College Entrance Exams: What Admission Tests Should You Take?



Do you remember the days in high school when all you could think about was studying for your college entrance exams? It’s possible you are in that exact position now. The thought of why colleges mandate a test might be buzzing through your brain. You may groan over your textbooks and think, “Will this college test even help me?”


The good news is you are not alone. Thousands of students are required to take the same entrance examinations as you. So, let’s dive into the purpose of college entrance exams and what they are.




What is an Entrance Exam for College?


College entrance exams are tests that four-year colleges and universities commonly require and are taken in the junior or senior year of high school. They are used to assess a student’s ability in academic subjects such as math and also to test verbal, writing, and analytical skills. Some technical and community colleges require taking a college exam if a student wants to enroll in a program that prepares them to switch to a four-year program.


The scores earned on these college tests are a big determining factor for your admission to the school and your overall academic placement. For example, if a college has two applicants with the same grade point average, their scores on the entrance examination will weigh heavily on who will get accepted. Your test score can also help you get a merit-based scholarship. Some colleges even require a minimum score on a college exam in order for an applicant to be admitted.




The Most Popular College Exams


At this point, you’re probably thinking, “While I can see the benefit of these college tests, how do I know which one to take when there are so many options?” While there are many college entrance exams, there are two that students are most likely to encounter.


The American College Test, known as the ACT, is a college test that is more popular than the SAT exam in the South and Midwest of the US. It is formatted with multiple-choice questions and tests a student’s skill in science, math, English, and reading.  There is also an optional writing test that some institutions require you take. Each of the four sections is scored on a 1-36 scale. The extra writing section does not impact the average test score of the four sections and is scored from 1-12.


The Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, tends to be more popular in the East and West Coasts and is most possibly the most widely-recognized college entrance exam. Most US universities and colleges accept SAT scores.  The SAT consists of two main sections: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and Math. The first section includes the Reading Test and the Writing and Language test. The second section has two tests one with a calculator and the other without. A student may earn a 200-800 score for each section which makes the total score from 400 to 1600.  There is also an optional essay as with the ACT.




A Look at Other Entrance Examination Options


Although the ACT and SAT are the most commonly taken college entrance exams, there are a few others that are certainly worth mentioning.


The CLT, the Classic Learning Test, is a new alternative college entrance exam that was developed in 2015. It is currently accepted at a small number of religious Christian and Catholic schools and some secular liberal art colleges. The test is taken online and the results are given on the same day it’s taken. Interestingly, the top score one can get on a CLT is 120 which is higher than the perfect scores on an SAT or ACT exam which are comparable to a 114 on the CLT.


The TOEFL, Test of English as a Foreign Language, is taken by students who aren’t native English speakers. This college test assesses international students’ comprehension and use of the English language in order to determine if the student has the skills needed to succeed academically in college or university. The TOEFL is accepted in universities and colleges in the US as well as schools worldwide. You may also need to enter your TOEFL scores when applying for study abroad programs or an international job.


Advanced Placement courses are offered in many high schools. Following the AP class, students take a standardized test in May on the subject they studied. Students without access to an AP course still may take the exam. The highest score attainable is 5, and a student can earn college credit with a high score. 38 tests are available to students with the first part typically being multiple choice and the second part free-response questions. Although AP scores aren’t really considered college entrance exams, including high scores, will benefit you when applying to college.




How Important are Test Scores?


Now more than ever, the debate over whether typical college entrance exams are effective is on the rise. While the college tests do provide schools with information about whether a student is equipped to handle difficult college classes,  there has been a recent movement to get rid of standardized testing. The strongest argument is the lack of equity facing students who are from lower-income households forced to compete against students with much higher advantages. Due to this, an increasing number of colleges are choosing a broader form of evaluation of the student. It should be noted that for colleges that do require entrance examinations the test score is not the only factor taken into consideration for admittance. A student’s grades are taken into high account as well as the level of the classes.


Nowadays, students who don’t wish to take college entrance exams are still able to be quite successful in finding a suitable school. Online colleges, such as the University of the People, don’t require entrance exams in order to remain accessible to a diverse spectrum of people wanting to further their education.




Closing Thoughts


Before you decide which of the many college entrance exams to take, it’s important to take the time to consider your academic aspirations. Depending on your goals, some exams may be more suitable to take than others. You can also consider attending an online university, like the University of the People, that doesn’t require an entrance examination. By attending, you gain access to a variety of degree-granting programs and certificate programs for a fraction of the cost, without sacrificing quality.


Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the various college exams, you’re on the right path to starting your higher education academic career.


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