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Higher Education in America: College Entrance Exams

The SAT and the ACT are the subject of Part 9 of our Foreign Student Series. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

American colleges and universities consider a number of things about a student who wants to be admitted. Experts on the subject say the most important thing is the student's high school record. Admissions officers look not only at the grades that the student has earned. They also look at the level of difficulty of the classes.

A student's interests and activities may also play a part in getting accepted. But in most cases another consideration is how well the student did on college entrance exams. This week in our Foreign Student Series, we discuss two of these tests: the SAT and the ACT. Most American schools accept either one.

The SAT measures reasoning skills in mathematics and language. Students have almost four hours to complete the SAT. The newest part is an essay. Students have twenty-five minutes to write an answer to a question.

The SAT costs forty-one dollars and fifty cents. The international processing charge is twenty-two dollars more. And test-takers in India and Pakistan must also pay a twenty-one dollar and fifty cent security charge.

Students may also need to take SAT subject tests in areas like history, science and foreign language. Subject tests cost eighteen dollars each. The Web site for the SAT is

The ACT is an achievement test. It is designed to measure what a student has learned in school. Students are tested in mathematics, English, reading and science. A writing test is offered but not required. Without it, the ACT takes about three hours to complete. The essay part adds thirty minutes.

The ACT costs forty-nine dollars to take outside the United States. The writing test costs an additional fourteen dollars. The ACT Web site is

Recent Chinese news reports suggested that ACT testing would be expanded in China next year. But an ACT spokesman denies those reports. He tells us they were based on a misunderstanding. He says there are no plans to increase the number of testing centers in China. Ten centers there offer the ACT, but students must first take training classes at those centers.

The only place in China where the SAT is offered for Chinese students is in Hong Kong. International students living in China have more choices.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. I'm Doug Johnson.


Next week: TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language