College Admissions Tests

Why take a college admissions test like the ACT?

Many universities use college admissions tests to help them decide which students to accept. Tests are designed to offer a consistent way to show that you are ready for college-level work. Besides tests, colleges look at grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and other materials when considering a student.

Most community colleges have open enrollment and do not require standardized test scores. Taking the ACT or SAT may exempt you from taking required placement tests. These scores could also help you get into a more selective program such as nursing, computer science, or law enforcement at these schools.

One benefit of taking the ACT or SAT is the potential to earn merit scholarships that can help you pay for your college tuition. To decide which test to take, talk to your high school counselor, or to the admissions offices at the colleges you are interested in. Make sure that you know all the testing requirements and deadlines relating to additional subject and essay tests before registering.

Which test should I take?

The ACT and SAT are two of the more well-known college admissions tests. While the ACT is more commonly available in Utah, and both tests have now become widely accepted across all U.S. colleges. Each test is slightly different in length and material covered. Visit the Federal Student Aid website for a brief summary of these and other tests.

What is the ACT?
The American College Testing (ACT) is a test offered in many high schools and is more commonly used for admission to colleges and universities in Utah. The three-hour test consists of four multiple-choice sections covering English, reading, mathematics, and science. There is also an optional essay 40-minute ACT Plus Writing essay test.
What is the SAT?
The SAT is a test administered by the College Board and is widely accepted at schools across the United States. The three-hour test, not including breaks, is a multiple-choice covering reading, writing and language, and math. Some colleges may also require you to take additional one-hour SAT Subject Tests.

How to register and prepare for test day

To register, visit the website of the test that you have selected. Registration may take up to an hour. Talk to your school counselor about the test and whether you qualify for a fee waiver. You will need the following information to register:

  • High school course details
  • Headshot Photo
  • Credit card or payment

During the months before your test date, practice taking the test. Become familiar with the format of the test that you are taking. Free learning resources are available online, at your school, and at the library. Taking these practice exams can help you discover your strengths and weaknesses and teach you how to manage your time during the test.

On the night before the test, get a good night’s sleep. Set out your admission ticket, identification, an acceptable calculator, No. 2 pencils and erasers, and a snack before going to bed. Set your alarm so you wake early enough to have time for a good breakfast.

On test day, know where your test center is located. Arrive at the test center early. Leave extra time to get there in case you run into delays. Bring a snack to eat during breaks so you can stay focused and sharp. Be confident. If you’ve been working hard in your classes and practicing for the test, you should be ready to do well.