Applying to attend college in the United States can be a complex process. Furthermore, it involves quite a few hoops for international students to jump through, from asking teachers for letters of recommendation in English (or to be translated) to figuring out which schools you want to apply to. However, taking the ACT shouldn't be an obstacle to going to college in the U.S.! Here are ten ways that international students can get higher ACT scores that will put you on the track to success.
1. Familiarize Yourself With the ACT
It may sound obvious, but it's important to know ACT basics before anything else. In some countries, there are standardized exams that directly give you admission (or rejection) to a university or group of universities. That's not the case with the ACT! It's just one factor in an entire college application that includes your grades, essays, letters of recommendation, and other factors.
2. Set Goals
You'll need to set two goals, in particular: a test date and a score goal. Setting your test date is particularly important as not all ACT dates offered in the U.S. are offered internationally, so be sure to check (and register) well in advance, as seats are also limited. Secondly, take a look at the ACT score range of accepted students at your dream schools. This will help you set your own goals for where you want to score on the test.
3. Take a Diagnostic Test
This is just what it sounds like: a test that "diagnoses" areas you should work on before test day (though you will have to interpret the results!) You can use any number of ACT practice tests as your diagnostic, as long as they are test-like and well-written. In the U.S., many students will have access to a test called the PreACT, which is a mini-ACT taken during the second year of high school. However, without PreACT scores to use to identify your strengths and weaknesses, it's all the more important to take that diagnostic.
4. Take the TOEFL First
If you're a non-native English speaker, you'll also most likely have to take the TOEFL or other English proficiency exam for admission. These are generally easier than the ACT—so take the English exam first! Not only will it get that test out of the way, but it will also familiarize you with the following two components of the ACT, both of which are vital for achieving your goal scores.
5. Master the Multiple Choice Format
In some countries, multiple-choice tests are rare. However, the ACT is primarily a multiple-choice test. You may be used to essay-based exams or other formats, and the sheer number of problems presented on the ACT may seem intimidating at first. A good ACT study guide can help point you in the right direction with these questions.
6. Practice the Essay
Granted, it's not super fun to write a million practice essays, but if you're taking the ACT with essay, you will need to make sure that you have the format down. Just writing the essays isn't enough; you'll also want to make sure that you have someone proficient in English to help you grade them according to the essay rubric the ACT provides. This is another place where the TOEFL can be helpful. Though the essay topics and formats are very different, practicing writing in English is essential to mastering this component of the ACT.
7. Know Your Idioms
Idioms can be challenging even for native English speakers. While you may have studied them for your English proficiency exam, it's a good idea to brush up on them before the ACT, as well. Not only will they come in handy on the Writing section, but you'll find that knowing them makes ACT Reading easier, as well.
8. Accentuate the Universal
Know that the ACT isn't all about English mastery and that there are some sections where you won't need to work so much at "translating"—notably, Math, but also some Science problems. Just make sure that you break down the directions and the word problems correctly so you don't miss any valuable points!
9. Use the Best Resources
In addition to the resources linked above, the ACT test maker (also called the ACT) provides free test materials on its website. This is a great place to get started with your ACT studies, ensuring that you're working with test-like and accurate materials.
At the end of the day, the best advice for international students is the same as the best advice for American students: practice. And practice thoughtfully. Constantly evaluate where you're improving, where you still want to improve, the question types you're getting right, the question types you're getting wrong—and how to improve. And know that with all these tips in mind, you're well on your way to getting the ACT score of your dreams!
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