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Our head tutor's tips, tricks and thoughts for all your SAT, ACT, and US College Prep needs.

Filtering by Tag: ACT

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:

ACT Science Section Tips

Elizabeth von Nardroff

The Science Section of the ACT may sound a bit off-putting, especially for those who are science adverse, but the ACT really doesn’t strictly test scientific knowledge. Really, it tests more of your graph reading and logical reasoning skills. Sure, there’s a lot of scientific jargon to get around, but with practice, you can manage to get past it and find that some of the questions can be remarkably simple. There are a few reading strategies that will help – first off, don’t read the passages! Seriously, it is a very fast test and doing so will guarantee you won’t be able to complete the section. Instead, quickly skim the passage, graphs and charts, noting what it’s about, what the general trends are and if possible – what the dependant and independent variables are (check my YouTube Channel American SAT & ACT Tuition  for video lessons on this). Then go straight to the questions. Each one will direct you generally to which graph you will need to refer to. You should spend only 4-5 minutes for each section. The one exception to the preceding advice is for the ‘Opposing Viewpoints’ section. This section will be recognisable by its longer texts and is usually sub-headed Scientist A and Scientist B. This section I recommend skipping and then doing last, as it requires closer reading and longer time to complete – save approximately 5-6 minutes for this section.

With practice, you should find the Science Section becomes easier and more doable.

SAT and ACT Test Day Anxiety

Elizabeth von Nardroff

All students feel anxious about tests or school at some point – it’s a natural reaction and a part of what we call a ‘fight or flight’ response. Some fortunate students thrive on this – the extra adrenaline helps them hyper-focus on the material and pushes them to perform at the peak of their abilities -- in other words, they ‘fight’.

Others are less fortunate. When they encounter a problem not seen before, their minds’ freeze (‘flight’) and they panic, either by spending too long on a problem at the expense of other easier ones or – in the worst case scenario – they lose the ability to work at all. Thankfully few have such an extreme reaction, but many have enough anxiety to keep them from performing at their best.

The best overall remedy for this anxiety is preparation, the type of which is very important. First off, it is important not to cram. That’s a sure-fire way to increase stress levels! The ACT and SAT are long tests, and they cover a great scope of material – way too much to review in a few hours the day before the test. Mastery of material gives students the confidence to wriggle through even the trickiest of questions. It becomes more of a challenge to meet problems head on (‘fight’) if you haven’t got the proper ammunition. 

Still, even the most prepared student is bound to feel nervous come test day. A few tips:

The night before test day – no studying! If you've done all the preparation/revision laid out in other posts, you should be ready. Instead, do something quiet and relaxing that you enjoy. Watch a movie with friends or your family. Read a book. Whatever it is, make it an early night.

On test day, have two alarms set. That way you won’t have the extra worry of getting up on time (if you’re anything like me, you won’t then wake up too early, afraid of oversleeping). Don’t forget to eat a nourishing breakfast and to bring non-sugary snacks and drinks for breaks. Hunger is not your friend on test day.

Remember, some anxiety is normal – don’t be put off by it or make it the focus of your attention. Some meditative focused breathing might help. During the test, if you find yourself blanking out on a question, skip it straight away and come back to it later. Pausing for a few deep breaths can be enough to help settle the mind.

Do you have any methods that help you relax during tests? Leave a comment below!

ACT Reading: Could speed-reading help you?

Elizabeth von Nardroff

The ACT Reading Section can be difficult for slow readers. You’ve got only 35 minutes to read the passages and answer 40 questions. If you’re a naturally fast reader, this can seem doable – otherwise, it poses a challenge. Speed reading practice might be for you. While you don’t need to do so much to get up to a real ‘speed-reading proficiency’ (1000+ words per minute!), any increase in speed will be helpful. I recommend this free brochure from

It offers advice such as using your finger to keep a faster pace and trying not to ‘read out loud’ in your head, as well as others. With some daily practice, you should be reading more quickly and with better comprehension!