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Does IB help with taking the SAT and ACT?

For many IB students planning to attend university in the United States, studying and taking the SAT and/ or ACT is an important part of their application process. Though many colleges and universities have gone test-optional in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, students in regions that offer these standardized tests often opt to take them. For such students, does taking the IB help with their performance on standardized tests? 

What are the SAT and ACT?

First, some background: the SAT and ACT are standardized multiple-choice university entrance exams for colleges and universities in the United States. Both tests are about three hours long, and students have the chance to take them multiple times throughout the year. The SAT is scored out of 1600, based on a composite score from Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (800 points) and Mathematics (800 points). The ACT, on the other hand, is scored out of 36 points based on a student’s average scores (out of 36) in English, Math, Reading, and Science. Both tests also have an optional essay section. 

What skills are needed?

While the IB does help with skills such as reading comprehension, writing, mathematics, and science, the SAT and ACT are quite different from any test you may take in the IB. To begin with, the IB seldom administers multiple-choice questions (with exceptions in the sciences). So, preparing for a three hour multiple-choice exam will require slightly different skills and preparation. Even in reading or text comprehension, the IB emphasizes a much more analytical approach where students address a text through an essay format. In comparison, the SAT and ACT give students specific choices on the correct interpretation of a text. 

In terms of content, the IB tests much more specialized and advanced knowledge of specific subject areas, whereas the SAT/ACT focuses on the fundamentals. For example, the SAT/ACT might test a student on how to properly use semicolons, while IB English A classes mostly do not cover grammar. For math, the SAT/ACT covers basic high school math up to Algebra II, so students comfortable with IB Mathematics should be familiar with most of the content. However, the types of questions they ask and the time allocations can be quite different, so it’s always a good idea to take a few official practice tests. 

The main difference can be boiled down to this: the IB tests acquired knowledge and understanding of specific fields, whereas the SAT/ACT tests broader skills gained throughout a student’s educational career. While some of the skills from the IB can be transferred to the standardized tests, it’s best to consider the two separately and take your time to prepare for both exams. For students looking to prepare for the SAT/ACT, Khan Academy and the official practice tests are great places to start. 

Best of luck with your studying!


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