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Quick Guide To U.S. University Entrance Exams

Become familiar with the ACT, SAT, and GED

PathwayConnect is about helping each person find his or her own path. While nearly half of students indicate that the #1 reason they join PathwayConnect is to eventually earn a degree online through BYU-Idaho, that means many join for other reasons, including to expand job opportunities, improve English abilities, gain confidence, set an example for family, or simply because they felt prompted to.

Woman taking a test

While many students choose to earn a BYU-Idaho certificate or degree online after completing PathwayConnect, some may feel attending a local school is a better option in attaining their educational goals.

If you do plan to attend another school, there are some things you need to know first — you may need to take a standardized admission test.

PathwayConnect students in the U.S. who apply to local schools typically need to take either the ACT or SAT. However, PathwayConnect students who transition to BYU-Idaho Online do not need to take an admissions test.

In considering your application, schools will look at grades, work experience, and personal activities, but having a strong ACT or SAT score is important to getting into the school that you want. For those who didn’t graduate high school, completing the GED is usually required in addition to the ACT or SAT.

Students should be aware which tests are preferred at their selected schools. Ideally, a prospective school applicant should take the ACT or SAT at least one year before the admission cycle of the application.

Here’s some quick info on these tests. These are not exhaustive resources, so we encourage you to do more research on your own:

Test Sheet


The ACT, originally named American College Testing, consists of four sections: English, mathematics, reading, and science. ACT scores are reported as a number from 1 to 36. The test takes 3 hours and 35 minutes, including the optional writing section at the end.

The ACT is usually offered four to six times per year. The ACT test center locator can be used to determine the nearest offered test location and time. There are no age limits on who can take the test, and one test costs $39.50.

The ACT was first created in 1959, and has since become the most popular school entrance exam in the U.S.


The SAT, originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, consists of three sections: mathematics, critical reading, and writing. SAT scores are reported as a number from 400 to 1600. The test takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.

The SAT is offered seven times per year. The SAT test center locator can be used to determine the nearest offered test location and time. There are no age limits on who can take the test, and one test costs $43.

The SAT was first administered in 1926, catering to mostly New York residents.


woman Studying

Those who didn’t graduate high school have the option of taking the General Educational Development test (GED), which will earn them a high school equivalency diploma. Schools usually require either a high school diploma or a GED in addition to an ACT or SAT score.

Besides an essay portion, the GED consists of four sections: mathematics, reading, science, and social studies. Each of these four sections are scored from 1 to 200. There are no age limits on who can take the test, and one test costs $120.

The GED website offers study tips, a free practice test, and registration for the GED.

Students Not in the U.S.

Most countries have their own tests required for admission to higher learning schools. Students who are planning to apply to a school outside the U.S. should make sure they know which tests are required in their country.

Planning Ahead

Whether you are a high school graduate or getting ready to take the GED, planning ahead is crucial for a smooth school application process. Register for the test you need far in advance and study before test day. If you are organized and determined, you can accomplish anything!

What study tips do you know that would help other test takers?