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UK student to US college.

  1. Jan 15, 2009 #1
    Hi there,
    I live in England but want to go to uni in the US, preferably Harvard. I am predicted all A*s in my GCSEs which I'll take in the summer and would hope to get all A's in my AS and A levels. However, I have no idea how the UK examination results would translate into the US. As in, how do GCSEs, AS and A levels relate to SATs? Are they easier/harder?

    At my current UK examination expected results, what should I expect if I take SATs?

    And what kind of an SAT result would I need to get into Harvard?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2009 #2
    You need as high of an SAT score as you can get. Harvard regularly rejects people with perfect SATs.
  4. Jan 16, 2009 #3
    I see. But my main question was how do GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in the UK compare to the SATs in the US? Are they harder or easier? What are the differences?
  5. Jan 16, 2009 #4


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    Well, the SAT is a standardised test, and is non-subject specific, thus it cannot require as much information as one requires for A levels, since the latter are quite specialised qualifications. If I had to guess, I'd say the SAT was similar to AS General Studies, but without any required knowledge of science. Of course, I should mention that this comes from someone with no experience of the US system at all! The best way for you to tell would be to get your hands on past SAT tests and see whether you can do them.
  6. Jan 16, 2009 #5
    Without having any real knowledge of the UK system, I would guess that the SAT is generally easier than your A levels. The math section is just first-year algebra.

    I don't know exactly what university admissions are like in the UK, but also keep in mind that grades and test scores are actually less important than you would think for the top American universities. Sure, bad scores can keep you out, but if all you have in your favor is good scores, you'll never get in. Extracurricular activities and "leadership" are what's important.
  7. Jan 16, 2009 #6
    I would suggest applying many US colleges if you want to study here. Even a well-qualified US student can get rejected from several of the top schools before getting into one, and international acceptance tends to even lower.
  8. Jan 16, 2009 #7


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    First year of what: high school, university? There isn't any algebra (in the sense you mean it) in university courses over here.
  9. Jan 16, 2009 #8
    The SAT is an unimaginably stupid way of measuring readiness for university studies. It's basically a test of how many very, very, very easy questions (in math) and vague, stupid questions (in English) you can answer in a limited period of time. I got a really high score, which I attribute completely to luck... I know people smarter than me who bombed it. My advice is to buy an SAT practice book online and go over it. Make sure you take the mock exams while timing yourself and working under exam conditions since speed and endurance are what are really being tested. Your A-level scores will have no bearing on your SAT scores since it's not at all the same sort of test (in the sense that A-levels probably measure something useful, while the SAT doesn't).
  10. Jan 16, 2009 #9
    Not to rain on your parade but even if you do perfectly on your A levels and your SAT Is, I wouldn't think that admission is a sure thing. As others have said, Harvard regularly rejects people with perfect grades and test scores, especially foreign students since there is a unofficial quota for internationals at top US universities. If you don't have any astounding extracurriculars (leadership positions at clubs, regional-level awards in sports, something creative like starting a charity or awards in contests) then I would apply to other colleges as well. Good luck anyways :)
  11. Jan 17, 2009 #10
    High school. University algebra is a different kettle of fish entirely. We're talking "3x + 5 = 11, what is x?" here. Well, a little more than that, but not much...
  12. Jan 17, 2009 #11
    They teach algebra (not high school algebra) at universities? Wow.

    Anyway, there is geometry on the SAT too. Just so you know...
  13. Jan 17, 2009 #12
    They teach about groups, rings, and fields in universities in the US. None of that on the SAT, just simple math problems.
  14. Jan 17, 2009 #13
    Thanks everyone, I can see that the US and UK systems are very different :p

    A teacher of mine mentioned that some US students take something called an "ACT" instead of the SAT. He said this seemed more similar to the UK system than the SAT. What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT? Which is harder? Which is more highly thought of?

    I realise it will be extremely difficult to get in, but I'm going to try anyway :p
    I will definitely apply to other colleges and UK Universities as well though.
  15. Jan 17, 2009 #14
    In general, schools in the midwest like to see the ACT, and schools everywhere else like to see the SAT. However, hardly any schools only accept one or the other, so you're fine taking either.
  16. Jan 18, 2009 #15
    But what's the difference between the two?
  17. Jan 18, 2009 #16
    Same ****, different wrapper. I took both and they are almost exactly the same except for a few minor details. They're both made by different companies for the same purpose and both cover almost the same topics.
  18. Jan 18, 2009 #17
    In the past the SAT was had questions that where intended to measure reasoning skills that tried to mimic the kinds of questions on an IQ test, but now it's just a standardized test that covers almost the same things as ACT. ACT has math questions that includes trigonometry, and has a section to test basic science skills. They both have a reading, writing, and math section. http://www.kaptest.com/College/SAT/Learn-About-the-SAT/CO_satact.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  19. Jan 18, 2009 #18
    When I took my SATs (2 years before the 2400 point system), the test was simple arithmetic algebra and simple geometry. (If this angle is x, then what is that angle?)
  20. Jan 19, 2009 #19
    oh, has there recently been a new system?
  21. Jan 19, 2009 #20
    Ya they added a writing section worth 800 points in which you have to write an essay and do some English grammar. Most colleges if I'm not mistaken are more concerned with math + reading scores but I guess an excellent writing score couldn't hurt.

    I read an article about students who had perfect grades near perfect SATS and were apart of world renown orchestras and/or researching for NASA and had awesome interviews and still didn't get in.
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