Skip to main content

College admissions tests

Smiling graduates of University of Portland


You may need or want to take college admissions tests like the SAT or ACT to apply to college or scholarships.

What are admissions tests

Colleges use scores from admissions tests to help determine if you are ready to do college-level work. Some scholarship providers also use test scores when awarding scholarships. The most common of these are the SAT and ACT.

Some colleges require you to take one of the tests and submit their scores as part of their application. If a college requires you to send test scores, they will accept either SAT or ACT scores.

There are a few key differences between the tests. These differences can help you decide which test might be right for you:

Content Reading
Writing & Language
Writing (optional)
Length 3 hours
Additional 50 minutes for essay
3 hours
Additional 35 minutes for writing
Scoring 400 - 1600 points 1 - 36 points
Retesting Retaking the whole test is allowed Retaking the whole test or individual sections is allowed

The tests cost money to take. However, both the SAT and ACT offer fee waivers for some students who need help paying for them.

Who should take the tests

Most students should consider taking at least one of the tests. Many scholarship applications require you to submit test scores. If you want to go to a four-year college, taking the SAT or ACT will give you more options of schools you can apply to. Due to coronavirus, most students planning to start college in the fall of 2021 will not need to take the SAT or ACT. 

Who should always take the SAT or ACT

  • Athletes: If you will be a varsity athlete at an NAIA or NCAA Division I school, you must take the SAT or ACT to maintain eligibility to play. This is true even if the college does not require test scores as part of your application for admission. Due to coronavirus, students who enroll full time during the 2021-22 or 2022-23 academic year will not need to take a standardized test to meet NCAA initial-eligibility requirements.
  • Homeschooled students: The majority of test optional colleges still require homeschooled students to submit SAT or ACT scores.

When you should take the tests

If possible, take the test in the spring of your junior year. If you like, you can take the test again in the summer or fall of your senior year.

If you take a test more than once, most colleges will “super score” your tests. This means they will use the highest score you earned on each section when evaluating your application.

Both tests are offered on some Saturdays at testing sites around the state. Many high schools also have all-school testing days for one of the tests.

Whether you take it on a Saturday or during an all-school testing day, take it seriously. Get plenty of rest the night before, eat a good breakfast, and do your best on the exam.

What are test optional admissions

When a college is test optional for admissions, it means that they don’t require an SAT or ACT score when you apply. Many colleges are now test optional, including all of Oregon’s public colleges and universities and many of our private, not-for-profit colleges. 

You can choose whether you want to submit your test scores with your application. If you do send scores, the admissions committee will use them when making admissions and scholarship decisions. If you do not submit test scores, you won’t be penalized for admissions.

If you choose not to send scores, some colleges may ask you to submit extra information. And some students may still need to submit scores no matter what. It’s important to know the requirements for each college where you plan to apply.

Admissions test requirements at Oregon colleges

No test required

Students do not ever have to submit test scores.

All Oregon community colleges do not require the SAT or ACT.

Test blind

Students do not have to submit test scores. If they do, they will not be used when making admissions decisions.

In Oregon, Reed College is test blind.

Test optional

Students choose whether they want to submit test scores. If they submit, colleges will consider scores when making admissions decisions. Some students may still need to submit scores or alternative documents.

Currently, all of Oregon's public universities and most private colleges are test optional.

Test required

All first-year applicants are required to submit test scores.

Currently, no Oregon colleges require the SAT or ACT for admission.