Standardized Admissions Tests
Standardized Admissions Tests

As a part of the application process, most American colleges and universities require scores from one of the U.S. standardized admissions tests. However, some colleges and universities do not require international applicants to take admissions tests, and some schools do not ask for admissions test scores from any applicant. To find specific admissions test requirements, use U.S.-university directories such as the International Student Handbook of U.S. Colleges (The College Board, New York, NY) and Applying to Colleges and Universities in the United States: A Handbook for International Students (Peterson's, Princeton, N.J.). Also note that community colleges do not usually require applicants to take standardized admissions tests.

U.S. standardized admissions tests are primarily multiple-choice aptitude tests that are intended to measure the skills necessary for undergraduate study. American colleges and universities use admissions tests as a means of assessing all applicants (from the United States and other countries) against the same standard. Keep in mind that secondary school diplomas and examinations are not an equivalent to admissions tests, and that tests are only one part of the application — good test scores alone do not guarantee admission to the schools of your choice.

There are three main undergraduate admissions tests:
  • SATI
  • SAT Subject Tests
  • The ACT
Some universities may have their own in-house examinations or additional tests that applicants are required to take. For further information, make a list of the colleges you want to apply to, and then use general college directories or the colleges' own catalogs and websites to find out each institution's specific test requirements.

The SAT is given several times throughout the year at locations worldwide. Preregistration is required, and deadlines are usually six weeks prior to the exam. More specific information about dates, test centers, fees, and registration procedures is available in the SAT registration bulletin or on the SAT website at You can get copies of the registration bulletin from the College Board in the United States or from your nearest EducationUSA advising center. You may be asked to pay postage costs for these bulletins. U.S. centers also usually have sample questions and other test preparation materials for the SAT tests available for reference use, loan, or purchase.


The SAT is a measure of the critical thinking skills you'll need for academic success in college. The SAT assesses how well you analyze and solve problems—skills you learned in school that you'll need in college. The SAT is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. It is administered seven times a year in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Territories, and six times a year overseas.

SAT Subject Tests are also primarily multiple choice, but are only one hour long. They measure knowledge in specific subject areas. The subjects currently offered are:
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Chinese with Listening
  • French
  • French with Listening
  • German
  • German with Listening
  • Italian
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening
  • Latin
  • Literature
  • Mathematics Level 1
  • Mathematics Level 2
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Physics
  • Spanish
  • Spanish with Listening
  • United States History
  • World History
Many U.S. colleges and universities, especially those that have more competitive admissions criteria, either require or recommend one or more SAT Subject Test scores for admission and/or placement purposes. Be sure to check each institution's requirements before registering for an SAT Subject Test. While some colleges specify which subject tests you must take, others leave the option up to you. In this case, it is advisable to take exams in your strongest areas of study.


Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200-800, and the writing section will contain two subscores. Therefore, the highest possible combined score on the SAT would be 2,400. Scores are reported separately to colleges for the mathematical and verbal sections. Most college directories and catalogs quote average scaled scores for each institution to give some guidance on relative selectivity. SAT Subject Tests are also scored on a 200 to 800 scale.

The ACT University-Entrance Exam (The ACT)

Administered by ACT, Inc., the ACT is used by every 4-year college and university in the United States. The ACT is given up to five times annually at testing locations around the world. Unlike the SAT, the ACT is curriculum based, meaning it directly tests students on the subjects they are learning in school. Because of this, some students tend to feel more comfortable with its format. International students register for the ACT online at Registration deadlines are around five weeks prior to the exam. More specific information about dates, test centers, and free test preparation materials is available at


The ACT is a curriculum-based multiple-choice exam that measures student achievement in English, math, reading, and science reasoning. It also contains an optional writing component. Students can go to to see whether the college or university to which they are applying requires the writing component.


For each of the four subject areas, you receive a raw score, which is the total number of correct responses. The score is then converted into a scaled score from 1 to 36. A composite score is then calculated by adding together the scaled scores and dividing the sum by four. The highest possible composite score is 36, and the lowest is 1. Scores take several weeks to reach universities.