Standardized tests are dreaded and despised by almost all college-bound students, and yet they are required in order to attend most colleges. If testing really isn’t your thing, you can check out this list of colleges that don’t require them for admission.

But for those of you planning to take or retake such infamous tests as the SAT, preparation is key—and for those who are relying on self-prep, there are lots of resources to help you. But first, let’s take a quick look at the major tests for college:


The most famous by far, the SAT I is your traditional college entrance standardized test. It tests reading, math, and writing skills, and is required by the majority of colleges. It is notoriously tricky, with many questions testing your “logical reasoning” more than anything you’ve learned at school. Traditionally, this test is taken in the spring of your junior year, although some students choose to (re)take it in the fall of senior year. For schedules and more information about the test, check the College Board’s website.


Once a little-known alternative to the SAT, the ACT is becoming more and more common. Now, almost all colleges allow the ACT or the SAT for admission, although many students choose to take both. The ACT tests reading, math, English, and science, and has an optional writing section that many colleges require. The ACT is widely considered to be more straightforward than the SAT, with more direct questions, less tricks, and material that is probably related to what you’ve learned in school. Like the SAT, this is usually taken in the spring of junior year, though some choose to take it in the fall of senior year. Check the website for more info.


The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is basically a shortened version of the SAT I. Almost all students will take this test at their school in the fall of junior year. It is supposed to give you an idea of how you will do on the actual SAT, and it also serves as a qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Competition (students who score particularly high on the PSAT are eligible to win a scholarship in this competitive national competition). This test is not required for colleges, however, and is basically just for your own benefit. For more info, check the College Board website.


The SAT IIs, also known as the SAT Subject Tests, are short 1-hour multiple choice tests that measure your knowledge in particular subject areas. They are often required for highly selective colleges. The SAT IIs come in a wide variety of topics, such as Literature, U.S. History, Spanish, Chemistry, etc., and are usually offered year-round with the SAT I. However, many students choose to take these tests in the spring of junior year (if you are taking or have taken any AP tests, consider taking an SAT II in the same subject). To see the full list of subjects, check the
College Board website

So now that you’ve got the low-down on all the tests, what is the best way to study for them? Lucky for you, the library is a great resource for those who are self-prepping. One choice is to check out study guides from the library, such as Cracking the SAT or Cracking the ACT (Princeton Review is my personal favorite). You can also get online access to the LearningExpress Library with your library card for practice tests or study courses. At certain times of the year, the library even offers SAT prep classes, so check the teen calendar.

Good luck!

Post by Callan, teen blogger


  1. Callan

    *P.S. the Learning Express Library has a link on the teen page under “Online Resources.” Check it out!


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