Should International Students Take the ACT?

Looking to make the move to the US for college? Good news and- well- not-so-great news. In your favor, American colleges are looking to diversify their student body now more than ever, and hold special places for international applicants. As a downside, this does not mean that you are immune to submitting scores on the same college entrance exams required of other students, which may prove more challenging if you have a non-American linguistic and educational background.

Magooshers are nothing if not up for a challenge, though, right? The important thing is knowing what to expect, and preparing very well in advance, with close attention to the levels of mastery you need both in language and exam prep-related academic content before delving deeply into ACT territory.


Understand Why American College Entrance Exams are Important

Both the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the ACT (American College Test) are designed to assess students’ knowledge and skills outside of a school context, so that all students have the equal opportunity to achieve irrespective of their academic backgrounds. While the two tests have distinct differences, both are used to gauge the test-taker’s critical thinking and reasoning skills, predictors of success in college and beyond. One’s achievement on the test is also thought to be indicative of how hard his/her work ethic will be in school.

For both exams, a high level of competency in English is important (more on that in another passage). Students tend to do better on one test over the other, however. The SAT is the better option for many. You can read more about that here:


Why Choose the ACT?

Where the ACT has grown in popularity among domestic students, it’s actually also seen a surge among international American college applicants as well. What’s the appeal?

  • The ACT is more straightforward. Many students believe that the ACT questions are less confusingly worded than are the SAT ones and that the Reading passages are easier to comprehend.
  • It’s more comprehensive. Unlike the SAT, which includes only Verbal and Math portions, the ACT covers Reading, Writing, Math and Science. Test-takers interested in STEM might want to take the opportunity to demonstrate to colleges their math and scientific reasoning skills via the ACT.
  • It aligns more closely with IB curriculum. IB candidates in international schools may specifically want to examine the ACT’s content to see if it’s in line with their ongoing studies.

Deciding to take the ACT as an international student on the path to American college acceptance is not without its challenges, but provides numerous important rewards as well. Read on, ambitious Magoosher, for tips specific to situations common among international ACT-takers.



  • Susanna Langholm

    Susanna holds a BA in Education & Liberal Studies from Smith College and has spent the better part of her college and post-graduate years helping students achieve success both in and outside of the classroom. Most recently, Susanna served as the Assistant Director for a tutoring franchise catering to college-bound exam prep students, learning a thing or two about the ACT in the process. When she’s not navigating the test-taking waters for the sake of her students, Susanna can be found reading, writing on her education blog, skiing, or planning a future filled with international travel - her favorite (but most expensive) hobby.

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

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