When it comes to college admissions, the SAT generally has a monopoly on attention from prospective college students. As students begin to prepare for their college admissions, however, they may encounter other exams, including the ACT and the SAT II subject tests. If you want to know more about the role of these tests in the college admissions process and if you should take them, read on. We will explore what sets these exams apart and when students want to consider taking them.

The ACT

Like the SAT, the ACT is designed to help colleges gauge the aptitude of students who want to enter their degree programs, but there are a few differences in what the test covers. Unlike the SAT, the ACT tests scientific critical thinking. Note that this does not test scientific knowledge, but rather the ability of the student to analyze. The math topics covered also differ slightly, with some probability and statistics included on the exam. Students can also use a calculator on the math portions. A score on the ACT will fall somewhere between 1 and 36.

The number of students who take the SAT and the ACT is remarkably similar, with 2.1 million students taking the SAT and 1.9 million taking the ACT for the class of 2018. Neither test is easier than the other, both challenging students to demonstrate their knowledge. 

Many students will elect to take both, giving them two opportunities to showcase their abilities to colleges. If you only want to take one test, then begin by taking a practice exam for each. This will help you see which exam suits you better. Some students with stronger language skills find the ACT more suitable for them, but this is not universal.

The SAT IIs

In addition to the standard SAT, many students also find themselves considering the SAT II subject tests. While the SAT is an aptitude test and looks at math and language skills, the SAT II allows you to demonstrate your skills in specific subject areas. This means you can elect to take tests that align best with your strengths.

Generally, most people should take SAT subject tests. Many colleges require them or at least recommend them. For the applications for the colleges that recommend them, it is likely that other applicants will take them, so submitting your own scores will help you remain competitive.

Even if your desired college does not speak one way or the other about SAT subject tests, these tests allow you to demonstrate your skills where you really thrive. If you excel in subjects such as history, science, or a foreign language, the subject tests will let you highlight these skills. Taking tests that pertain to your major can also make you look more appealing to that department.

When it comes to applying for college, taking the SAT is only one part of the process. Other standardized exams exist that students should carefully consider as they prepare their applications. Including the ACT and SAT IIs in your college preparation process can help you submit the strongest application possible and help you get into your desired program.