5 Academic Tests You Need To Know About To Get Recruited in 2020

5 Academic Tests You Need To Know About To Get Recruited in 2020

Before anything else, let's make one thing very clear to all prospects out there:

  • SAT and ACT are needed for all of you, no matter where you are from.
  • TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo are only needed in case your first language is not English.

This edition of the "Friday Scholarship Guide" is meant to be a reminder, a "call-to-action" to not take things too lightly when it comes to academic tests.
Unfortunately, these tests are not offered every week of the year - quite the opposite in fact - and reason enough to plan well-ahead at what point in the recruiting process you would like to focus on mastering the academic tests.

The single most important academic tests are SAT and ACT. For 3 reasons:

  1. Your test result will be part of NAIA/NCAA's eligibility decision
  2. Your test result will be used by the admissions/financial aid office
  3. Your test result may help a coach recruit you (you are "cheaper" if you do well)
Let's go through each of these reasons step-by-step before diving into the specific test formats:

1. NCAA Sliding Scale & NAIA Eligibility

As you may know already, there are a number of divisions, which govern college sports. For the below divisions, you need to register with the Eligibility Center and get the certification process going:

  • NCAA Division 1
  • NCAA Division 2
  • NAIA

Unless you get the OK from the Eligibility Center(s) that you are allowed to compete, you won't be able to play college sports. In case you don't know enough about these different divisions yet, have a look at one of our older blog articles, such as

"Number of Scholarships in College Swimming & Diving (across divisions)

Part of the NCAA's and NAIA's assessment is your academic background:

Are you granted access to study at a university?

Besides criterion #1 - are you a high school graduate? (NCAA and NAIA) and criterion #2 - do you have good enough grades? - these organizations also take your academic test scores into consideration. Broadly speaking, the better your GPA in high school, the worse a result you need to have and the worse your high school GPA, the better the SAT or ACT needs to be.
In NCAA terms, that is called the NCAA Sliding scale, which helps the NCAA determine if you are academically fit ("academically certified"). The NAIA does use a different assessment system. Taking the ACT/SAT is one of the options, but not a must-do as is the case for NCAA D1 and D2.

2. Admission Test Scores Impact Your Scholarship

While NCAA/NAIA will only establish whether you have what it takes to be a regular student athlete, representing your future team in intercollegiate competition, the recruiting coaches' admissions office will look at your test results as part of your overall application.
Many schools have minimum standards and requirements in terms of test results that they want to see to admit you at all. On top of that, many schools do work with something similar like the NCAA Sliding Scale, but it's often called "Scholarship Brackets". In plain English, this means nothing else than:

The better you have done in high school (cumulative GPA), and the better your SAT/ACT, the higher the academic scholarship award you may qualify for.

(More on that: "2 Academic Focus Areas For Recruits to Boost Their Chances")

3. Academic Aid - Exempt From Counting Against Athletic Scholarship Budget

If you have done pretty well in high school, but you've also done pretty well on the academic test(s), then you put yourself ahead of competition (aka, ahead of other recruits fighting for the same spot).

Why is that?

Well, even though you may be offered a combined scholarship package (academic money and athletic money) it still counts against "equivalency limits" (the maximum scholarship budget the coach has available). Unless you are academically outstanding. That would lead to a situation, in which any academic scholarship awards that you may receive do not count towards the coach's overall scholarship budget. A clear win-win situation :)
(More on that: "The Truth About Athletic Scholarships at College")

Standardized Tests To Get A Scholarship Offer

Before we're about to dive right in, below graphic should help you understand the point we're trying to make here: You need to take the process of taking these academic tests serious! You have to take it serious, because chances are a lot is going on at the same time, which might conflict with test dates and you preparing for the tests:

  • Final exams in senior year
  • Tournaments/games/events
  • Leave room for retaking tests at least once


SAT Homepage

50% Evidence-Based Reading
50% Mathematics
Optional: Writing (Essay)

Grading Scale:
Score up to 1,600 points - points earned in both sub-sections.

Scheduled Tests 2020:
Depending on where in the world you are located, the SAT is offered a maximum of 6 times in 2020.


ACT Homepage

25% English (0-36 pts)
25% Mathematics (0-36 pts)
25% Reading (0-36 pts)
25% Science (0-36 pts)
Optional: Writing (Essay)

Grading Scale:
Score between 0 and 36 points - average of above 4 sub-sections.

Scheduled Tests 2020:
Depending on where in the world you are located, the ACT is offered a maximum of 7 times in 2020.

p> In case you are American or an International (mother tongue English or having attended a high school with classes taught in English) read no further, but instead move all the way down to "Plan Your Academic Test Schedule". The next section (TOEFL, IELTS, DUOLINGO) only applies to Non-native speakers.



TOEFL Homepage

25% Reading (0-30 pts)
25% Writing (0-30 pts)
25% Listening (0-30 pts)
25% Speaking (0-30 pts)

Grading Scale:
Score between 0 and 120 points - points earned in above 4 sub-sections.

Scheduled Tests 2020:
Depending on the city, the TOEFL is typically offered on 2-4 weekends (Friday/Saturday) a month (!).


IELTS Homepage


Grading Scale:
Score between 0 and 9 points - average of above 4 sub-sections.

Scheduled Tests 2020:
Depending on the city, the IELTS is typically offered on 2-4 weekends (Friday/Saturday) a month.



This is a completely new test format, which is a really exiting one.
  • Take it from home. Anywhere, anytime.
  • Significantly cheaper in price than TOEFL/IELTS
  • Get results within 2 days


Grading Scale:
Score between 0 and 160 points (increments of 5 points)

Scheduled Tests 2020:
Not applicable.
There is one minor limitation - you can only take 2 tests within a 30-day time frame.

More and more schools are in the process of also accepting Duolingo scores and we therefore plan on dedicating one of our future Friday Scholarship Guide articles entirely to this test format.


Plan When You Take Academic Tests

We're hoping that the above breakdown and overview will give you a good idea as to why you should plan carefully which tests to register for. Also, there is a difference in test format and one test may suit you better than the other. Allow for enough time preparing for these tests, registering (deadlines and sold-out test locations) and retaking.

If you do all that and if you - generally speaking - start sooner than later, you should be off to a great start getting the academic side of things all ready to get recruited! (see also "3 Reasons Starting Early is Key in Getting Recruited")
Check out what we have in store for you here in order to help you find that scholarship offer, which you've been dreaming of:

If you thought this was useful and interesting, why not have a look at some of the other topics we have been writing about within our Friday Scholarship Guide series? Or sign up for our newsletter and never miss out on any of the upcoming editions (all the way up on the right hand side)!