Most universities in the United States require standardized tests during the application process in order to compare all the applicants and set their own score standards. Colleges use these tests to determine if students are a good fit for the institution depending on their skills and abilities measured. Also, obtaining a good score will open the possibility to receive academic scholarships. International students should revise the requirements demanded by their universities of interest before deciding on which tests to take. Let’s take a look at them!
There are two standardized college admissions tests in the US known as the SAT and the ACT. Both of them are asked by most universities during the application process and it determines if the student is prepared for college based on the skills measured during the test. The SAT and the ACT can also help universities in order to compare the students that have applied.
It is an entrance exam that students can take in order to access to universities in the United States. It is important for the admission process and good scores can lead to academic scholarships. Most of the questions are multiple-choice and it is administered by the College Board.
The SAT measures the critical reading, writing and mathematical abilities of the student. The test is comprised of two sections starting with reading and writing and followed by mathematics. Students can earn a score between 200 and 800 for each section; the maximum total score consists of 1600 points. The total duration of the exam is 3 hours without counting the breaks in between sections.
During the Reading part, students will have 65 minutes to read the passage given and answer the 52 multiple-choice questions. After, students have 35 min in order to read, detect errors and fix sentences during the Writing & Language part. Finally, the math section includes algebra, problem solving and data analysis, some advanced math and others. Students have 80 minutes to complete 58 multiple-choice questions and calculators are not allowed during some questions. There is also an optional Essay section that lasts 50 minutes at the end of the exam.
The ACT is the other common standardized test accepted by most universities. Some students usually decide between taking the SAT or the ACT while other students take both. All the questions provided during the exam are multiple-choice with the exception of the optional essay section at the end of the exam.
The ACT is comprised of four sections that measure the student’s skills: English, Math, Reading and Science. Students can earn a score between 1 and 36 for each section. The final score is calculated by doing the average of the four sections and it is also known as the “composite score”. The total duration of the test is 2 hours and 55 minutes.
The English section consists of 75 questions about usage and mechanics (like punctuation, grammar…) and rhetorical skills; students have 45 minutes to complete it. Then, the Math part includes 60 questions about algebra, geometry and trigonometry that need to be solved in 60 minutes. After, the reading section provides passages and asks questions in order to test the student’s comprehension skills throughout 40 questions and 35 minutes. Finally, the Science part consists of 40 questions that test the scientific interpretation skills of the student and it has a duration of 35 minutes. They also offer an optional writing section at the end of the exam which can be completed in 40 minutes.
Both are equally recognized and accepted by universities in the US. Therefore, students should decide which test to take depending on their skills and abilities. Since the SAT made some changes in 2016, the two tests are more similar than ever before and cover many of the same subjects. Students are not penalized for incorrect answers and both exams provide an optional essay section at the end of the test. However, there are some differences that students should look at before deciding on what is the best exam based on their own characteristics. The main differences are the following:
Most universities in the US require international students to take an English language proficiency test in order to demonstrate their capability to study in English. To be admitted, students are asked to prove their English level through tests like TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo. Every university is different, so students should decide which test to take after learning the requirements asked by their university of choice.
TOEFL stands for “Test of English as a Foreign Language” and it is provided by the Educational Testing Services which is an organization based in the US. More than 10,000 institutions around the world accept TOEFL scores and it is the most preferred English-Language test in the US universities. The TOEFL tests the student’s ability to communicate in English through four sections: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Most centers offer the TOEFL iBT which is computer based and takes 4 hours to complete.
IELTS stands for “International English Language Testing System” and it is also a very popular language proficiency test that can be used for educational, immigration or occupational purposes. It consists of a paper-based test that lasts 2 hours and 45 minutes. The IELTS also includes four sections (reading, listening, speaking and writing) and students can use either US or UK spelling. This test is more used in British and Australian institutions; however, the number of universities that accept IELTS keeps growing in the US.
Duolingo is a new language proficiency test that you can take online from anywhere and anytime. The exam is 45 minutes long and it evaluates the student’s writing, speaking, reading and listening skills through an adaptive test and a 10-minute video interview. The Duolingo English Test has already been accepted over 300 undergraduate institutions and it keeps expanding.