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Introduction to College Entrance Exams

Many colleges and universities use college entrance exams as a part of their admissions process to evaluate a student’s academic abilities and potential for success in college. Depending on the colleges you apply to, you may need to take one of these standardized tests as part of the application process.

Types of Exams 

There are two primary college entrance exams designed to evaluate students’ critical-thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and content knowledge: the SAT and ACT. The SAT includes reading, language, and math sections and emphasizes reasoning and critical thinking. The ACT tests students’ knowledge in English, math, and science and strongly focuses on content knowledge.

Some colleges and universities may also require or recommend additional subject-specific tests, such as SAT Subject Tests or Advanced Placement® (AP®) exams, depending on the program or major students are applying to. 

What to Expect

Most high school students take college entrance exams during the second half of their junior year or early in their senior year at a designated testing center. When you arrive on testing day, you will need to bring a valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, as well as your admission ticket and any required materials, including pencils and a calculator.

Both the SAT and ACT are timed, multiple-choice exams, with the SAT lasting two hours and 55 minutes and the ACT lasting three hours and 50 minutes. Don’t worry—you won’t be entrenched in the exam for the entirety of that time. All testers get to take a short break between sections.

How to Prepare

Many resources are available to help you prepare for your exams, including study guides, online practice tests, and tutoring services. Some high schools offer test prep courses, so be sure to check with your guidance counselor to see what’s available.

Once you have your study materials, you can establish good study habits by creating a schedule. This will help you be consistent and manage your time effectively. Take time to familiarize yourself with the format and structure of the exams and use practice tests to prepare for your testing day.

And remember, preparation will pay off. Stay consistent and focused as you study, and you can increase your chances of doing well on your exam and being accepted to the college of your choice.

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