Is the ACT a Good Test for International Students?

Even though more students in the United States now take the ACT, than take the SAT for college admissions, this is definitely not the case internationally. Far more international students take the SAT for admission to U.S. schools. A big reason for this is simply that the SAT is more well-known globally and it is more accessible, since the SAT has far more testing centers globally than the ACT does.

Since just as many U.S. students have a choice regarding which test better suits their strengths, international students have a choice as well!

If you are an international student, here are some things to think about to determine if the ACT is a better test for you.


  1. The New SAT is much more like the ACT. Many international students who speak English as a second language used to prefer the SAT because it was not as reading-heavy as the ACT. This is now not the case at all: New SAT writing questions look very similar to the ACT’s, as they are all asked in the context of longer passages instead of isolated questions. There are more word problems in the Math section as well and all of the Reading passages are long (unlike the old SAT, which had some short ones). In fact, you’ll likely find that some of the new SAT Reading passages are harder for you than the ACT Reading passages because at least one of them will probably be an older text from the 18th or 19th century. ACT passages are all modern.


  1. However, the ACT requires you to work at a faster pace than the SAT. On average, the New SAT still gives students more time to answer questions than the ACT, meaning if you need more time to read and process passages and questions, you still might be better-suited for the SAT.


  1. If you are a Science buff, you may like that the ACT includes a Science section. The SAT has no such thing, and even though the ACT Science test is more about your ability to read tables and graphs rather than your depth of science knowledge, if you are good at science, the ACT might have more of an appeal for you.


To solve your dilemma, take a practice test of both the SAT and ACT. You can download free practice tests on both the SAT and ACT official sites. Use our ACT to New SAT to Old SAT comparison chart to compare your results, and see if there is a clear winner regarding which test you should prep for and take.

Finally, make sure you check out our ultimate guide on the ACT vs. the SAT to truly figure out which test is right for you.


  • Kristin Fracchia

    Dr. Kristin Fracchia has over fifteen years of expertise in college and graduate school admissions and with a variety of standardized tests, including the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, with several 99% scores. She had a PhD from the University of California, Irvine, an MA degree from The Catholic University, and BA degrees in Secondary Education and English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park. She was the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Club Fellowship from the University of California, Irvine. She’s worked as a high school teacher and university professor, as an independent college and graduate school admissions counselor, and as an expert tutor for standardized tests, helping hundreds of students gain acceptance into premier national and international institutions. She now develops accessible and effective edtech products for Magoosh. Her free online content and YouTube videos providing test prep and college admissions advice have received over 6 million views in over 125 countries. Kristin is an advocate for improving access to education: you can check out her TEDx talk on the topic. Follow Kristin on LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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