This article is published in the 2014 I’m First Guide to College

Most four-year colleges and universities require students to submit standardized test scores. Primarily, these institutions want to see either SAT or ACT scores, while selective schools may require additional tests as well.


How to Prepare

Just like you should never take a test at school without studying, you shouldn’t try to take standardized tests without preparing ahead. It’s not uncommon for high school juniors and seniors to spend upwards of eight hours a week studying for their standardized exams months beforehand. Even if other students at your school aren’t studying on their own time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Remember, when it comes to college admissions, you’ll be competing against everybody, not just the students at your school.

Register On Time!

You need to register to take standardized tests at least a month beforehand (except for the PSAT, which is usually offered through schools) to avoid paying late registration fees. Many students register for their tests earlier so they can get their preferred testing location. Registering online is the fastest and easiest way to confirm your attendance. The College Board—the organization that administers the SAT—requires that you have a digital photo on hand to submit with your registration.

Fee Waivers

Taking standardized tests costs money, but it doesn’t have to. Guidance counselors are provided with fee waivers for the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests so that students can register and send their scores to their college choices free of charge. Students can use two waivers for each test. Be sure to ask your guidance counselor about obtaining a fee waiver before you register.

What to Bring

On the day of the test, make sure to give yourself half an hour cushion time to ensure you arrive early. Dress in loose, layered clothes so you won’t be too hot, too cold, or uncomfortable.


• your admissions ticket

• A photo ID

• Number 2 Pencils with erasers

• A bottle of water and a snack for break

Do NOT bring any electronics with you to the test! If you are found to have an electronic, you will be asked to leave the testing site and your scores will be cancelled.