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A Guide to the SAT and ACT for International Students

A Guide to the SAT and ACT for International Students

7 min Read|April 16 2023
|Written by:

Aakash Gadh

Contents

The purpose of this article is to provide international students with a comprehensive guide to the SAT and ACT. Students who wish to study in the United States or other English-speaking countries must understand the format, structure, and content of these standardized exams. The SAT and ACT are well-known standardized tests that play an important role in the college admissions process. International students applying to study in the United States or other English-speaking countries are frequently required to submit SAT or ACT scores. These examinations allow colleges and universities to compare the academic abilities of students from various countries and backgrounds.

The SAT is a standardized examination that measures critical reading, writing, and math skills. Similar to the SAT, the ACT measures skills in English, mathematics, reading, and science. Both tests are used by colleges and universities to evaluate the academic abilities of prospective students and to aid in the admissions process.

A Guide to the SAT and ACT

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Understanding the SAT

The SAT is a three-and-a-half-hour multiple-choice exam (including breaks). The examination consists of four parts: reading, writing, language, mathematics (with a calculator), and mathematics (without a calculator). The test consists of 154 questions and is scored on a scale from 400 to 1600.

The types of questions and subject matter covered by the SAT are critical reading, writing, and mathematics. The reading section consists of comprehension and vocabulary questions based on reading passages. The section on writing and language contains passages and questions that assess grammar, usage, and style. The mathematics section tests problem-solving, data analysis, and mathematical reasoning.

To prepare for the SAT, it is essential to become familiar with the format and content areas of the exam. Start by taking practice tests to familiarize yourself with the question types. Next, concentrate on enhancing your critical reading, writing, and math skills through study, practice, and the pursuit of additional resources. Make and adhere to a study schedule, and be sure to take breaks and rest so that you don't burn out.

Understanding the ACT

The ACT is a multiple-choice test with a duration of 2 hours and 55 minutes (including breaks). The exam consists of four sections: English, mathematics, reading comprehension, and science. The exam consists of 215 questions and is scored on a scale from 1 to 36.

The ACT assesses skills in English, mathematics, reading, and the natural sciences. The section on English consists of passages and questions that assess grammar, usage, and style. The mathematics section tests problem-solving, data analysis, and mathematical reasoning. The reading section consists of comprehension and vocabulary questions based on reading passages. The science section includes passages and questions that assess scientific analysis and reasoning.

To prepare for the ACT, it is essential to become acquainted with the test's structure and content areas. Start by taking practice tests to familiarize yourself with the question types. Next, concentrate on enhancing your English, mathematics, reading, and science abilities through study, practice, and the pursuit of additional resources. As for the SAT, make and adhere to a study schedule, and be sure to take breaks and rest so that you don't burn out.

Differences between the SAT and ACT

  • The SAT and ACT are both widely accepted standardized tests by colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. However, they differ in structure, subject matter, and scoring.
  • There are four sections on the SAT: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Mathematics, and an optional Essay. The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section evaluates your ability to comprehend and analyze written texts and effectively communicate. The Mathematics test measures your ability to solve mathematical problems and make quantitative comparisons. Even though the Essay is optional, selective colleges and universities frequently require it.
  • In contrast, the ACT consists of four sections: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. The English section assesses your ability to comprehend and analyze written texts, as well as your knowledge of grammar and syntax and your capacity to revise and edit written work. The Mathematics test measures your ability to solve mathematical problems and make quantitative comparisons. The Reading section assesses your ability to comprehend and analyze written texts, as well as to draw inferences from the provided information. The Science section tests your ability to comprehend and evaluate scientific arguments and information.
  • The maximum possible score on the SAT is 1600, while the maximum possible score on the ACT is 36. SAT scores are adjusted based on the performance of the entire test-taking population, whereas ACT scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly.

Determining which test is a better fit for you

  • Consider your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the requirements of the colleges and universities to which you plan to apply, when deciding which test to take. Some students may find the SAT to be more manageable, while others may prefer the ACT. Taking practice tests for both the SAT and the ACT can help you determine which exam is a better fit for you. This will provide you with an understanding of the content areas, question types, and time constraints for each test. You can also compare your practice test scores to determine which test you may perform better on. You can also take a brief SAT vs. ACT test that includes questions from both exams and determines which test may be a better fit for you.
  • Additionally, it is essential to investigate the requirements of the colleges and universities to which you will apply. Some colleges and universities may require or prefer one test over another; therefore, it is essential to understand what is required of you.

Preparing for the Tests

Regardless of which test you decide to take, preparing for the SAT or the ACT is crucial to your success. These tests are designed to be challenging, and doing well on them can have a significant impact on your college and university applications.

  • Official test prep materials: The College Board, which administers the SAT, and the ACT, Inc., offer official test prep materials, including practice tests, study guides, and online courses. These materials are designed to help you familiarize yourself with the content areas, question types, and time constraints for each test. It is always highly recommended to make use of the official resources available to you as these are the closest to the actual test questions.
  • Online resources: There is also a multitude of online resources available for SAT and ACT preparation, including practice tests, study guides, and videos. Some of these resources are free, while others require a fee. When choosing an online resource, be sure to look for those that are reliable and have a good reputation. Depending on your budget and the amount of time available at hand, there are plenty of different online resources you could avail to make suit your requirements.
  • Test prep classes:Test prep classes can also be a helpful resource for preparing for the SAT or the ACT. These classes are typically led by experienced teachers or tutors and are designed to help you get ahead of your weaknesses and gain mastery over the subject matter and format of the test.

Conclusion

For international students, the SAT and ACT are essential components of the college admissions process. These tests provide colleges and universities with a standard measure of a student's academic abilities, which can play a significant role in determining their admissions chances.

Therefore, international students must devote sufficient time to SAT and/or ACT preparation in order to perform to the best of their abilities on test day. International students can increase their chances of success and realize their dreams of attending a college or university in the United States if they have the proper resources and preparation.

To conclude, it is important to note that the SAT and ACT are just one of several different aspects of your college application. While getting a great score on the SAT or the ACT does not guarantee success and vice versa, they are still considered important parts of your application holistically.

Over the past few years, some colleges have started adopting a test-optional policy, which means they do not give weight to standardized testing during the evaluation process. So, it's important to find out what the rules are at each college you want to apply to.

We hope this guide has helped international students like you gain a better understanding of the SAT and ACT. We would like to wish you all the best in your preparation and hope you achieve your target score come test day!

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Aakash Gadh

Written by: Aakash Gadh

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University of Texas at Dallas - BS Mechanical Engineering

Aakash studied mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas and has been tutoring students for the SATs, ACTs, and AP Exams for the past six years. He specializes in helping his students achieve top grades and gain admission to their dream universities!

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