Admissions Tests FAQs

Please note, the SAT and ACT test dates for the 2016-17 have just been released. Please bear with us as we update the FAQs below to correspond with any changes. 

Q: Do I have to take an admissions test such as the SAT or ACT?

Q: How are test scores used in evaluating admissions applications?

Q: Which test should I sit, the SAT or ACT?

Q: Are there any universities that do not require students to have an SAT or ACT score?

Q: When should I sit an admissions exam?

Q: How do I register for the SAT/ACT?

Q: Can I sit the SAT/ACT more than once?

Q: Do I have to prepare for the SAT/ACT test? If so, how?

Q: I’ve missed the deadline for the SAT/ACT. What are my options?

Q: How do I receive my SAT scores and when are they available?

Q: How do I request additional SAT score reports and how much does it cost?

Q: Can I rush my SAT scores to my university if necessary? 

Q: How do I receive my ACT scores and is it free?

Q: How do I request additional ACT scores?

Q: Can I rush my ACT exam scores?

Q: What are the ACT subsections and how are they scored?

Q: Can I take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), and what is the National Merit Scholarship? 

 Q: What is an AP exam, is it required and how to I register to take it?

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support to help prepare for the SAT/ACT?

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support on my application(s)?

Q: I am pursuing US study through distance education and need to find someone to proctor my exam. Can Fulbright staff do it?

Q: I have questions beyond what is on the Fulbright website. Where can I get further information?

 

Admissions Tests

Q: Do I have to take an admissions test such as the SAT or ACT?

You should check with the admissions webpages of individual universities to see if a score is mandatory, but the majority of four-year universities in the USA will require all undergraduate applicants to have an admissions test score.

Two-year community or junior colleges are usually the exception and will admit students without an SAT or ACT score. Also, some four-year universities do not require admissions tests. You can find a list of these universities at www.fairtest.org.

Most competitive universities will require the SAT reasoning test as well as two to three SAT subject tests or ACT with writing. Slightly less competitive universities will require only the SAT reasoning or ACT.

To find out more about the SAT and ACT tests and why they are important in the US university undergraduate application process, please visit our undergraduate admissions tests section.

Q: How are test scores used when evaluating admissions applications?

Standardised admissions tests such as the SAT and ACT are used as a common denominator in student applications and allow universities to compare applicants who may come from a variety of different educational backgrounds. To find out more about the SAT and ACT tests and why they are important in the US university undergraduate application process, please visit our undergraduate admissions tests section.

Q: Which test should I sit, the SAT reasoning or ACT?

US universities accept both the SAT reasoning and ACT for undergraduate admissions, so the applicant is able to choose which test to sit. To decide, you will need to evaluate the material covered on the tests and determine which test you feel you are better prepared to sit. You also may want to consider sitting both tests as some students find they score better on one over the other. To find out more about how the tests are structured and various factors that may determine which test is a better fit for you, please visit our undergraduate admissions tests page.

Q: Are there any universities that do not require students to have an SAT or ACT score?

Each American university can set its own criteria for admission, so it is not mandatory that universities require an SAT or ACT score from applicants. Most four-year universities will require an admissions test score; however, some universities do not require an admissions test. You can also visit the international admissions webpages of various universities to see if they require an SAT/ACT from international applicants.

Two-year community colleges or junior colleges tend to be more lenient with admissions and may not require an SAT or ACT score from applicants. To find out more about two-year community/junior colleges, please visit our two-year associate’s degree page.

Q: When should I sit an admission test?

We suggest students sit the admissions test in the autumn of Year 13/lower sixth form, if not before. Sit your first test by the October testing date, leaving you the option to re-sit the test in November or December if you are not satisfied with your results or need to sit the SAT Subject Tests in November or December. Also, keep in mind spaces fill up quickly, particularly in London, so you will want to register as soon as possible! For information on how to register for the tests or to register for standby testing, please visit the SAT and ACT sections of our website.

Q: How do I register for the SAT/ACT?

You can register for either test online on the College Board (SAT) website or the ACT website. You can find the step-by-step process on how to register for each test, as well as registration links on the SAT and ACT sections of our website.

Q: Can I sit the SAT/ACT more than once?

Yes, you can sit the SAT/ACT more than once. Be aware, however, that universities may see all your recent SAT and ACT scores from the past five years. This means that if you score poorly once, it will appear on your score report for five years. SAT gives you the option of choosing which scores to send to your universities, but your universities may require you to send ALL your scores no matter what. Some universities will only evaluate you on your highest score in each section, but some universities may average out all your scores by section or look at your best score in one sitting. It is important that you prepare yourself for the SAT/ACT each and every time you sit the tests.

Q: Do I have to prepare for the SAT/ACT test? If so, how?

We highly recommend that you make time to prepare to take the SAT/ACT. A good SAT/ACT score does not guarantee entry, but it can set you apart from other applicants and can make you eligible for merit scholarships. Keep in mind that American students sometimes prepare for months before taking the tests, especially if they are applying to highly competitive universities.

It will be in your best interest to go into the test having already become used to the test format and revised the subject matter that will be covered. To find out more about how to get ready to sit the SAT/ACT, please visit our preparing for the SAT/ACT page. You can also find out more about the structure of the tests by visiting the official websites for the SAT and the ACT.

Q: I’ve missed the deadline for the SAT/ACT. What are my options?

If you have missed the registration deadline for a particular test date or the test is fully booked, consider sitting a different admissions exam (the ACT instead of the SAT, or vice versa) or registering for a later testing date. You may also want to consider taking the test standby, although this does not 100% guarantee that you can take the test on that date. For information on how to register for the tests or to register for standby testing, please visit the SAT and ACT sections of our website.

Q: How do I receive my SAT scores and when are they available?

After you take your SAT exam your scores will be available to view online within 17-20 days depending on the test date (up to six weeks for paper score results). When you register for the SAT exam on the College Board website you have the option to send your scores by post or online to four universities of your choice for free. In addition to those four, you will have to pay a fee. If you do not request any universities at the time of registration you will have to pay a fee to send the scores at a later date.

Q: How do I request additional SAT score reports and how much does it cost?

To request additional score reports from the College Board website you can log-in to your ‘My SAT’ account and request scores be sent to the universities of your choice. There will be a fee of $12 for any additional score reports requested after the four free ones at registration or those requested after registration.

Q: Can I rush my SAT scores to my university if necessary?

SAT scores typically take 17-20 days to be viewable online and then after that they will be sent by post or electronically to your universities. The time between when your scores are sent and when they are received by your universities will vary depending if they are sent via post or online. The manner of dispatch to the universities depends on their personal method for receiving scores. SAT recommends that you also allow at least an additional week for the university to process your scores once they have arrived. An online timetable can be viewed on the College Board website.

If you need to rush your scores you may do so on the College Board website online or via post. This will not speed up the scoring of your exam, but once it is already scored you can rush the processing time from College Board and subsequent mailing of your scores. There is a $31 fee for rush reporting and it takes two business days to be sent to your universities of choice. Please allow for extra time depending on whether your university receives their scores online or by post. If your school receives scores by post, keep in mind that the scores will take 5-7 days to arrive at your school and up to a week to process. Instructions for rushing your SAT score reports can be found on the College Board website.

Q: How do I receive my ACT scores and is it free?

After you take the ACT you will be able to see your score reports online after they are scored (within 3-8 weeks). After the scoring, the results can be mailed by post, online or through a twice monthly CD to the universities of your choice. Allow for extra time for the scores to be sent and processed.

During registration you may request that your scores be sent to up to four universities for free and you will have the option to send to another two for an additional fee of $12 per school. In total you may request six universities at the time of registration (four for no fee and two for an additional fee).

See when scores are reported to schools and universities.

Q: How do I request additional ACT scores?

To order additional ACT scores you can go to the ACT website and make a request online through your online account or by post (telephone requests incur an additional fee). There is a fee of $12 or $16.50 for each additional score report made after the registration period depending on the request type.

Q: Can I rush my ACT exam scores?

If you want your score report sent quickly you can request a priority report. It costs $16.50 to request and must be sent to an address in the United States. You may not request a rush report to yourself in the UK, but your university in the United States can receive a rush score. Your priority request will be processed within two working days and will be mailed to arrive at your university after 3-4 days (approximately a total of 5-6 working days). Please note it is not possible to speed up the scoring by ordering a rush report. You will have to wait until the scores are generated.

Q: What are the ACT subsections and how are they scored?

Three of the four ACT sections are divided into subsections according to the test category. English and Reading have 2 subsections, Maths has 3 subsections, and Science does not have any subsections. The subsection scaled scores are determined on a different formula from the composite scaled score, so often you cannot add up the subsection scaled scores to arrive at your section’s scaled score. For information on ACT scoring please refer to their site.

Q: Can I take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), and what is the National Merit Scholarship?

The PSAT is an exam that many US students to take in their third year of high school (year 12 in the UK). In many ways, the PSAT exam can be thought of as a practice test to prepare students for the SAT exam, as it is not a required part of the admissions process to US universities.

To be eligible to take the PSAT, students must be a US citizen or a lawful US permanent resident. Therefore, the test is generally offered in US high schools or American/international schools abroad. Most overseas schools will have limited capacity to offer the test and will show preference for their own students to register to take the test on their campus. 

If you do not attend a school that is a PSAT testing site and if you are eligible to take the PSAT, then you may contact American or international high schools in the UK for special permission to sit the test. There is no online registration; rather students are registered by the testing site’s high school guidance counsellor.

The National Merit Scholarship is a scholarship offered to US citizens or lawful US permanent residents. In order to be eligible for this award you must sit the PSAT exam.  The 50,000 students with the highest PSAT results are considered for the scholarship. Through the selection process these students are narrowed down to just over 8,000 finalists to receive an award. For more information on other scholarship opportunities, please see our funding section.

Q: What is an AP exam, is it required and how to I register to take it?

The Advanced Placement (AP) exams are based on the AP course curricula most commonly offered at American-style high schools in the US and abroad. Similar to A-levels, Pre-U or IB, they are perceived to be more rigorous and in-depth qualifications than a standard high school course offered in American high schools.

Please note it is not necessary to take AP classes or exams to apply to US universities, especially if your school does not offer these exams. That said, if your school offers you the opportunity to take AP exams or you are able to find another school that will allow you to take the tests, we encourage you to discuss with your guidance counsellor whether this level of class would be appropriate for your prior academic performance and future plans.

US universities will consider course rigour and selection as they evaluate your application, and the most competitive universities will want to see that you have selected the most rigorous options that were appropriate for your performance and plans. As noted above, AP exams are viewed as the more rigorous options available to students (as are A-levels and the IB). Universities generally will not prefer either exam over another (AP vs. A-levels vs. IB vs. Pre-U), but rather will want to see that you made good choices for your curriculum based on what was offered at your school, your interests, skills, etc.

Another benefit to taking AP exams is that American universities may give advanced standing or placement in their courses to students who have done well (this is also true for IB or A-level exams).  See our webpage on advanced standing for more information.

About the AP: Students complete coursework throughout the school year and take the final AP exam to demonstrate what they have learned. The exams are subject-based tests offered in 34 disciplines offered on several dates in May each year. These 2-3 hour exams include a multiple-choice and writing section. A good score on an AP exam, therefore, may indicate university level of proficiency and could be used for university credit (at the discretion of each university). If the exam is taken before the end of US grade 11 or UK Year 12, results can be reported on university applications, serving as a good indicator of a student’s competency in a particular field. 

How to Register: To register, contact the AP coordinator at your school. If there is no AP advisor at your school or college, call (001) 609-771-7300 for a list of local coordinators.  Please note many schools tend to use their places for their own students, so it may not be possible to take the exam if you school does not administer AP exams. You should contact the appropriate coordinator by March 15th to register for the exam in May. For more information, visit the AP website.

Please note students are not required to have taken the corresponding AP class before sitting the AP exam. However, it is recommended that the student take a course comparable to the depth and intensity of an AP class.

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support to help prepare for the SAT/ACT?

There are many organisations and individuals in the UK who can help you prepare to sit the SAT or ACT. Many of our partner organisations offer test preparation services. You can also search for test tutors online.

Additional Questions

Q: Where can I find additional or one-to-one support on my application(s)?

There are many organisations and individuals in the UK who can help you prepare applications to American universities. Many of our partner organisations offer one-on-one support to students who are searching for and applying to universities in the USA. You can also search for educational consultants online.

Q: I am pursuing US study through distance education and need to find someone to proctor my exam. Can Fulbright staff do it?

A resource that has been helpful for students in need of a proctor in the past, is Mark to Market PLC. Other places to check include local schools, universities and libraries. We're afraid being a very small team running lots of US study advising events and activities means Fulbright staff are not usually available to proctor exams. 

Q: I have questions beyond what is on the Fulbright website. Where can I get further information?

After reviewing the information provided on our website, feel free to contact our advising team. You can reach us via phone 0845 894 9524 (Tuesdays 1:30 - 5 pm and Thursdays 1:30 - 5 pm); via email – advising@fulbright.org.uk; or in-person at events.

If you need additional assistance as you apply for US study beyond what our staff are able to provide, you may wish to consider contacting one of the organisations on our Resources page. These test tutors and educational consultants offer a higher level of personalised, additional support and services to help you prepare for admission exams and complete a competitive application.