Any student in the United States who is beginning to prepare for his senior year and the college application process is well aware of the importance of standardized tests. The most common is the SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test, but students may also take the Stanford Achievement Test, a standardized test designed to test the knowledge and progression of students as they make their way through school.

What Is the SAT Reasoning Test?

Most students have heard of the term "SAT," which refers to the SAT reasoning test, the standard test taken by all high school students who are interested in applying to college. The SAT measures all the knowledge that a student should have at the completion of her high school experience.

The SAT reasoning test is divided into three sections. There is a mathematics section, a reading section and a writing section. The writing section is designed to assess a student's ability to formulate an argument and prove a thesis in a short five-paragraph essay. The mathematics section and the reading section are both multiple-choice tests.

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The mathematics section of the SAT reasoning test is designed to assess a student's mastery of the mathematical knowledge she was intended to have gleaned since the beginning of schooling. The reading section intends to explore students' reading comprehension and ability to answer questions that require them to extrapolate information from what they have just read.

Why Do Students Take the SAT Reasoning Test?

The SAT reasoning test has been criticized as a cookie-cutter evaluation of students that fails to truly capture their knowledge, and therefore is an unworthy assessment of the work they did in high school. However, despite criticism, millions of students take the SAT every year in order to submit the scores to the colleges they are hoping to attend.

While almost every college admissions board understands that a standardized test can only go so far in terms of proving student knowledge, competence and intelligence, the test is nevertheless a touchstone for application evaluators. This is because it gives a big-picture sense of students' academic competency, skill acquisition and mastery over the years they spent in high school. It is not intended to be a full assessment of their intelligence but rather a general bellwether of their knowledge and understanding.

Most students know that their SAT score is only one part of the package when they are applying to college, but it can still be exceptionally stressful to prepare for and take the test, particularly if you are hoping to gain admission to a top college or university. The stress of being evaluated for these tests can cause upset and even trauma to students, many of whom have ambitious plans for their future.

Is the SAT Reasoning Test the Same as the SAT?

With discussions of standardized testing can often come a great deal of confusion. Students who need to take the SAT to apply to college are generally referring to the SAT reasoning test. This is the general SAT that all students intending to apply to college must take before they apply. They are able to take the test more than once and submit their highest score.

The other SAT that is referred to is the SAT subject test. The SAT subject test is designed to test a student's knowledge in one particular academic subject and is entirely separate from the reasoning test. Unlike the reasoning test, the subject test is not necessarily a requirement for every university. Many Ivy League colleges or other competitive schools require applicants to submit scores from at least one SAT subject test.

What Is the Difference Between the SAT Reasoning Test and the SAT Subject Test?

The SAT reasoning test is intended to measure general knowledge, from which an evaluator can get a sense of a student's relative level of competence at the schoolwork in which he has been engaged over the past several years. The SAT subject tests are a different animal.

The SAT subject tests, as the name implies, aim to assess a student's body of knowledge in one particular subject area, such as a foreign language, science, history, mathematics, social studies or English. The subject tests for foreign language often require a listening component.

What Is the Stanford Achievement Test?

The Stanford Achievement Test is a test created and developed by education publisher Pearson and is designed to assess a student's body of knowledge throughout elementary school and high school. Rather than being a test for students that will result in a grade, the tests are ways to assess how well the students are being educated and to examine broader trends in education on a macro level.

The Stanford Achievement Tests, also called the Stanford-10 or the Stanford Aptitude Tests, are used by school districts across America with the express purpose of seeing how local instruction is working to educate students. Unlike the SAT reasoning test, the Stanford Achievement Tests have no bearing on a student's admission to school or to college. Instead, they help evaluators understand where the gaps are in student learning so that they may better target instruction in those particular areas.

The test is used to measure knowledge and understanding for both elementary school students and students in middle school and high school. There are approximately 13 levels of the test that are thought to correspond with each year of precollege schooling through which a student progresses. The test, though widely administered, is not mandatory in any school district, and some states and cities do not use it at all.

Can I Change My SAT Location?

When registering for the SAT, you are generally asked to pick your most convenient test location as well as the most convenient date for you to take the test. Most people opt to take their test as close to the place where they live as possible, while others opt to take it near where they go to school. Generally, tests are administered on Saturday mornings. However, because schedules can change and conflicts can arise, the College Board typically allows students to make changes to their test registration.

If you want to change the date or the location of your SAT test, you'll need to look at your registration ticket and make sure you know how to contact the College Board. The College Board will typically charge a change fee if you choose to change the date or location of your SAT test, but it can be done. If you are amenable to paying the fee, it should not be difficult to schedule your test for another location or a different date.

If you find that you are unable to take the test altogether and need to cancel your registration, you may be eligible for a refund depending on the date on which you choose to make the cancellation. Generally, the College Board has a cutoff date after which refunds may not be granted. It is best to check online if you are unsure whether you can cancel and still receive a refund.

Can You Retake the SAT After High School?

One of the features of the SAT is that you can take it more than once. Often, a student will find that anxiety or nervousness or any other circumstance has prevented her from doing her best work, resulting in lower than desirable SAT scores. Students who are hoping to improve their SAT scores can opt to take the test a second time and even a third time if they feel that an additional opportunity to take the test will give them a chance to raise their scores.

Typically, the SAT is taken in the autumn of a student's senior year in high school. This is because most applications are due in early January or late December, and the students who are applying to college need to have their scores available for admissions committees to review. However, you can take the test after high school.

Not every student chooses to matriculate at a college right after graduating from high school. In fact, many students choose not to attend or even apply to colleges for years after they finished high school. In other cases, students were unable to perform well enough to get desirable SAT scores and put off attending college for the time being. These people may choose to take the test in their adult years.

Can You Take the SAT at Any Age?

Technically speaking, you do not need to meet any minimum age requirement to be eligible to take the SAT. While most students taking the SAT are high school seniors and between 16 and 18 years of age, younger students who have completed the necessary coursework may elect to take the SAT as well.

It is a good idea to take the SAT as soon as you have completed the necessary coursework. This is because the more recently you have studied the material that is likely to be on the test, the more likely it is that the material and information will stick in your mind, and you have a better chance of getting a strong SAT score. This is the best use of your fee for taking the test and the best application of your knowledge.

Taking the SAT before you are old enough to apply to college is likely a waste of money. It is very unlikely that before your senior year you will feel ready to tackle the subject matter and content that is on the SAT the way that you would if you had another year of schooling under your belt. By taking the SAT too early, you risk wasting money and time – the time you could have better spent studying the coursework that you will eventually build upon in the subsequent year in school.

How Do Students With Special Needs Take the SAT?

While the SAT is stressful for virtually all students, the prospect of a timed, standardized test is exceptionally stressful for students who suffer from learning disabilities. For students with dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD or ADHD the prospect of a standardized test is very daunting. Fortunately, the College Board understands that this is a concern and has put certain plans in place.

Students who have special needs may appeal to the College Board to make different arrangements for their testing. Students with special needs such as mobility and access issues, home-schooled students and students with learning disabilities have provisions at their disposal which will allow them to take the test.

Students with learning disabilities may have the option of taking a test without a time limit. Home-schooled students may need to apply for a fee waiver in order to avoid the fees charged by the College Board.

About the Author

Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience writing about education for a variety of organizations and educational institutions as well as online media sites. She has written for Pearson Education, The University of Miami, The New York City Teaching Fellows, New Visions for Public Schools, and a number of independent secondary schools. She lives in Los Angeles.