Everything You Need to Know About College Entrance Exams

What Are College Entrance Exams

College entrance exams are standardized aptitude tests used to evaluate students for college admissions purposes. The first thing you do once you’ve decided which universities you plan on applying to is to check the admissions requirements to figure out which college entrance exams are required by the school as well as the scores you’ll need to get in.


There are quite a few of these tests out there, and it can be hard to keep the info straight. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide – so you can understand what these different tests are for, and how you can register to take them. 


What Kinds of College Entrance Exams are There?

PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test)


First up is the PSAT – also known as the Pre-SAT or the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. Generally taken by sophomores or juniors in high school, this is a practice test designed to get students ready for the experience of taking the ACT and SAT examinations the following year. 


As a practice test, you don’t need to worry about your PSAT score affecting either your college admissions chances or your transcript, but that’s no reason to slouch.  Your ACT and SAT scores will be very important come college admissions season, and this is your best chance to get experience preparing for and taking a standardized test. Taking this test also puts you in the running for a National Merit Scholarship.


How to Register: The only way to register for the PSAT is through the high school administering the test. Information about registering for the PSAT will be available through either the guidance counselor or the college counseling office. If the school hasn’t filled you in on this information by the fall of your Junior year, head over to those offices and asked directly.


Additional information: Not all schools offer the PSAT, but you can find a local school that does by using the College Board’s PSAT High School Search Tool. You’ll receive the name and location of the school and info about how to register for the test. Read More:


SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)


The SAT is one of the most commonly required college entrance exams. Chances are the majority of the colleges and universities you’re looking to apply to will want to see your score from the SAT (UoPeople does not require a SAT score). This test has three sections: Reading, Writing and Language; Math; and an optional essay section. Each section is scored from 200-800, meaning students can score anywhere from 400-1600 on the whole test (the optional essay is scored separately). 


How to Register: SATs are scheduled at many schools a few times throughout the year. Registration is facilitated through the College Board, meaning students can register for the test either on the College Board Website or by mail. To register online, simply follow this link. On the left side of the page, you’ll see links for registering online, registering by mail, locating test sites, and registration deadlines (typically three weeks to a month before the test date.)


Additional information: There is a $45 registration fee which must be paid by credit card for online registration or by check for registration by mail. The cost of taking the SAT plus the essay section is $57, and an additional $28 must be paid for late registration (typically the deadline for late registration is two to three weeks before the test date). There is also information on the website about obtaining a registration fee waiver for individuals who cannot pay the registration fee.


More on the SAT:


SAT Subject Tests


The SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT II) are standardized tests in particular subject areas. Five such tests are offered in English, History, Mathematics, Science, and Languages. The subject tests are not as commonly required as the SAT itself, but some schools will require students submit scores from these tests in one or more subjects. The tests are multiple-choice and taken in a one-hour session.


How to Register: SAT Subject Tests are generally offered six times a year in January, May, June, October, November, and December on the same days that the SAT is offered, but students planning to take these tests should check the College Board Website to make sure of specific dates. Students can take up to three Subject Tests on each test day. To register online follow this link to the College Board Website. Details regarding registration by mail can be found here.



ACT (American College Test)


The ACT is a standardized aptitude test similar in content and importance to the SAT. While the relative popularity of the SAT and the ACTs vary based on school zone, both tests are accepted and looked upon favorably by a lot of colleges and universities. The ACT is multiple choice and has sections in English, Math, Reading, and Science. Like the SAT, there is an optional Writing section. Check to see if the colleges and universities on your list require the writing section as well – as a majority of universities will require it. Each section is scored on from 1-36, and the final score is generated as the average of all four subject areas. Students who opt to take the Writing Test will receive a Subject-Level Wring Score and an ELA score, which is the average of the scores received from English, reading, and writing)


How to Register: As with the SAT, students can register online or by mail, though the ACT prefers that students register online as this is faster and students can check test center availability on the spot. Registering online also allows students to print their admission ticket immediately after registration is complete.To register online, go to the ACT website and create an ACT Account. You will fill out a registration form which includes basic questions about your background, family, interests, academic history, as well as identifying information. When you’ve filled out this form, you can register for the test. The registration fee for the ACT is $42.50 for the test without the writing test and $58.50 with the writing test. For details on registering through the mail, follow this link. More on the ACT:


TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)


If you’re planning on studying in an American college or university and English isn’t your first language, you may be required to take the TOEFL.  The TOEFL is a standardized test which evaluates a student’s mastery of English and readiness to study at a college level in English. Often required for students applying from abroad, the TOEFL can be taken online or as a written test. The TOEFL has four sections: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The test takes four hours to complete, and despite being available online, can have a long wait time – making it advisable for students to register early for this test.


How to Register: To register for the TOEFL follow this link and click on “begin registration.” You will be prompted to choose a test date and test location (either at a local test center or online). You will then be prompted to register with your name, address and some basic info before paying the registration fee. Fees vary by country and state and can be checked here. 


Additional information: More on the TOEFL:


AP (Advanced Placement)


AP Exams are standardized tests taken by high school students to measure mastery of specific subject matter. Specifically, that learned in AP courses (which are deemed college-level). While AP Exams are generally taken after the completion of such a course, not all schools offer AP courses and students can opt to take the test without having taken the course. AP exams are scored from 1-5 and scores are based on a student’s performance relative to all other students who have taken that particular exam. Scoring a 4 or 5 will count as college credit at many colleges and universities.


How to Register? To register for AP Exams, students need to find out who their school’s AP coordinator is. Each school that offers AP courses will have a staff member in charge of handling AP test registration who liaises with the College Board on behalf of the school. This person is generally a guidance counselor. In any event, guidance counselors will be able to steer students in the right direction. Students will need to pay a $92 registration fee for each AP exam. Questions regarding fee waivers should be addressed to the AP Coordinator or AP Services. There is no online registration for AP exams.


Additional information: Students at schools that don’t offer AP courses or students who are home-schooled should contact their AP Services provider before March 1 to get contact information for local schools offering the AP Exams. AP Services will also be able to assist students in registration. Students can contact AP Services at [email protected] or 888-225-5427 (toll-free) or 212-632-1780

More about AP exams:


GED (General Education Development)


The GED exam, designed for individuals who didn’t graduate from high school, is a test to earn a high school education equivalency certificate. This exam tests the general knowledge that would be gained in a traditional four-year high school education.  It consists of five subject sections: Language Arts, Writing, Reading, Social Science, Science, and Mathematics.


How to Register: To register for the GED individuals must create an account on and select a local Test Centre.  There are over 3,000 test centers across the states located at schools, adult ed centers, and community centers. Test centers can also be located by calling 1-877-392-6433 (1-877-EXAM-GED). For individuals living outside the U.S., there are GED Test Centres abroad as well.  These will also be listed on the GED website and are accessible through the above phone numbers.  Registration fees vary based on country and state. More About the GED