Applying to university is stressful, and the application process for American universities can be especially intimidating. Canadian students and their parents often worry about the SAT and ACT. That’s where the big tutoring companies come in: they claim that they have “tips” and “strategies” to “beat the test” or “conquer the SAT.” They imply that they have a secret formula for success. They represent the test as an opponent and ask parents to pay for the weapons that will help their child win the fight.
But the SAT and ACT are not enemies: they are simply a way to measure competencies. As an American who has taken the PSAT, SAT, and GRE, a university professor who has taught for 25 years in the U.S. and Canada, and the mother of two children educated in Toronto, I understand where Canadian students need extra help. The SAT & ACT assume some knowledge of American history, so Canadian students need to learn about the people and events that are familiar to most Americans. American students take a lot of standardized tests, so Canadian students need to practice a bit more. But the most important preparation is strengthening foundational skills.
There is no secret to success on the SAT and no need for Canadian students to worry that they will not be prepared. Tips and tricks will only help a little bit. The hard work of learning about history, refining test-taking skills, and improving reading comprehension will not only benefit students on the test: they will be valuable for long-term success in university, too.