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Changes to the ACT Test for International Student -- Article published in The American

Elizabeth von Nardroff

As of September 2018, International students wanting to take the ACT will need to take a computer-based exam.

Those of you with teen children planning on going to US Colleges are probably already aware of the SAT/ACT tests. (If not, you can read about these Here – or in the January 2017 issue of The American). In short, these are the Entrance Tests required by most US Colleges.

You might recall that the SAT had a major overhaul a few years back. Now the ACT will be changing for International students, but not nearly in such a drastic way. But first, a little reminder of what these tests consist of.

Content-wise, the tests are pretty similar – both cover Math, Reading, Grammar and optional essay writing. They do differ, however, in a few ways.

First off, the ACT tends to be a more straightforward but fast test – if you find you can process information quickly, this could be the test for you. If not, the SAT might be better for you. The ACT also has a Science section, whose jargon and seemingly tricky material can be off-putting to some.

Another difference is calculator use – the SAT has a non-calculator section which means students need to use some basic maths skills such as adding fractions. A plus for some for the SAT is that it gives basic formulas while the ACT gives none.

The Reading Section of the ACT tends to be more straight-forward than the SAT, so it might be the test for those who dislike denser or older texts.

In short, while the ACT is more straightforward, it requires greater speed. While the SAT gives more time to work through problems, it tends to require greater in-depth reading capabilities.

So, how will the ACT be changing for International Test takers? Starting in September 2018, test-takers outside the US will no longer be taking a paper test. While there will be paper provided for calculations, all tests will be read off a computer screen and answers entered electronically.

While this may seem taxing to those accustomed to paper tests (particularly those who like to mark-up questions and readings), there are a couple of upshots to this change. The first should appeal to those who dislike early Saturday morning tests: instead of one time given per test date, students will now be able to choose from 4 time-slots – a morning and an afternoon option on both a Friday and Saturday for each set of test dates. Also, since scores are entered digitally, it means that test scores should arrive back to you much faster – possibly in as little as under two weeks!

Please note that content-wise, the actual ACT Test itself has not changed – the practice papers available are still appropriate to help prepare. It’s only that students will be reading the test off a computer screen and answering the questions online, and the selection of test dates that will be different.

Hopefully this information can help you decide which test might be right for you or your child.

Read more about it here: