International students applying to US colleges are required to sit the SAT or ACT and many will also take SAT Subject Tests. These tests are challenging for American students who have been preparing for years and can pose a real headache for international students who must juggle existing coursework and busy schedules.

Sounds overwhelming? Don't worry, A-List Education is here to help! A-List is one of the leading New York tutoring companies and now our expert London-based team can guide you through every step of the U.S. college application process.

Confused? While every student is different (and we customise our plans accordingly) the questions below provide some useful guidelines.

How many times should I take the test?
Plan to take the test 2-3 times. This reduces test-day anxiety and many colleges allow you to 'superscore' meaning that you can combine your best subscore for each section across multiple test dates.

When should I take the SAT/ACT?
SAT—Target the May and/or June tests and if necessary retake in October/November. Register for the tests well in advance at sat.collegeboard.org. ACT—Target the April and/or June tests and if necessary retake in September/October. Register for the tests well in advance at www.actstudent.org. Note: some test dates (like June and October) will coincide with your UK exams—start preparing early or avoid these test dates as your UK exam results are a crucial part of your US application.

When should I start preparing for the tests?
It's tricky to cram for these tests, they do not just test content but your ability to problem solve. Avoid stress and start regular preparation 2-6 months in advance. Most of our clients receive 20+ hours of tutoring for 1-2 hours per week. Begin with a diagnostic full-length past test to gauge your starting point and take regular tests along the way. Research the average scores for freshmen admitted to your target colleges and calculate how many points you need to improve.

What's the difference between the SAT and the ACT?
Both are accepted by almost all colleges but there are some significant differences, here are a few:

  • The ACT does not take off points for wrong answers—you should always fill in an answer for every question.
  • On the SAT, subjects are broken up into three sections but on the ACT each subject is one long section—this can be exhausting!
  • The ACT contains some more advanced Math concepts (e.g. trigonometry).
  • The ACT has a Science section—which although it doesn't test scientific knowledge does test your ability to interpret scientific data.

Click here for more on the differences between the SAT and the ACT.

So how do I choose between the SAT and the ACT?
Opinions vary widely on this topic! The best solution, if you can find time, is to take a take a practice test of both and compare your scores and gut feeling (we're happy to set this up for you). Some argue that if you are stronger at Math and Science then the ACT is for you. Others argue the ACT is better for those with strong verbal skills because the Reading is harder and even the science is similar to passage interpretation. Click here for more on choosing between the SAT and the ACT.

What about the SAT Subject Tests?
Check the admissions section of your target colleges’ websites. Many colleges do not require SAT Subject Tests but the majority of the most competitive colleges will require 2-3 SAT Subject Tests. One major advantage of the ACT is that some colleges will permit you to take it in lieu of the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests. If you are required to take the SAT Subject Tests you can take all of them on one test day and fortunately they're only one hour long. Choose the subjects that best match up to your A levels or IBs.

"A-List delivered a great tutoring service for my son—thank you."

Parent of son attending Harvard University, Class of 2018

"I can't recommend A-List enough. You really feel that you can use as much or as little from what they offer to suit your needs. I will certainly be using them for my other two children!"

—Parent of son attending New York University, Class of 2018

"I really struggled with the SAT to start but with A-List's help I was able to bump up my scores considerably and got offers from the unis of my choice."
Student attending Northwestern University, Class of 2017
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