Why should you take an ACT course


From September 2016 there will again be an opportunity to prepare for the TOEFL test free of charge. For the second time, the test organizer ETS is offering a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for test preparation under the title "TOEFL Test Preparation: The Insider’s Guide". The course starts on September 7th, 2016 and lasts 6 weeks; A participation fee is not charged. In terms of content, the course offers a mix of short lectures, “Inside the TOEFL” videos on each question type and sample questions from previous tests, including explanations of the answers. Several short test tests can be taken to get an impression of your own level of performance. Expenditure of time around 2-4 hours per week. Those who already speak English very well may not be challenged in the course. Register now here.

Since the SAT college entrance test was recently completely changed, there has been uncertainty in the admissions offices of American universities and among university applicants. How easy is the new version to handle? And how are the results to be interpreted? That's why many are playing it safe at the moment and are taking the ACT competition test instead - it has hardly changed in recent years and is accepted by almost all US universities as an equivalent alternative to the SAT.

In fact, more Americans now take the ACT than the SAT. Only abroad do many see the SAT as the better choice, and both tests can be taken at numerous locations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. For this reason, at the moment I would advise you to focus more on the ACT. Also because an ACT result at renowned US universities can often replace the two required SAT subject tests, provided that the optional writing component is taken.

In any case, thorough preparation is recommended. As an introduction to ACT preparation, the test prep professionals at our partner ArborBridge have now launched a new, small package consisting of:

  • Diagnostic test (determination of the current level of performance)
  • 6 hours of one-to-one tuition with a personal tutor
  • 2 complete ACT sample tests with detailed evaluation

The whole thing takes place entirely via the Internet using video telephony and desktop sharing, i.e. conveniently from home if the time suits you. For more information on ArborBridge's innovative test preparation method, see here. The price for the new 6-Hour ACT Program is $ 1,100. If you are interested, simply send a message using the contact form. A diagnostic test for SAT or ACT is possible at any time free of charge!

Welcome to CONSULT US, the independent USA student advisory service! The next application round will begin in the summer of 2021 at American colleges and universities. Whoever wants to take part almost always has to take one of the two study aptitude tests, SAT or ACT. Athletes need the tests to be approved for play by the NCAA. The tests are also required at some European business schools such as Bocconi, ESADE or IE. Both exams are accepted as equivalent almost everywhere and, luckily, are also offered in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Here is an overview of the upcoming dates for SAT and ACT as well as tips for preparation.

Current notice: Due to the limited availability of SAT and ACT appointments due to COVID-19, many US universities have announced that no results from these tests will have to be submitted this year! There is an up-to-date list here.

SAT appointments

The following dates are the international dates for general SAT Reasoning Test. This examination is to be distinguished from the subject-specific one SAT Subject Tests (e.g. in biology or chemistry). If you need to take a SAT Subject Test, please click here for more information.

Due to the development of the Covid-19 infection process, short-term closings of test centers must be expected at any time. Registered participants will be informed by email.

  • March 13, 2021 (Registration deadline: February 12)
  • May 8, 2021 (registration deadline: April 8)
  • August 28, 2021 (registration not yet available)
  • October 2, 2021 (registration not yet available)
  • December 4, 2021 (registration not yet available)
  • March 12, 2022 (registration not yet available)
  • May 7, 2022 (registration not yet available)

The SAT registration is only possible online with the test organizer CollegeBoard: click here. The SAT can be used in Germany are filed in Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Erlangen, Frankfurt / Main, Freiburg, Hamburg, Heidelberg, Kandern (near Basel), Munich, Salem, Stuttgart. In Austria: Salzburg, Vienna. In the Switzerland: Basel, Chesières, Geneva, Hasliberg, Leysin, Zurich, Zug, Zuoz. Here is a list of the SAT test centers.

Internationally, the cost of the SAT test is currently 112 US dollars (including the essay component). The SAT results are usually available 2-3 weeks after the appointment.

ACT appointments

Due to the development of the Covid-19 infection process, short-term closings of test centers must be expected at any time. Registered participants will be informed by email. The ACT tests in December 2020 and February 2021 have already been canceled as a precaution, see the test organizer's statement.

  • April 16 and 17, 2021 (Registration deadline: March 26)
  • June 11 and 12, 2021 (Registration deadline: May 21)
  • July 16 and 17, 2021 (Registration deadline: June 25)

ACT registration is only possible online with the test organizer: click here. Following the recent conversion of the ACT to a computer-based format, the number of test centers has decreased (for now). The ACT can currently be in Germany are filed in Dresden, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Kandern and Munich. In Austria: Vienna. In the Switzerland: Geneva, Leysin, Zurich. Here is a list of ACT test centers.

The international cost of the ACT test is currently 166.50 US dollars (including the writing component). The ACT results are available electronically just a few days after the test date, with the exception of the grades for the ACT writing part, which take 2-3 weeks.

Structure and content of SAT and ACT

The two exams SAT and ACT are study aptitude tests, i.e. they do not ask about knowledge from specific school subjects, but are intended to provide information about whether someone has the general cognitive and analytical skills to successfully master a university degree ("college readiness"). This is going through linguistic and mathematical tasks tested. You have to answer questions about academic text passages, improve given texts linguistically and stylistically and solve tasks from different areas of mathematics - all in multiple-choice format. In addition, short essays may optionally be written if the universities so require. Both tests are now very similar; An important difference between SAT and ACT is that there is a part of the ACT with scientific questions ("Science") that the SAT does not have. Both exams take around 4 hours. Failure is not possible; at most, you may not get enough points for the university of your choice. Then you can just do the test again. Oh, and because that is what is asked more often: Both tests come from America and are carried out in English all over the world; SAT and ACT are not available in German.

Preparation for the SAT test and the ACT test

There is an excellent one for preparing for the SAT free platform on the Internet, which the College Board developed in cooperation with the non-profit continuing education provider Khan Academy: www.khanacademy.org/sat There are countless sample exercises, specially produced explanatory videos in the typical "Khan style" and complete sample tests. You can put together your own structured exercise plan and install an app on your mobile phone. I think it's a great thing.

In March 2018, ACT followed suit and published the free online exercise platform "ACT Academy". See here: academy.act.org. However, so far this platform only contains a single ACT sample test, and in contrast to the SAT offer from College Board / Khan, the exercise materials and videos were not specially designed to prepare for the ACT, but were compiled from existing sources (especially YouTube) . So, from my point of view, the ACT Academy lags far behind the Khan Academy - but of course it is still worth a look!

In addition, I recommend the following Books:

Online preparation with personal tutors

If self-study is not your thing or if you need to increase your score for the top universities even further, test preparation under personal guidance from trained tutors is the best choice. Quality SAT courses or ACT courses one searches in Germany in vain. Thanks to the Internet, this is no longer a problem these days, because modern technologies such as video chat and desktop sharing enable collaboration with the best test prep tutors worldwide - from the comfort of your own home. Here I recommend my partner ArborBridge, an excellent test prep company based in Los Angeles. ArborBridge has perfected online tutoring: Based on a detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses, a tailor-made training program is put together, including a personal tutor, several test tests and regular monitoring of learning progress. More about it here. I can arrange one if you wish free diagnostic test with an individual evaluation and / or a 30-minute free demonstration of the lesson. Convince yourself and arrange a free trial lesson!

Status: March 2021. All information without guarantee.

Current notice: Since April 2, 2020, the TOEFL can be taken from home due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find out more here.

If you want to study in the USA or Canada, you have to prove a good command of English when you apply. But the school grades alone are not enough. Universities in North America can also do very little with the different skill levels from the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​(B1, B2, C1, etc.). They almost always want to see a result from a standardized language test that they are familiar with. And until a few years ago that was primarily the “Test of English as a Foreign Language”, or TOEFL for short. In the meantime, however, another English test has become established that is also accepted almost everywhere in the USA and Canada, the "International English Language Testing System", or IELTS for short. Foreign applicants can choose between the two tests. TOEFL or IELTS: what are the differences? Which one is heavier? Here is a little comparison.

Academic English is in demand

First of all, the similarities: Both tests ask about the four basic language skills: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, written expression and oral expression. That means you have to read texts, listen to lectures and dialogues and answer questions about them. You also have to write a short essay on a given topic and speak a little yourself. The texts and audio samples come from an academic context and deal, for example, with the geological process of desertification or the psychological basis of aggressive behavior. So this is a high level, as expected in the course. You do not need any previous knowledge, but you do need a good vocabulary. The dialogues are often conversations between professors and students.

When it comes to fees, the TOEFL and IELTS don't take much. The TOEFL currently costs 255 US dollars in Germany, the IELTS 226 euros (as of January 2019). Both tests are offered several times a month in numerous locations in Germany. In both cases, registration is via the Internet: for the TOEFL with the organizer ETS and for the IELTS with the British Council. The results are then sent electronically to the universities to which you want to apply. Incidentally, you cannot fail either of the two tests; at most, it is possible that the number of points achieved does not meet the requirements of the universities.

American English vs. World English

And that brings us to the differences. Because while the TOEFL point scale reaches a maximum of 120 points, the IELTS measures language competence in so-called “bands”, with band 9.0 (“expert user”) representing the best result. Most universities in the USA and Canada expect foreign applicants to have at least 79 points in the TOEFL and 6.5 in the IELTS. Often, however, it is at least 100 points or a result in the range 7.0-8.0, especially at the more renowned universities. A table for converting TOEFL and IELTS results is available here.

There are also some differences in the test procedure. In Germany, the TOEFL is only offered in the "Internet-based testing" (iBT) variant, i.e. the entire test is carried out on the computer. At the IELTS, on the other hand, you still work the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. In addition, the TOEFL is almost entirely in multiple-choice format, while other test forms are also used in the IELTS, e.g. labeling graphics or completing diagrams. In addition, American English predominates in the audio samples in the TOEFL. This is hardly surprising, after all, the test comes from the USA. The IELTS, on the other hand, was developed by an international association under British leadership. Therefore, from the beginning, emphasis was placed on representing the entire spectrum of English as it is spoken in the world. In the IELTS you can therefore hear flawless British English, but also audio samples from Australian or Kenyan speakers. So if you get along best with American English, you might be better off with the TOEFL.

The oral part: man or machine?

The crucial difference between TOEFL and IELTS, however, concerns the “speaking” component, i.e. the oral expression. With the TOEFL, it's very impersonal: You are asked a question on the screen, have a short time to take notes and then speak the answer (2-3 minutes) into a microphone, so into nothing. There is no interlocutor. What is said is stored digitally and then evaluated anonymously. And so that not all test participants in the room speak at the same time, this section is carried out at a different time so that someone is actually always speaking into their microphone. Many find this a bit annoying.

With the IELTS, the communication situation is much more natural: You sit around 15 minutes with an examiner made of flesh and blood and have a real conversation in which it goes back and forth, questions are asked, etc. (here is an audio sample). However, this one person then also decides on the evaluation, and as always with human communication, body language, mood or (partly unconscious) sympathies and antipathies can have an influence. In addition, these discussions do not take place during the test, but afterwards. Depending on the number of test participants, you may have to wait a long time before your turn. By then, your concentration may be gone. And although the IELTS on paper with a pure test duration of 2 hours 45 minutes is shorter than the TOEFL (3 hours 30 minutes, from August 2019: 3 hours), it can also take more time depending on the waiting time.

Germans do well at TOEFL and IELTS

It is therefore difficult to make a general recommendation. You have to decide for yourself which of the two tests suits you better. And the question of which test is more difficult - TOEFL or IELTS - must remain unanswered, because the answer naturally depends on the level of your own English skills. From a purely statistical point of view, the Germans do very well on average in both tests, in Europe only the Dutch are better. This also coincides with my personal experience from student counseling.

Preparation for TOEFL and IELTS

The first step in good preparation is to familiarize yourself with both tests and then decide which one is better for you. There are also sample tasks or complete practice tests on the websites of the test organizers.

And here are a few more exercise books that I recommend to prepare for the exams. The first choice should always be the official preparation materials from the respective test organizers, because only there are examples from the real tests. A CD or DVD is always included with which you can run the test on the computer - just like later in the test center.

Anyone who then feels they need professional personal guidance during preparation or generally prefers to study in groups will find a language school or adult education center in every major German city that offers preparation courses for TOEFL or IELTS.

Also interesting: