Europe and America have invested so much resources and manpower in their educational systems, and to ensure continued growth, they require the best brains—the innovative and teachable minds willing to be groomed and well utilized both within and outside their geographical spheres. To this end, it is not surprising that there are stipulated undergraduate entry exams you must take to be considered eligible to study in most schools in these countries.

Read further to get a comprehensive list as well as the basics about these exams...


This is the first on my list for obvious reasons. The Standardized Admission Test is the most popular college admission test in the world. It is meant to measure how prepared you are for college admission in terms of your reading and writing skills as well as computational/mathematical abilities and has been in existence from as far back as 1939, during which there have been some modifications to the content and structure of the exams.

Several schools in the US, Canada, and the UK require this result and it influences 50% of the admission decisions to these schools. What I find most interesting about the exam as it stands now is that it is currently digital and can be done in much less time than before. You will see that the testing experience is more relaxed.  For instance, on the reading portion, you are looking at one paragraph to one question. So you are not memorizing as used to be the case. You are now READING and CAPTURING the most essential details to answer each question correctly.   

It is scored on a 400-1600 scale overall with each section— Verbal and Math—on a 200-800 scale. Good, scholarship-worthy scores range from 1400 to 1600. The College Board recommends you take this exam twice— in the spring of the junior year, and in the fall of senior year—  as students tend to make better results the second time, and schools accept the highest scores possible. In fact, there is this “superscoring” process adopted by most schools, which involves combining the test-taker's best verbal score with his best math score from two different tests. Taking the exam twice, therefore, affords you this privilege. You can be sure that the test is offered 7 times a year— March, May, June, August, October, November, and December— so you have a plethora of opportunities within a year to re-write. Nevertheless, from experience, I have realized that with adequate preparation within three months, you could earn your desired score the first time and not have to incur the additional expense of a second test. In this vein, you could sign up for one-on-one online coaching, purchase pre-recorded class sessions, or join a group online class all on this site.

What Is the SAT? A Complete Explanation of the Test (prepscholar.com) 


The American College Testing is targeted at students who are looking to secure admission into American colleges. It is quite akin to the SAT in terms of structure and content, except that it also tests for some other science subjects like physics. On almost all admission requirements in the US, you are told to present either an ACT or SAT result; they are hardly ever differentiated. So it largely depends on you to take the test that you consider most convenient. Since they are administered by the same body (College Board), the tests are never set on the same date; even though The ACT is also written 7 times a year, there is no clash with the assigned SAT dates.

Some students can even take both and eventually decide on the one to send to the school based on their best performance.  The grading pattern of this test could seem a little weird: each section is converted to a scale of 1-36 depending on the number of questions you get correctly. The total score is the average of your score on all the sections. The average score stands at 21, but for highly selective schools, you should be gunning for a 33 to 34.

Which should I then take when asked to provide any of my choosing?

Now, let’s see…

Given the recent digital modification, the SAT is now shorter than the ACT, and on the SAT you are not tested on any science subject. However, if you are thrilled by the idea of demonstrating your science range as well as that of math and verbal, the ACT could be your choice.

Should You Take the SAT or ACT? - College Board Blog 


Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT)

This exam is “cosponsored by the College Board and National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC),” As the name suggests, this exam is taken mostly by 10th and 11th graders in preparation for the SAT. It is structured quite similarly to the SAT, except that it has fewer questions, and it recently became digital as well. The grading is on a 1320-1520 scale for verbal and math, both of which are scaled on a 160-760. A good score is considered to be close enough to the SAT score you require for college admissions. It is only taken once a year starting in early or mid-October, during a testing window that lasts one month.

It also earns students national merit scholarships. “Each year the top 1% of 11th-grade PSAT takers become Semifinalists. Of these, about 7,500 go on to win scholarship money.”

Regardless, the exam is not considered as important as the SAT since it does not qualify students for direct college admissions.

What Is the PSAT Test? Everything You Need to Know (prepscholar.com)


The Advanced Placement is a standardized pre-college exam that measures the student’s skill on specific AP courses. You simply take the test after completing an AP course. A secondary/high school can administer the test with authorization. The exam is only done once a year, usually in May. You can take the exam every time it is offered for any of the AP courses you study during the year, and your score report will show results for all the time you took the exam. The grading is on a 1-5 scale for each subject. In 2023, the average score on each course was 2.26.

Whichever you decide to take, remember that it is your responsibility to emerge with scores that can earn you favorable admissions with impressive scholarships, and for this reason, preparation is KEY.

For the record, this blog post specifically dwells on Pre-college exams; you can find equally informative pieces about Master’s application exams and English proficiency exams in subsequent posts.

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