Alphabet Soup: Standardized Tests and Germany

Most American students learn to dread the letters SAT and ACT from a very young age. These tests have an outsized influence on the admissions process, and a poor score can prevent otherwise outstanding students from enrolling in their university of choice. In Germany, the tests are not used for applications to individual universities, but rather to determine the eligibility of American students to study at the university level. Even though your score won't determine which program you can study in, the SAT and ACT are still very important for Americans planning to pursue a German bachelor's degree.

The German government has two standards when evaluating American applicants. To enroll directly after graduating, students need a 1300 combined score on the math and verbal sections of the SAT, or a 29 composite score on the ACT. Students who receive a 1150 combined on the SAT or a 25 composite on the ACT are required to complete a year of college-level coursework before they are allowed to enroll, whereas students with lower score need a full two years. 

This means that a high SAT or ACT score is still crucial for anyone planning to complete their studies here in Germany. But if you've taken the test and scored well below the score you need, don't despair. Vox recently published a great take on the misguided approach most of us take the SAT recently. Best of all, it was written by someone incentivized strongly to maintain the status quo, an SAT tutor who at one point was making $1000/hour to prepare students for the SAT.

Ask the average high school girl to use the Pythagorean theorem, to summarize the main idea of a paragraph, or to correct the comma usage in an English sentence, and she'll have no problem. And if she can do these things, she's already on her way toward a perfect SAT score. Yet if you ask the same girl what she thinks about the SAT, she'll have a panic attack.
Anthony-James Green


According to Green, the trick to the SAT is simple: Treat it like any other test. Prepare yourself, learn the tricks and strategies, learn the material. Don't accept the conventional wisdom that it is some unconquerable beast, or that you're just a "bad test-taker". If you're able to deal with the same type of material in class, there's no reason why you can't do well on the test, especially since, starting this year, the test will be significant easier.

The article is definitely worth a read, and it confirms a lot of my own experience. I passed the 1300 hurdle when I took the test, but only after a full 6 months of studying beforehand. Many of my friends claimed that it was a waste of time, that you couldn't study for the SAT. But I'm thankful that I put in the extra time to boost my score. If you do the same, the points that separate you from your dream of studying in Germany will soon melt away.