Standardized Tests

Standardized tests are a not a general admission requirement of Ontario universities. Traditionally-schooled students will simply present a high school diploma and the grades of their “Top Six” Gr. 12 courses for consideration. Entry to more competitive programs may require a larger application including a personal statement and/or resume. Even still, marks from an SAT or ACT exam are not required for admission to any Ontario university.

Homeschoolers choosing to apply to university without a high school diploma, however, will generally have to present alternative credentials for university admission. These could be official “Top Six” marks from accredited Ontario high school courses, a portfolio, a year of undergraduate university courses from an open university or standardized test scores.

If you’re using standardized test scores to apply to a university that offers this admissions option, then you will have to write one of two General Reasoning Tests: the SAT or the ACT. Either test is acceptable for this purpose, and it is a good idea to look into both of them, then pick the one that you feel is right for your situation.

These tests can be used to demonstrate a general academic readiness for university-level study, but do not cover any subject in an in-depth enough way to satisfy a subject-specific prerequisite. For that, you may be required to take an SAT Subject Test or an AP examination.

SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT IIs) are multiple choice exams that test senior high school knowledge in one particular subject area. If Ontario still had high school “exit exams” or “departmental exams” this is the material that would likely be covered.

AP examinations, however, test knowledge at the first-year-university level. They cover material beyond many Ontario Gr. 12 courses (and even beyond the old OAC/Gr. 13) but as a result, they can sometimes be used for advanced university credit or placement.

One other standardized test offering appropriate to university admissions is CLEP (College-Level Examination Program). These subject-specific tests can also be used for university credit as they are the equivalent of first year university final exams. CLEP is not as well-known in the Ontario university circles, so not every school will have a CLEP policy, although most will have an AP policy.

More information on these standardized tests:

There are a variety of standardized tests used at the university admissions stage. The two main categories of tests are :

1. General Reasoning Tests – SAT, ACT

These tests tend to test general reasoning, language (reading, writing, comprehension) and math skills. These tests are most commonly used in university admission for applicants without a high school diploma, or needing to demonstrate their general academic level of achievement.

If an academic course of study including a healthy dose of language and mathematics was followed, then there will be little content to study for these tests. Much preparation will revolve around understanding the nature of the test and its specific variety of questions. It is easy to find material detailing the required content of these tests, so if there’s anything you might not have previously studied, you can pick it up at that time.

The SAT is generally thought to contain more “trick” questions or word problems and focus exclusively on language and mathematics questions, while the ACT’s questions are more like “textbook” questions, but also include a section on scientific reasoning. In almost all cases, either test can be used for university admission. Both tests can be written multiple times, and in most cases universities will consider your best score earned.

Official websites are:



2. Subject-Specific Tests – AP, CLEP, SAT subject tests (formerly known as SATII Tests), IB

These tests are intended to test a student’s knowledge on one particular subject at an in-depth level. These tests may be at the “senior high school” level or “university intro” level, and may be used either to satisfy university admission requirements, to determine advanced placement or standing once in university, or to earn university credits.

These tests are heavily content dependent, although test-taking skills, especially multiple choice answering skills, also play a role in succeeding at these tests. There is no one accepted “textbook” from which to study for these tests; however, you will find a list of the content covered in the test, and may choose to learn this information from any number of sources.

SAT Subject Tests are the rough equivalent of “high school exit exams” and will not count towards any university credit or placement. They will, however, demonstrate to a university the equivalent of senior high school knowledge in a particular subject area. These tests are open to the general public and offered approximately 6 times per year in Ontario.

AP (Advanced Placement) Examinations are the rough equivalent of a “first year, US college final exam” and may often be used for advanced standing or even university credit once enrolled at a university. Certainly more challenging than the SAT Subject Tests, the Advanced Placement exams are intended for advanced high school students who want a “taste of university level work” while still in high school. These exams can only be written at a designated AP high school, and are written annually in May, making them a little less accessible to homeschoolers.

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) tests are designed to cover the material of a typical US college “intro” course. They have a flexible writing schedule (monthly, or sometimes on demand); however, the closest test centre to Ontario seems to be located in Buffalo, NY. These examinations are open to the public, and unlike the AP exams, are designed for adults seeking university credits. CLEP is not as well recognized in Ontario universities as AP is, and the largest obstacle for Ontario homeschoolers seems to be finding a test centre.

IB (International Baccalaureate) examinations are similar to AP examinations, except that the IB is an international high school diploma program, and one cannot pick and choose which examinations to write. And, there are other requirements to earning an IB diploma such as writing an “extended essay.” IB is not generally an option for homeschoolers as receiving this two-year diploma requires enrollment at an IB school. Yet, many homeschoolers ask about the difference between AP and IB, and for advice about choosing, so it is worth noting that a homeschooler cannot choose an IB program on his/her own.