Online College Admissions Requirements: Standardized Testing

Standardized Testing Requirements

Applying to an online school may seem like a daunting task, but millions of people have survived through the trials of college admissions, and you can too! One aspect of college admissions that might worry you is the standardized testing requirements, and so it is important that you dedicate the time to properly research and prepare for the exams that you need to take.

Although college admission requirements will often include test scores, prior to signing-up for an exam, check with the school about their specific testing policies. Some programs at community colleges and distance and online learning programs that are specifically designed for adult learners do not have testing as part of the college application process. However, guidelines for college admission requirements will vary and can get a bit more stringent at the graduate level.

Once you know which exam you must take, contact the testing service that gives the exam and request registration materials or register online. Each testing service has a website, which details the specifics of the exams and provides resources for test prep material.

Undergraduate College Admissions Tests

Undergraduate college admission requirements that include a standardized test usually accept either the SAT or the ACT assessments. Some programs may also ask for further test scores of specific SAT Subject Tests.

  • The ACT measures high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The writing test, which is optional, assesses skills in planning and writing a short essay.
  • The SAT is a measure of the critical-thinking skills needed for academic success and evaluates how well you analyze and solve problems. Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800. The SAT includes a critical reading, math, and writing section, with a specific number of questions related to content. In addition, there is one 25-minute section that is not scored, known as the variable or equating section, which could be a repeat of any of the aforementioned sections.
  • SAT Subject Tests are designed to measure knowledge and skills in particular subject areas, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge. Students take the Subject Tests to demonstrate their mastery of five general subject areas: English, history and social studies, mathematics, science, and languages. The tests’ content evolves to reflect current trends in high school curricula, but the types of questions change little from year to year.

Graduate College Admissions Tests

College admission requirements for a campus or online graduate program will typically include test scores for the GRE and/or GRE Subject Tests. In some cases, the Miller Analogies Test is required instead of the GRE.

  • The GRE (Graduate Records Examinations) measures verbal, quantitative, and analytical reasoning skills that have been developed over a long period of time and are not necessarily related to a specific subject area. The GRE is designed to assess whether or not you have the aptitude for graduate-level study. Even though the GRE may not have subject area relevance, it can indicate that you are capable of doing the difficult reading, synthesizing, and writing demanded of most graduate students. The test, which is given only on computer, is divided into three separately timed parts: verbal, quantitative, and analytical, and all of the questions are in a multiple-choice format.
  • GRE Subject Tests test your content knowledge of particular subjects. The eight subject area exams are biochemistry, cell, and molecular biology; biology; chemistry; computer science; literature in English; mathematics; physics; and psychology. The tests assume a level of knowledge consistent with majoring in or having an extensive background in a subject.
  • The Miller Analogies Test (MAT) is a high-level test of mental ability and critical-thinking skills. It has 120 partial analogies and is timed at 60 minutes. The questions cover a broad range of subjects, including vocabulary, literature, social studies, mathematics, and science.

Professional School Exams

College admission requirements for professional graduate programs are likely to include the correlating professional exam: for business school applicants, the GMAT; for law school applicants, the LSAT; and for medical school applicants, the MCAT.

  • The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is run by the Graduate Management Admissions Council and administered by the Educational Testing Service. It is designed to evaluate basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that prospective students have gained from years of work experience and prior education.
  • The LSAT (Law School Admission Test) is a half-day standardized test required for admission to all ABA-approved law schools, most Canadian law schools, and many non-ABA-approved law schools, as well. It provides a standard measure of acquired reading and verbal reasoning skills that law schools can use as one of several factors in assessing applicants. The test is administered four times a year at hundreds of locations around the world. Many law schools require that the LSAT be taken by December for admission the following fall. However, taking the test earlier is often advised.
  • The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess problem solving, critical-thinking, and writing skills, in addition to the examinee’s knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine. Scores are reported in four areas: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, writing sample, and biological sciences. Medical school admissions committees consider MCAT scores as a strong part of their decision process.

Tests of English Language Proficiency

Because many online students from other countries take courses in US programs, college admission requirements for foreign applicants may include the TOEFL or the TSE (Test of Spoken English), an English language test to determine readiness to take courses taught in English. Both tests are administered by ETS.

  • The TOEFL is given in computer-based form throughout most of the world. Like the computer-based GRE, the TOEFL does not require previous computer experience. The TOEFL has four sections: listening, reading, structure, and writing and lasts about 4 hours.
  • The TSE evaluates your ability to speak English. During the tests, which take about a half hour, you answer questions presented in written and recorded form. Your responses are recorded, and there is no writing requirement.

College Admission Requirements and Test Preparation

Preparation to take college admissions exams is essential, especially if you have been out of school for a while. Taking practice tests or test prep classes can add points to your score by refreshing both your memory of the materials, as well as what the test-taking experience is like. Among the giants of test prep companies is Peterson’s, which offers comprehensive college admissions test preparation products and services for the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, and TOEFL.

To find out which of the above exams are necessary for your application, contact the online and distance learning schools you are interested in and inquire about their specific college admission requirements.