to prepare for the SAT guide


Like the SAT, the ACT test also plays an important role in your college admissions decision. Although standardized tests are just a part of your college application, a great score on the ACT can supplement your application and help you get an excellent financial aid package from your university of choice.

Similar to the SAT, you can take the ACT during your junior or senior year of high school. This exam is usually offered about six times per year, but you are allowed to take it up to 12 times during your high school career. 

The ACT is a bit different when compared to the SAT.

For starters, the exam is composed of four multiple-choice sections which include an optional essay section that some colleges may require. If you opt to take this, you’ll have to write an evaluation and analysis of a series of perspectives on a debate-worthy issue. The four sections are English, math, reading, and science. You should expect to take the exam in that exact same order since it’s consistent. Rather than testing your biology or chemistry knowledge, the science portion tests your critical thinking skills in a scientific context. The math portion covers basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. In contrast to the SAT, you are allowed to use a calculator for the entire math section of the ACT. 

Your ACT score can range from 1 to 36. Each of the four sections is scored separately on a scale of 1 to 36, and your final score is a composite of all four. That means that an excellent score can bring up your overall score, while one poor score can bring down the total.

Register for the ACT without writing for just $50.50 or with writing for just $67.00. If you and your family cannot afford the registration fee, you may be eligible for an ACT Fee Waiver as long as you meet these requirements:

  • Currently enrolled in high school in the 11th or 12th grade.
  • Be testing in the US, US territories, or Puerto Rico.
  • Meet one or more indicators of economic need listed on the ACT Fee Waiver form

To register for a test date at a particular location, click here. Preparing for the ACT is very similar to the SAT preparations but to get in-depth instructions on how to prepare for it, check out this article. 

It’s important to denote that if you qualify for the fee waiver for both the ACT and SAT, you will receive the voucher/form from your high school counselor and not directly from each organization. Additionally, every time you register for both tests you can send your scores to up to four colleges/universities at a time. 

Finally, while you aren’t required to take all three of these standard exams, getting a great score on each could help pay for college. Find out which exam your school of choice prefers, and start preparing as soon as possible.