SAT & ACT Fact Sheet and FAQ’s
We have compiled this SAT & ACT fact sheet to give students in the UK information about the SAT & ACT process, a necessary part of applying to university in the US. You will need to know how to choose the right tests, how to register for and take the tests, and why US colleges want applicants to take them.. You will need to register with the College Board (www.collegeboard.com), or ACT (http://www.act.org/) and open a personal account with password. Emails and updates can also be sent to your parents. The entire test cycle is managed through the websites, including the receipt of test scores and having the scores sent automatically to the universities you have nominated. Your school may be registered with the College Board or ACT and have a school identification number, but this is not required in order for you to take the tests.
The SAT and ACT tests are available at regular intervals throughout the academic year, in order to make scheduling easier for applicants. Many students take their first SAT or ACT early on in the Lower Sixth (see below) and then have the opportunity to re-take individual tests as needed if they feel they can pull their scores up through further practice or exposure to the subject material. US universities will normally only take your top test scores into consideration, so you have a chance to get to grips with the SAT or ACT method as you progress.
What tests do I need to take?
For Harvard, either the SAT or the ACT are required as part of the admissions application. In addition, it is highly recommended that applicants take two SAT Subject Tests which must be registered for separately and taken on a separate test date. Other colleges may have other requirements, so check their application websites. The November test date is the last date that will deliver your scores in time for Early Action or Early Decision processes; the January test date is the last date that will deliver your scores in time for Regular Action.
The SAT Reasoning Test is composed of three sections: • Critical Reading, with sentence completion and passage-based reading questions. Mathematics, with multiple-choice questions in arithmetic, algebra and functions, geometry, statistics and probability. Writing, with multiple choice questions and a 25 minute written essay. • Some sample test questions can be found as the final page of this handout. • Excellent explanations, tips, sample questions and a practice test can be found here: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/prep_one/prep_one.html
The SAT Subject Tests measure how much you know about a particular academic subject and how well you can apply that knowledge. The different UK syllabus in most subjects should not be a problem in that most Admissions Offices are aware of the differences and can factor that in to their assessment. • Excellent explanations, tips, sample questions and a practice test can be found here: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/lc_two.html
When are the SAT and ACT tests given?
SAT Reasoning and most subjects are given in October, November, December, January, May, and/or June. UK schedules vary from centre to centre. Some language subject tests are available on fewer dates, e.g. Italian may only be offered once a year. ACT tests are given international in September, October, December, April and June. It is important to plan ahead!
When should I take the SAT or ACT tests?
If you have the time and means to do so, you might want to take a “practice” test in the spring of your Lower Sixth year and then take it again in the autumn of Upper Sixth.
Where are the SAT and ACT tests given in the UK?
The tests are given in the about twenty locations throughout England, Scotland and Wales, usually at local schools or universities, but not every test date is available at each location, and locations may change. Check the SAT and ACT websites (in Links) for details. In recent years, because of high demand, many dates and centres have booked up quickly, so try to reserve your spot many months in advance.
How long are the tests? What is the test day like?
The tests are about 3 hours long; each SAT Subject Test is one hour long, with some language tests having an oral component. For each test date, you will be at the test center from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a break at the end of each hour’s testing. You need to bring with you the admission ticket, photo ID, two no. 2 pencils with erasers, and a calculator with fresh batteries. Some language listening tests require a CD player. A snack and a drink are also recommended. Please check when you register that these requirements have not changed, especially those which are subject-specific.
What happens after I take the test?
Shortly after the test, your scores will be available to you on your collegeboard.com or ACT account online. Your scores will be sent electronically to the colleges you listed when you registered. You may request that scores be sent to additional colleges after you take the test, for an additional charge.
How do I sign up for the SAT or ACT tests?
Go to the SAT or ACT websites (in Links) and create your own account to use each time you register for a test, print your admission ticket, or view your scores. Be sure to register using the exact same name as on your admissions application. At least six weeks before the test, register for the test you want on the date and in the location you want. Register early if possible since test centers do fill up. Harvard’s code for the SAT is 3434 and for the ACT is 1840.
What is the cost for the SAT or ACT tests?
See the SAT or ACT websites (in Links) for specifics. In 2015 the costs were approximately $50 per test date. Your scores are sent to about four colleges for free when you register; more for an additional payment.
Why do US colleges need these tests? If I have A-level results, do I still need to take the SAT or ACT tests?
Since all applicants, from all over the world, take the same tests, the results are a way to gain one more piece of academic knowledge about applicants using a common benchmark. All Harvard applicants need to take the SAT or ACT Test whether they have other UK academic credentials or not. In addition, two SAT Subject Tests are highly recommended, especially for international students since they tend to score higher on the Subject Test than the standard SAT or ACT.
How can I prepare for the SAT or ACT?
Timed multiple-choice tests may not be a format you are familiar with, so taking at least one practice test (whether officially registered or in your own home using a practice book) will help you understand the technique and make sure that you finish in good time. Find sample questions (with answers and explanations) and practice tests at the SAT and ACT websites (in Links). Buy an SAT or ACT practice book (at a bookstore or via amazon.com) or use one for free at the US-UK Fulbright Commission.
What are the choices for the SAT Subject Tests? How do I choose which tests to take if the subjects available do not match my A-level courses?
Subject Tests are currently given in these areas: Literature, French, US History, French with Listening, World History, German, Mathematics Level 1, German with Listening, Mathematics Level 2, Spanish, Ecological Biology, Spanish with Listening, Molecular Biology, Modern Hebrew, Chemistry, Italian, Physics, Latin, Chinese with Listening, Japanese with Listening, Korean with Listening. All applicants are strongly urged to take Subject Tests, even if they do not mesh well with your current courses of study. At Harvard, for example, the Admissions Committee is aware of the potential for mismatch with the UK curriculum and will look at the results sensitively with that knowledge in mind. You might choose one of the Mathematics or language tests, even if you dropped that area after GCSE, and spend some time refreshing your memory on the subject with help from the practice material available on the SAT website.
What do the scores mean and how are they used in the admissions process?
For the SAT, the scores range from 200-800 on each part of the test. For the ACT, scores range up to 36 composite. Typically, students admitted to Harvard will have test scores in the 600-800 range for SAT or 28+ for ACT. You should research individual colleges in the US to see what their expectations are. The Harvard Admissions Office understands that students from educational systems abroad have different background preparation than applicants from the US and will view the results sensitively with that knowledge in mind. Test results are only one part of the application – your grades at GCSE, A-level (or IB or other academic credentials), your involvement in extracurricular activities, your essays, the letters of recommendation from your teachers and headmaster or careers advisor, and the alumni interview are all equally valuable parts of the admissions decision process. Personal qualities such as confidence, optimism, selflessness, open-mindedness, curiosity and energy are highly valued, and cannot be tested in a quantifiable manner. In contrast to the UK system, how you come through as a person in your application, in your personal essay, and through the teachers’ recommendations, is just as important as the SAT or ACT test results.