SAT and ACT Tests
Scholastic Assessment Test / American College Testing
In the American education system, students are rated on their grade point average (GPA) - ie. the average of their grades over the final 4 years of their schooling (So if that were us it would mean every grade we received from the start of Year 10 to the end of Year 13!). However, this average is based solely on the marks that teachers gave to students on in-house tests and assignments, which are not standardized across the whole of the USA, not least due to the federal system. Students in the USA have to take the same standardized test at some point so that their general level of education can be assessed and they can be compared like for like - and this is where the SAT and the ACT come in. Essentially they test Critical Reading (or comprehension as it was known in my day), Mathematics and Writing - with the ACT also having a Science section.
I'm not going to go into any more detail here, but will instead summarise what you really need to know now.
Firstly, the ACT is more widely accepted than the SAT and also seems to suit our students better. Also, the SAT is currently going through a number of changes to make it more like the ACT, but is still in flux - so I would avoid it for a couple of years at least. You can find a score equivalence table between the ACT and the SAT in the resources folder of this website.
You can take either (or both) tests on numerous occasions. Universities will see all your scores and will often 'Super-score' - this means they will take the best score from each component (even if these components were taken during different tests) and combine them to give you your overall score. Some universities will take your best total score from a single sitting, but, they will see all your attempts so, particularly for international students who will not have been taught to the test, they are looking for improvement/learning from one test to the next. If you go to the resources folder of this website you can find tables of those institutions that super-score the ACT and those that super-score the SAT.
Really important stuff to know
What it is really important to remember is that due to the variety of education delivered across the states, and the American ideal of giving every person the appearance of the same opportunities, neither test can be too difficult.
Now when I say 'not difficult', what I mean is that the content of the tests can't be above the base level of what every child in the USA will have covered in their schooling.
So how do you filter students if the content can't be too hard?
The answer is, initially, through the use of language. Questions are phrased in a way that forces students to think carefully about their response in every section of the test. What this means is that every section of both tests (essay writing aside) is really a Critical Reading test. Take the science section of the ACT for example - this really requires only a very basic knowledge of science, in fact all the answers can be found in the text, but one has to read the questions very carefully, and more than once to ascertain what is really being asked. This leads us to the second filtering agent, which is of course time.
The only way to get better at either test is to practise. A lot. You will have to tune yourself into the phrasing of the questions, learn to recognise particular tropes and styles of question, understand when, and why you have made mistakes and above all get the hang of doing all this at speed.
We don't have the resources at Dubai College to offer SAT and ACT training, but there are numerous free places to hone your skills online, I have a cupboard full of books of old practise tests in the Sixth Form Center, and you can find practise tests to download on the resources page of this website.
For SAT training why not try https://www.khanacademy.org/and for loads of practise tests http://www.cracksat.net/
For ACT training and for loads of practise tests go here: http://www.crackact.com/
Where and when to take the test?
You can register for the ACT here: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/registration-information.html
Test centers and dates to take the ACT can be found here (sorry, it's either Abu Dhabi or Sharjah!): http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/taking-the-test/test-center-locator.html
You can find testing dates, and sign up for the SAT here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/international
Test centers for the SAT in the UAE can be found here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/find-test-centers but from what I have heard, DIA is by far and away the best.
Places can fill up quickly, so register as early as you can.
Many universities and colleges will also expect you to complete subject specific tests once you have completed either the ACT or SAT. You can choose which ones to do, though they are likely to be dictated by your chosen area of study and your particular skills, or in fact your A Level choices. find out more about these tests here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-subject-tests. You can also find a guide to subject tests and Maths and Literature practise tests on the resources page of this site.
If this all seems like an awful lot of effort in addition to your studies, you can find a list of colleges that do not require you to take standardized tests here: http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional