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Standardized Test

Grading policies can differ between schools and even teachers. To avoid problems comparing one student to another, colleges and other postsecondary programs often use standardized tests to evaluate what students really know. Most colleges require some type of entrance exam, which may be part of the decision to admit you or to award you a scholarship. Check with each college you're thinking about attending to find out what test is required. If they are test optional, check to see if they will require an ACT or SAT score for scholarships or admittance into specific schools. ICAN recommends that you take your first ACT or SAT test your junior year and plan for at least one re-take.

  • Most colleges accept the ACT® and/or SAT® exams. Visit their websites for information on test dates and registration.
  • Community colleges and technical schools may require the ASSET® Student Success System or ACCUPLACER® exam.
  • The ASVAB is an aptitude test developed and maintained by the U.S. Department of Defense. Students beyond ninth grade can take the ASVAB. The military uses the scores to identify the occupations that best suit your abilities.

Do Your Best on Standardized Tests

To minimize any test anxiety, make sure you're familiar with the content and format of the test. Consider:

  • Learning more. Test preparation manuals are available at bookstores and libraries.
  • Taking pretests. The PreACT® and the PSAT/NMSQT® (Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) will give you a chance to see where your weak spots are so you can focus on those areas.
  • Practicing online. Practice tests are available on the ACT and SAT websites and at
  • Reviewing test-taking strategies. Some great tips for taking standardized tests are available at

Retake the Test

If you're unhappy with your score or feel you can do better, you might retake the test. Studies show that students generally increase their score by taking the test a second time. It's important to check with your high school counselor before you retake standardized tests.

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