The following article was recently featured in the Fulbright Commission‘s e-newsletter. In it, we discuss the differences between U.S. admission exams and A levels.
The American SATs and ACTs can be something of a puzzle for British students. However, having assisted many successful U.S. applicants, here are some hints.
First, a word of warning! Some start their relationship with the either the SAT or ACT under the impression that either is really rather easy. How hard can multiple choice be for us smart, examination-savvy Brits? Well, as an example, have a look at the SAT comparison table below:[table "74" not found /]
These differences do not make the tests more or less difficult. You already know a lot – but you do need to practise questions types and tactics. The SAT and the ACT are both fast and long (few British students will have encountered tests that are well over three hours in length). Some Mathematics or formal English grammar topics may also be unfamiliar to you.
However, you should note there are a number of differences between the SAT and ACT, so please ask your adviser or us if you are unsure which to take. Both tests contain multiple choice questions, but unlike the SAT, there is no compulsory writing element for the ACT. On the other hand, the ACT has a compulsory Science section not seen in the SAT. For the ACT you are advised to answer every question, as there is no penalty for guessing incorrectly. Conversely, the SAT penalises you a ¼ point for a wrong answer.
So how can you best prepare?
1. Plan: don’t underestimate preparation – think months not weeks. Last minute cramming really isn’t sensible!
2. Timetable: at least 30-35 hours to practise question types and strategy.
3. Support: many people find a structured course helps – and Greene’s (as well as several organisations) offers SAT preparation courses and ACT courses. The Fulbright Commission is an invaluable resource and the College Board and ACT website both offer free practice questions. Several apps are also available through Google Play and iTunes.
4. The day itself: you’ve taken a course, bought books, practised papers, and (for the SAT) registered with the College Board – or with the ACT.
5. What next? Check you have: pencils – HB or no. 2 (U.S.); an approved calculator; identification. And don’t forget a snack for the breaks.
6. After the examination: remember, if you think you have the lowest score on record, don’t panic! Colleges expect you to take the SAT or the ACT a second or even third time.
Finally when should you take the SAT or ACT? We suggest an attempt in your lower sixth and again in the autumn of the year in which you apply.
Good SAT or ACT scores are within your reach. At Greene’s, Oxford we understand the challenges faced by U.K. students, so wherever you are in your preparation process, we are always happy to help. Please feel free to contact us with questions; if you’re ready to get started with your preparation for the SAT, take a look at our Oxford SAT courses.