SAT alternative makes bid for Chinese takers

Updated: 2013-11-14 07:55

By WAN LI in New York (China Daily USA)

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After years of the SAT standardized US college admissions test dominating the college admissions exam market in China, another US test organization — ACT Inc — is making a play to get a piece of the action.

The just concluded ACT teacher training seminar and student roadshow in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou was the latest effort by the testing service to develop a thorough understanding of the ACT test in China.

"As educational exchanges between China and the USA expand, we are hopeful that we will be able to play an expanded role in helping students in China achieve education and workplace success," David Chadima, assistant vice-president for international programs at ACT Inc, told China Daily USA.

According to the most recent IIE Open Doors Report, Chinese overseas students account for 28.7% of all international students studying in the US, approximately 235,000. Of those, nearly 94,000 are undergraduates, which is a 26 percent increase over last year.

"Most Chinese students who wish to pursue undergraduate degrees in the USA are only aware of the SAT," Chadima said. "In fact, the ACT exam is now the most widely administered college admissions test in the USA, with a 54 percent share of the market, and the ACT test is administered in over 130 countries around the world."

The ACT test is a knowledge-based achievement test, whereas the SAT test is a skills-based aptitude test. ACT measures students' mastery of the core knowledge educators feel is necessary for students to be able to take credit-bearing first year-courses in American universities, according to information released by the ACT.

Since its establishment in 1959, ACT has lagged behind the SAT. Although nearly all four-year colleges and universities in US accept either test, the SAT has long been the dominant assessment.

Only last year did ACT pull ahead of the SAT for the first time: 1,666,017 students took the ACT in 2012; 1,664,479 took the SAT. In 2013, SAT test-takers shrank slightly to 1,660,047, while the number of ACT takers rose to 1,799,243.

Janet Rapelye, dean of admissions at Princeton University, said in an interview with The New York Times earlier this year, "I don't know all the pieces of why this is happening, but I think more students are trying to make sure they've done everything they can," she said. "And for us, more information is always better. If students choose one or the other, that's fine, because both tests have value. But if they submit both, that generally gives us a little more information."

"There is no reason why Chinese students shouldn't have the same options as students in the US to determine which test works best for them," Chadima said.

According to Chinese government regulations, standardized US college admissions tests like the SAT and ACT cannot be administered within the Chinese mainland. As a result, many students travel to Hong Kong to take the exam. Last year, approximately 50,000 mainland students travelled to Hong Kong to take the SAT.

"At this point, our goal is to increase awareness and understanding of the ACT test so Chinese students can make an informed decision as to which US college admissions test to take when they go to Hong Kong," Chadima said. "If or when the regulatory environment changes and testing is allowed in China, we will offer the ACT test at test centers in China as well."

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