Things to Consider – International

The best way to achieve competitive ACT and SAT scores is to work with expert instructors!  Breakaway’s instructors have an in-depth knowledge of these tests, hundreds hours of experience working with students of all levels, knowledge of the American university system, and a commitment to helping ALL students achieve their best possible college entrance exam outcome!

Students who want to attend a college or university in the U.S. typically must take either the SAT or the ACT.  Both of these exams are standardised, time-constrained tests that attempt to identify the readiness of college-bound students.

American universities use a combination of standardised test scores, academic grades, personal statements, references, and extracurricular activities to assess if a student is a good fit.

Breakaway Test Prep has been in the business of helping students excel on standardised tests for nearly twelve years.  We are experts in ACT and SAT test preparation, with a team of more than sixty instructors with extensive tutoring experience in English, reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, and science.


Universities across America accept either the SAT or the ACT, so students should take the test best suited to their strengths.  At Breakaway, we know how to assess which test is the best fit for a student!

The following is a chart identifying some of key differences between the ACT and the SAT.  In general, although the SAT is a less time-constrained test, most students find the questions to be more difficult.

Key Differences Between ACT vs. SAT

Time per question Average 1 minute 10 seconds per question Average 49 seconds per question
Science Section Not on SAT On ACT
Math Sections Both calculator and non-calculator Calculator allowed on full test
Math Formula Reference Guide Available N/A
Impact of Math Score ½ of total score ¼ of total score
Answer Choices Math Four options Five options
Non-Multiple-Choice Math Questions Approximately 10 None
Chronological Reading Questions Yes (for the most part) No
Essay Content The student analyses how an author has constructed an argument The student constructs an argument on a given topic in relation to differing perspectives


The ACT is made up of four sections—English, mathematics, reading, and science—leading to a composite score, plus an optional writing section.  A calculator is allowed during the mathematics portion of the test.

The basic test takes 2 hours and 55 minutes.  The writing section adds an additional 40 minutes. which makes the test’s total length 3 hours and 35 minutes.  The ACT is multiple choice, except for the writing section.   ACT scores range from 1 – 36, and final writing scores range from 2 – 12.

Raw scores are converted to ACT scaled scores that vary somewhat between tests.  The four major areas of the ACT are averaged to produce the ACT composite score.  Students are allowed to take the test up to twelve times, although most students take the test two to three times.   As of fall 2020, students will be allowed to retake a single section of the ACT to increase their overall composite score.

International students take the ACT online and have the option of taking the test seven times throughout the calendar year.

All ACT registration is handled through


The SAT test consists of two main sections:  Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (consisting of a Reading Test and a Writing and Language Test) and Mathematics (consisting of calculator and non-calculator portions).   The test is multiple choice, with the exception of five questions at the end of each of the two math sections.

The entire SAT takes three hours and 50 minutes (including the essay).   Without the essay, the test is three hours in length.

SAT scores range from 400 – 1600.   Each of the sections is given a raw score and converted to a scaled score based on a system known as equating.  Equating is not a curve, but rather a way to ensure that different SATs can consistently identify students’ abilities.

All SAT registration is handled through

Important considerations when taking an American standardised college entrance exam:

  • Differences in English grammar vs. American grammar
  • Differences in English vs. American writing styles
  • Level of mathematics being covered, which includes standard junior year math for American students vs. varying math levels for international students
  • Ways to prioritise questions to maximise a student’s study time and scoring potential
  • Strategies for managing the tests’ time constraints


Contact: Lori Wormald – [email protected] – +44 (0) 7771 152013