Standardized Tests

Their names can sometimes sound like alphabet soup, but the standardized tests you will take in high school are important for college. Some schools require different tests, so you want to make sure to check with each one about their requirements. Here are the four main tests you may have to take if you want to apply to most colleges:


The PLAN is the pre-ACT test taken by tenth-graders to help students estimate how well they will do on the ACT. It is a comprehensive guidance resource that helps students measure their current academic development, explore career/training options, and make plans for the remaining years of high school and post-graduation years. Talk to your high school counselor for more information about PLAN.


This standardized test is designed to assess high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. It often is used for college admission decisions, and virtually all U.S. colleges and universities accept ACT results. The ACT consists of four multiple-choice tests in English, mathematics, reading, and science, as well as an optional writing test.


The PSAT (Preliminary SAT) is a two-part, exam that is very similar to the SAT. The PSAT consists of two 25-minute verbal sections, two 25-minute math sections, and one 30-minute writing skills section. Most people take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year in high school. Some students choose to take it during their sophomore year. Scores on the PSAT are used to determine National Merit Scholars, students who qualify for merit-based scholarships distributed throughout the United States. Talk to your high school counselor for more information.


The SAT is one of two standardized tests used by colleges as part of their admissions requirements. The SAT I is a three-hour exam that measures verbal and math reasoning skills used for admission. Scores on each section range from 200-800 points. It contains a writing test. The SAT II consists of more than 20 subject areas, or achievement tests designed to measure subject-area knowledge.