Testing time for study abroad (4)

10:53, July 07, 2011      

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Starting early

It's not only high school students in China who go in for SAT training. Many Chinese students who attend high schools abroad are also keen on the course.

Yin Hang, 16, has just finished ninth grade - her first year in a private school in McLean, Virginia - and returned to China for summer holiday. Like many of her friends, she asked her mom to reserve a seat in an SAT-prep class.

"High schools in the US won't emphasize training dedicated to SAT test until 11th grade. Before that, all the related courses are simply about proficiency in the language rather than targeting any tests," she said.

"It's not that I can't keep up with my class in the US. I just want to know more about the test before taking it and see what kind of score I get. Test training in China never lets you down."

Critical thinking

Hou said it's important that parents and students understand the SAT is designed to assess critical thinking, not English proficiency, so excellent English alone is of no use. Kang Xinghua, 28, who has taught SAT classes for five years, agrees.

He said the vocabulary needed for the SAT is 12,000 to 15,000 words, more than the requirement for a Chinese university graduate who majored in English. But it's not the English that hinders students taking the SAT; it's the learning methods and study habits picked up over the years, "the lack of a Western way of thinking and the ability to make logical deductions."

Kang said he is researching a book he will write about SAT training, and he just returned from the US, where he talked to 20 professors at top 50 universities. "Almost all of them told me that the problem lies in vocabulary only when a student scores between 500 and 600 in reading."

He said the mean scores of college-bound US seniors have not exceeded 510 in the past 34 years, according to data released by the College Board, which developed and administers the exam.

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