College Entrance Exams: What To Know and How To Prepare

When applying to post-secondary institutions, college entrance exams are an essential factor to consider.

These standardized tests can determine what schools you can apply to, if any, depending on your scores.

Knowing how to prepare for the exams adequately can open the door to unexpected future opportunities.

College Entrance Exams

As mentioned, these entrance exams help determine what schools students can apply for.

They are standardized, meaning that every student receives the same test and needs to meet the same benchmarks.

They test your knowledge in an assortment of areas, including math and language.

With that said, there are several different types of college exams you need to consider before registering.

Some tests are recommended for specific programs and particular students.

The Types of Entrance Exams

Let’s get into the different types of entrance exams you’ll need to consider at the end of your high school career.

SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)

The SATs are the most commonly known standardized tests that high school students could require.

The vast majority of universities and colleges you’re applying for will need to see your SAT score.

Within the test, there are three primary sections to be completed: writing and language, reading, and math.

You’ll also find an optional essay section at the conclusion, which is recommended for extra grades.

In total, SATs have a score up to 1600, while each section ranges between 200 and 800 points.

SAT Subject Tests

In the past, SAT Subject Tests were referred to as SAT II.

They’re unique in that they focus on specific subject areas and aren’t as common as traditional SATs.

However, if you’re applying to a specialty school, you could be required to submit specific SAT II scores.

These five tests focus on history, science, math, English, and languages.

They’re also far faster to complete, as they are done within an hour and have multiple-choice questions.

PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test)

Before you take your SATs, you’ll likely have to take a PSAT.

This test is specifically designed to help junior or sophomore students gain the skills required to take their SATs.

It’s an invaluable form of preparation, as you can learn how SATs are designed to know how to study effectively.

One of the most significant benefits of PSATs is that they’re not used for your college or university admissions.

In most cases, they won’t be shown on your transcripts, but they’re handy for preparation.

By taking the practice test, you’ll have the best chance of succeeding on the SAT, which really matters.

ACT (American College Test)

Students who don’t take the SAT will often be required to take the ACT or American College Test.

It’s another standardized aptitude test with the same job as the SATs, proving you’re a college-ready student.

With that said, the test may vary depending on where you live and are often highly regarded by post-secondary schools.

You’ll find most of the ACT comprises multiple-choice questions, but it also has written concepts.

Like the SATs, it also focuses on science, reading, English, and math with an optional writing section.

It’s important to note the majority of colleges will require students to complete the writing section.

With ACTs, each section is graded from one to 36, with a final average score across all subjects.

If you complete the writing test, you’ll also receive an ELA and Subject-Level Writing Score.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

Students whose first language isn’t English will be required to take the TOEFL if they want to study at an American school.

The TOEFL is designed to test each participant’s mastery of English with reading, writing, and speaking.

You’ll be required to show your English proficiency to be granted admission into an American university.

There are four sections to the TOFEL, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

It’s important to note that each section can be time-extensive, as the entire test can take up to four hours.

One of its most considerable benefits is that it can be taken online, allowing students to complete it from anywhere worldwide.

However, as it’s available online, the waitlist for testing can be extensive, so it’s essential to apply in advance.

GED (General Education Development)

With most colleges and universities, you will be required to have a high school degree before applying.

Not every prospective student has had the opportunity to obtain one, though, which is why GEDs are helpful.

GEDs take the place of your high school diploma by testing your aptitude in several subject areas.

They’re widely available and easy to register for with different regulations that vary from state to state.

Within these standardized tests, you’ll work on reading, social science, writing, language arts, mathematics, and science.

AP (Advanced Placement)

Some high school students show proficiency in a specific subject matter, excelling in mastery above their peers.

In these instances, they could be presented with the option of taking AP or Advanced Placement tests.

You’ve likely heard this term regarding courses, also known as AP courses (college-level).

In high school, students with enhanced mastery will complete AP tests after their course.

They can also opt to take the tests without taking the course, especially if they’re highly proficient.

The majority of AP tests are graded from one to five based on student performance.

If you’re able to score a four or five on each test, it could count as college credit at certain post-secondary institutions.

college entrance exams

How To Prepare for Entrance Exams

Knowing how to prepare for your entrance exams is the next step to getting a placement at your desired university.

As you can tell, most standardized tests have the same structure and will require you to study in-depth.

While others, like AP tests, rely solely on your innate ability to have proficiency with a specific subject matter.

Regardless of the standardized tests you have to take, we highly recommend the following steps.

Step #1: Know What To Expect

The first thing you should do when preparing for a test is knowing what’s expected of you.

Students should review the performance requirements for the best possible score and what’s required for a passing grade.

If there are practice tests available, we highly recommend taking them to ensure you’re adequately prepared.

There are also plenty of online resources that you can use to acquire essential study materials.

For example, finding outlines of what to expect from your SATs and common subject matter.

The more you’re able to prepare ahead of time, the better you’re likely to perform when it comes time for the test.

Step #2: Learn the Fundamentals

Before you begin getting into the finer details of your standardized tests, learning the fundamentals is ideal.

For example, you know the SATs focus on math and English, so you’ll focus on standard formulas and grammar.

Once you have a good grasp of the fundamentals, you can diversify your studying into more specialized areas.

Again, using online resources and study materials can help you know what to focus on when preparing.

When you have a strong foundation for complex subject matter, you’ll perform better with more challenging concepts.

Also, this process can help keep you calm and focused on the most imperative concepts of the tests.

Step #3: Study and Practice

Studying the materials for your entrance exams is incredibly beneficial and highly recommended, as is practicing.

It’s easy to read through study guides and textbooks, but putting your knowledge to use is ideal.

Practice tests are a remarkable way to learn if there are other things you need to know to improve your performance.

They can also help prepare you for the structure of the standardized test so you’ll know what to expect.

We highly recommend creating a group of study partners so you can all help each other improve your performance.

With the combination of practice quizzes, flashcards, and a regular study schedule, you’ll be more than prepared.

One of our top recommendations for studying is to create a calendar to ensure you work on all the subject material.

By planning your study sessions, you can ensure you’re covering all topics within a reasonable timeframe.

Also, having a plan can help reduce stress so you can focus more on the materials in front of you.

Step #4: Fuel Your Mind and Body

It’s easy to get whisked away with the notion that the more you study, the more you’ll retain.

However, it’s also important to remember your mind and body need fuel to retain information for more extended periods.

Always ensure that you’re taking care of yourself when you’re studying by maintaining a healthy diet.

It’s best to rely on healthy snacks such as fruits and granola bars while also drinking an adequate amount of water.

The more good energy your body has to use, the easier it will be for your mind to remember important details.

Students should always avoid junk food and energy drinks, especially on testing day, as they can distract you.

Two other important aspects of fueling your mind and body pertain to sleep and breaks.

Even though it might be tempting to study all day and night before your exam, sleep is essential.

You should also give your mind a 15-minute break every hour of studying to help you better digest the material.

Step #5: Focus on Timing

Once you think you have a grasp of your tests’ fundamental knowledge and skills, it’s time to concentrate on time.

It’s important to note that all standardized tests have time constraints for you to complete each section.

The last thing any student wants is to lag, leaving far too little time to complete the section they’re working on.

You can typically find breakdowns of the timing for each section of your standardized test to know what to expect.

For example, if the language portion is one hour, expect to complete all questions within that hour.

The more accustomed you are to pacing yourself, the easier it will be to focus on the content rather than the clock.

How To Register for Standardized Tests

The final step to preparing for your standardized test is to know how to sign up so you can get started.

Each test has its own registration steps that we’ll now review.

PSAT Registration

To register for your PSAT, you have to do so through your high school.

You can typically talk to your guidance counselor or front office to determine when it’s available in your area.

However, the majority of schools will provide this information to junior or sophomore students immediately.

SAT Registration

SATs are typically at several points throughout the year and managed by the college board in your district.

You can typically register either by mail or through your college board’s website.

The most important thing to note is that there’s a registration fee and a deadline for booking your test.

SAT Subject Tests Registration

There are six times when SAT Subject Tests are available, typically in January, May, June, October, November, and December.

They’ll often be held the same day as the SATs in your area, which you can confirm through your college boards.

You will need to apply for these tests through the college board as well, like the SATs.

ACT Registration

To register for ACTs, you have to do so through the ACT website by making an account and paying the entrance fee.

Once you’ve completed your registration, you’ll receive an immediate ticket to provide entry to a testing center.

TOEFL Registration

Like many of the other standardized tests, registering for your TOEFL is done online.

You’ll have to select a test location and test date that best suits your needs based on where you live.

Once you’ve filled out the registration information and paid the fee, simply write the test on your assigned date.

AP Registration

The AP coordinator at individual high schools typically manages AP registrations.

These professionals work with the college board and will also be guidance counselors for AP students.

They will be able to provide information about registration fees and testing dates for students.

GED Registration

Obtaining your GED has improved significantly over the years, as it can now be done online.

To register, you have to make an account on the GED website and select a testing center.

There are fees associated as well, which are to be noted.

Final Thoughts

When you’re getting ready for your college entrance exams, it’s essential to have all the required information.

There are a few key responsibilities, from knowing what to expect from the tests to creating a study calendar.

The more prepared you are, the better you’ll perform, helping you get to the school of your dreams.

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