Structure of the U.S. Education System: Standardized Tests
Standardized tests are scientifically normed and machine-graded instruments administered to students and adults under controlled conditions to assess capabilities, including knowledge, cognitive skills and abilities, and aptitude. They are used extensively in the U.S. education system at all levels to assist with admissions, placement, and counseling decisions. Some of these tests include a written portion that is hand-graded.
Some of the more common standardized tests that international students may encounter are described below.
Secondary Level Aptitude Tests
Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is an aptitude test frequently administered to students applying to private secondary schools and some public secondary schools. It measures verbal, reading, and quantitative skills and also includes a writing sample.
Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) is a voluntary test given to secondary school students in year 10 or 11 to assist them in preparing for the SAT and to qualify for national merit scholarships. It measures reading, writing, and mathematical problem-solving skills.
English Language Proficiency Tests
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a proficiency test designed to measure knowledge and skill in understanding and using written English. It is required of international students whose native language or previous language of instruction was not English, and some U.S. institutions will accept TOEFL scores in lieu of other test scores.
Undergraduate (First Degree) Aptitude Tests
American College Testing Program (ACT) is an aptitude test administered to secondary students in years 11 or 12, and adults, to help determine capability for postsecondary study. It includes measurements of reading, mathematics, English language and science skills and an optional writing sample. Also provided are secondary subject grade reports and a student interests inventory.
Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is an aptitude test administered to secondary students in years 11 or 12, and to some adult students, to help determine capability for postsecondary study. It is divided into two parts, the SAT Reasoning Test measuring reading, writing and quantitative skills; and the SAT Subject Tests measuring knowledge and reasoning ability in various subjects.
Reprinted with the permission of the U.S. Department of Education.
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