Test prep glossary: 25 terms you should know for college admissions

Welcome to the beginning of your test prep journey! When you're just getting started, the world of college admissions can seem confusing and intimidating. Which college entrance exams do most students take? What does "test optional" even mean? But we've got your back.

Here's our glossary of the top 25 test prep terms you'll want to know as you start the path to college.


The ACT is a college admissions test. If you take the ACT, your scores are one factor universities and colleges may look at when making admission decisions. The ACT is a standardized test consisting of four multiple-choice sections (English, Math, Reading, Science) and an optional essay section.

Find out how to begin preparing for the ACT here and here.

Adaptive testing

Adaptive tests analyze a student’s performance and respond in real time, calibrating to each student’s skill level in order to zero in on their score more quickly. If a student is doing well on an adaptive test, the test responds by giving them harder questions, whereas if a student answers enough questions incorrectly, the test will give them easier questions. Some tests, like the GMAT, are adaptive by question, making adjustments throughout: every time a student answers a question, the next question changes based on whether the student answered the previous question correctly. Other tests, like the digital SAT and the GRE, calibrate themselves differently, starting with a module or section of moderate or mixed difficulty, and based on the student’s performance there, they’re given a second section of higher or lower difficulty.

Learn more here.

Admission ticket

Your admission ticket is your documentation proving you've registered to take an exam at a specific location on a specific date. When you register for a test like the ACT or SAT, you'll receive instructions for printing or downloading your admission ticket before test day. You must bring your ticket with you to the test center.

Learn more here.

Admissions tests

Admissions tests, also known as college entrance exams, are standardized exams required by universities and colleges during the application process.

Read about the most popular admissions tests here.

AP exams

AP exams are standardized tests that measure students' understanding of concepts covered in AP courses.

Start preparing for AP success here and here.


ACT introduced its computer-based test (CBT) to international students in 2018 and will begin piloting the digital version of the exam to U.S. students in December 2023. The content and structure of the paper version and computer-based version of the ACT are the same, even though the test-taking experiences are different. 

Learn more here.


The Classic Learning Test (CLT) is a college admissions test. While the CLT is accepted by far fewer schools than the ACT and SAT, it is—as of September 2023—accepted by Florida’s state university system. The CLT is a multiple-choice test consisting of three sections (Verbal Reasoning, Grammar/Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning) and differs from the ACT and SAT because it is more explicitly focused on Christian thought and on foundational works of the Western canon.

Find out more about the CLT here.

Composite score

A composite score is your overall total score after combining the scores you earned on the individual sections of the exam. It's important to understand where your scores come from because different tests calculate composite scores in different ways.

Find out how ACT/SAT composite scores are calculated here.

Diagnostic exam

Before mapping out a test prep plan, you'll want to determine your starting point. You can do this by taking a diagnostic exam, a full-length exam that simulates real testing conditions.

Schedule a free diagnostic exam here.

IB exams

IB exams are standardized tests that measure students' understanding of concepts covered in IB courses.

Start preparing for IB success here.


The IELTS (International English Language Test) is an assessment of students' English language proficiency. Some universities and colleges require IELTS or TOEFL scores from international applicants.

To speak with someone about IELTS prep, contact us here.


On your score report, your percentile rank represents the percentage of students whose score is equal to or lower than yours.

Learn more about ACT & SAT percentiles here.

Practice test

Practice tests—full-length exams that simulate real testing conditions—are critical to any successful test prep program. They provide real-time snapshots of your progress and areas for improvement, help you identify potential problems, and give you opportunities to experiment with and reinforce strategies.

Download our 7 practice test do's & don'ts here.


The PreACT is a standardized test designed for 10th-graders. While it's shorter than the actual ACT, the PreACT features English, Math, Reading, and Science questions that simulate the ACT testing experience.

Learn more here.


The PSAT is a standardized test designed for 10th-and 11th-graders. The digital PSAT is the same length and format as the digital SAT. The exam features Reading & Writing and Math questions that simulate the SAT testing experience.

Learn more here.

Raw score

Your raw score is the number of questions you answered correctly on a section of an exam. 

Find out how ACT/SAT raw scores become scaled scores here.


Registration is the process of signing up to take a test. Registering for the ACT or SAT takes about 30 minutes and requires you to create an account, fill in demographic information, select your test date and location, and upload a photo.

Download our guide to registering for the ACT here and our guide to registering for the SAT here.


The SAT is a college admissions test. If you take the SAT, your scores are one factor universities and colleges may look at when making admission decisions. The SAT is a standardized test consisting of a Reading and Writing section and a Math section, which involve multiple-choice questions and a small number of Math grid-in questions.

Find out how to begin preparing for the SAT here and here.

Scaled score

Your raw score for each section of an exam is converted to a scaled score for that section.

Find out how ACT/SAT scaled scores become composite scores here.

Score Choice

Some universities and colleges have Score Choice policies for students who take the SAT or ACT multiple times. Score Choice means you can pick the best set of scores from a single exam sitting and submit only those scores with your application.

Learn more here.


Some universities and colleges allow superscoring if students have taken the SAT or ACT multiple times. Superscoring means colleges add up your best section scores from multiple official exams and use that number when making their admission decisions.

Learn more here.

Test free

Some universities and colleges have "test free" (sometimes referred to as "test blind") policies. Test-free schools don't factor test scores into admission decisions even if students submit scores.

Learn more about the differences between test blind and test optional here.

Test optional

Some universities and colleges have "test optional" policies. This means students can choose whether or not to submit SAT, ACT, and other test scores for consideration.

Learn more about the differences between test optional and test blind here.

Testing accommodations

Testing accommodations are changes made to testing conditions in order to allow students with disabilities or limited English-language abilities to demonstrate their skills and knowledge on standardized exams.

Download our ACT guide to accommodations here and our SAT guide to accommodations here.


ACT's Test Information Release (TIR) provides you with a copy of the exact questions you saw on your official ACT as well as the answers you put for each question and an answer key. The TIR service is available to paper test-takers only and for only a few test dates each year.

Learn more here.


The TOEFL is an assessment of students' English language proficiency. Some universities and colleges require TOEFL or IELTS scores from international applicants.

Start preparing for the TOEFL here.

Need more individualized advice?

If you have specific questions, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.


About ArborBridge

ArborBridge is the global leader in innovative, digital, one-on-one tutoring. With nearly a decade of experience teaching students online, ArborBridge supports students of all kinds: home schoolers, AP students, test preppers, and more. Our tutors specialize in creating personalized plans and in providing compassionate support for students and families.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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