College Entrance Exams
A college entrance exam is a standardized aptitude test that measures your aptitude in various areas such as verbal, math, analytical and writing skills. These tests are not designed to measure what you have learned in school; rather, they measure your potential to perform well in the future.
The college you are applying to and where you stand in school will determine which standardized test you need to take. Below is a list of tests colleges most commonly use to assess prospective students:
ACT (American College Test)
The ACT is another standardized aptitude test designed to measure a student's readiness for college. Like the SAT, the ACT measures a student's potential to perform well in college. Test questions are based on standard high school subjects.
The test is multiple choice and consists of four subject areas: English, mathematics, reading and science. There is also an optional writing section, which if chosen, complements the ACT English test. Some colleges require the writing test; others don't. You should decide whether or not to take the writing test based on the requirements of the schools you plan on applying to.
Each section is scored on a scale of 1–36, and your final score is an average of all four subject areas. (If you take the writing test, you receive a subject-level writing score and an ELA score, which averages the English, reading and writing scores.) The ACT is offered six to seven times a year, and the actual test time is just under three hours (not including the 30-minute writing section).
SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
The SAT is a standardized aptitude test that measures a student's readiness for college. It is made up of three sections: reading, writing and language, math and an optional essay. Questions are generally multiple choice, and the essay involves analyzing a piece of writing.
Each section is scored on a scale from 200–800, with a total possible score of 1,600. Optional essay results are reported separately. Be sure to find out if your colleges of choice require SAT essay scores before you take the test. The SAT is offered seven times throughout the year, and you are given three hours to complete it (the optional essay takes an additional 50 minutes).
AP (Advanced Placement)
Advanced Placement exams are a series of standardized achievement tests taken by high school students to test their mastery of college-level material in a variety of courses. Like the SAT Subject Tests, AP exams measure knowledge of the subject area learned in school, and are generally taken after a student has completed (or come close to completing) an AP course. However, not all schools offer AP courses, and students may take the exams without completing the AP course.
Each exam is scored on a 1–5 scale, and scores are based on the student's performance compared to all other students who have taken the exam. Scoring a 4 or 5 (sometimes even a 3) on the exam will often count toward college credits at most colleges and universities.
AP exams (official site)