SAT Prep Advice from an International USC Student

April 04, 2014

We asked our interns about their SAT or ACT prep experience and advice - here’s what Elliot from USC had to say!

Growing up in Indonesia, there are not many options when it comes to choosing between the SAT and ACT. Every international student I know has had to take the SAT over the ACT. For this reason, there was quite a bit of trouble finding good times and places to take the exam. Luckily, my school nearly always hosted a SAT test-taking center during possible international SAT test dates. At other schools, this was an even greater struggle as organization and preparation on the administration’s part was quite erratic and incompetent. Some may say this was a third-world problem.

Preparation is also much more difficult in a country where education is still in the early stages of progression. In total, I took two informal practice tests and took three real tests. Preparation was nearly always through private services such as tutoring or classes. Kaplan is available in Jakarta (the capital city of Indonesia), but is absurdly expensive. Thus, I studied with a private tutor who hosted a class of around fifteen students per session. These sessions are nowhere near sufficient for preparing for the exam and it is expected that one studies in his or her own time to supplement the course. My scores actually went up quite a bit from what I expected due to these sessions. After taking the course my score went up 120 points, which was relieving for me. Other classmates of mine had taken private courses for SAT preparation, which went even better for them - some increased 200 to 300 points. However, their scores were in the 1300’s and below. In the end, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the student, who must grind out practice tests over and over again to increase the score. Practicing essay writing and learning new techniques is also vital to increasing the writing section. When looking at the scoring guide, if the essay score improves by 2 or more points, your raw score value increases exponentially. This is crucial for getting above the 700 mark. Take it from me, grind out essay questions until your pen doesn’t even hesitate at the start of the test. I failed to put in enough effort on my SAT, which landed me a sub-par score. Don’t make the same mistake!

Some helpful possible test preparation strategies:

Set out around 2 hours every week to grind out 20-minute sessions of essay writing with 10 minute breaks inbetween.

Spend 10 minutes every night learning 3 new words to use in your essay writing.

Spend an hour per week doing math problems.


To read more about Elliot, visit his Admit Profile.

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NYU ‘19

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