Tips for International Students Taking U.S. College Standardized Tests
Although many U.S. institutions will be test optional for the Fall 2022 class (this application cycle), test optional — as I shared in an earlier blog post — is not test blind. Thus, test scores can still matter in the admissions decision and therefore, international students still have a few points to consider.
The Two Standardized Tests
The SAT test is a 3-hour test evaluating mastery of high-school math, reading comprehension, and writing and grammar skills. The SAT has 3 tests: the Reading Test, the Writing and Language Test, and the Math Test. Also, the test occasionally includes test questions for research purposes. These questions may appear in any of the test sections, and testing time will be extended by 20 minutes. These questions are not included in computing scores but students are required to take them. This is a paper based test.
The ACT test is a 2 hour, 55 minute standardized test evaluating mastery of high school math, reading comprehension, writing and grammar skills, and science. There are four multiple choice sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, and an optional Essay section. You can use an approved calculator on the entire math section. The test is given on a computer if taken outside the US. Like the SAT, ACT tries out questions on test dates to develop future tests. Your test may include questions that will not count towards your score.
Plan In Advance-Test Dates
It is important to plan in advance for the SAT or ACT, especially for students living in other countries. While both tests are offered internationally, there are less test date options available for students. SAT dates can be found here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/international ACT dates can be found here: https://global.act.org/content/global/en/products-and-services/the-act-non-us/registration.html
Students are encouraged to take tests at least two months ahead of the application deadline and for most students who will take the test more than once, advance planning and registration is required given limited spaces in testing centers and limited test centers which may require travel for students. Students should also plan to register for the SAT/ACT more than once given there has been a history of cheating incidents which have then led to last minute test cancellations.
Registration and Release of Test Scores
The international SAT does not allow for late registration whereas the ACT does (for an additional fee). SAT scores are released 12-15 days after administration and ACT scores begin to be reported as soon as two business days after your test date (but the website notes that infrequently, scores may take as long as 8 weeks). The ACT score will not be reported until all the scores are available (e.g., ACT with writing will take longer to score, but the entire test results will only be reported when the entire test is scored).
Towards the end of junior year, students should already taken an entire ACT and/or SAT (I advise both to see which students excel at) to decide which they will officially register for. They should then have a plan in place for which test they plan to take, along with which 2-3 test dates they plan to register for. Each test’s official website will list the final date for registration.