Dubai Students Intent on Enrolling in Elite US Universities Must Start Preparing Now for SAT II Subject Tests

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Too Many UAE Students Are Unfamiliar With Standardized Testing Requirements, According to Carian College Advisors.

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Unlike the SAT - which tests very general learning ability - the SAT IItests highly specific knowledge of a single academic subject, which is fantastic for students that have demonstrated mastery of that subject during their high school years

While most UAE students interested in studying in the United States are familiar with the SAT - America's most widely used college admissions exam - the vast majority are unfamiliar with the SAT II exams, which were formerly known as SAT subject tests. Submitting scores from the latter are an integral part of the application process for elite universities such as Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Princeton, all of which require the submission of two SAT II subject tests for admission. "UAE based students interested in applying to, and subsequently enrolling in, this caliber of universities must familiarize themselves with these exams, thoroughly prepare for them, and complete at least two, but preferably three, SAT II tests" says Peter Davos, himself a Johns Hopkins and Harvard graduate, of Carian College Advisors in Dubai. "Particularly if a student is interested in applying to an Engineering College of one of these prestigious universities, specific SAT II subject tests - such as the Math II and either Physics or Chemistry - may be required." As with all aspects of the US university application process, the sooner the student understands the requirement for admission, the better a position she will be in to submit a successful application and ultimately secure admission to the colleges to which she applies.

While the SAT is designed to assess a high school student's readiness to enroll in US universities, it is primarily designed to test her aptitude in solving problems - not specific subject matter. The SAT is composed of three sections - Critical Reading, Mathematics, and Writing - and each section is scored on a 200 - 800 point scale, which are combined to form an aggregate, total score. The exam takes three hours and forty-five minutes to complete and is offered six times a year internationally. The SAT II, on the other hand, is a one hour multiple choice exam offered in twenty different subjects and scored on a similar 200-800 point scale. Ideally, test takers will sit the exam at the end of the academic year in which they complete the said subject, but they must be conscious of admissions deadlines to ensure their scores will be considered for admission. Up to three SAT II exams may be taken in one day.

A partial list of the SAT II tests offered by the College Board are Biology, Chemistry, Physics, US and World History, Mathematics I and II, Chinese, Spanish, French German, and Literature; a complete list and online registration for the exams can be found online at "If you are a student that excels in any of the subject areas tested by the SAT II, you should definitely take the exam," adds Davos. "Unlike the SAT - which tests very general learning ability - the SAT II tests highly specific knowledge of a single academic subject, which is fantastic for students that have demonstrated mastery of that subject during their high school years," he states. "Also, if you have the option to take a language 'with Listening', definitely choose that option, as it will further demonstrate your proficiency in that language," he adds.

Submitting the scores from at least two SAT II's are also a requirement at all Ivy League schools, MIT, Rice, CalTech, and other highly selective colleges and universities. Davos states "even if the SAT II is not a required part of your application, if you can score well on it, you can still improve your chances for admission and even secure an exemption from beginner level college courses. Some universities, such as Georgetown 'strongly recommend' taking three SAT II exams; the bottom line is, the more SAT II exams you can complete and score well on, the better position you will be in. Three is usually the magic number"

Students taking the SAT II's should complete the specific exams listed on the university's website - Engineering programs typically have highly specific testing requirements, for example - or should ideally take two or three SAT II's that demonstrate their breadth of their knowledge. Davos states "stay away from taking only the Math I and Math II exams; if your first language is Spanish, don't submit the score from a Spanish SAT II." The ACT with Writing exam is also typically accepted in lieu of the SAT and SAT II exams, but knowledge of this exam is so rare in the UAE it is not a practical option. Mastery of specific academic subjects can be further demonstrated through the successful completion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program or high scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams, but not all UAE schools offer these options. Additionally, highly competitive university applicants can also take university level courses while still in high school, which will also make them more competitive as candidates for admission.

"When you're applying to the very top US universities, you have to do absolutely everything you possibly can to demonstrate your academic, personal, and social maturity and readiness to excel at that university once you actually enroll as undergraduate," Davos says. "Particularly if your school does not offer AP courses and you have not scored well on AP exams, high scores on SAT II exams can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection in the spring."

Peter Davos graduated Phi Beta Kappa, with a double major, from Johns Hopkins University. He holds Master's Degrees from Oxford University (Lady Margaret Hall) and Harvard University (Graduate School of Design), where he was selected Marshal of his class and received numerous national, international, and university scholarships/honors, including the GSD Alumni Council Book Prize and the Colloredo-Mansfeld Prize for Superior Achievement in Real Estate Studies. He is the founder and head of Carian College Advisors in Dubai and is an associate member of the IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association), member of the HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), and OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admissions Counseling).

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