5 Ways to Help ESL Students Study for the ACT and SAT

Many students from other countries would like to study at an American university. With such a geographically and culturally diverse country, there are fabulous opportunities for students from other countries to have an international educational experience. Additionally, many young students move to the US when they are in elementary or middle school and will speak multiple languages. Although a great benefit over time, students who speak English as their second or third language may find the English language portions of the ACT and SAT to be a challenge.  Fortunately, there are a few things ESL students can do in order to improve their chances of a good score on either exam.


1. Vocab!

The vocabulary sections are a mystery to students whether they speak English as their first language or not. In addition to the straightforward vocab section on the SAT both exams offer vocabulary in context. New and unusual words are found all throughout the SAT verbal portions and the ACT English portion. Students are encouraged to learn a few new words each day to expand their test prep vocabulary over time.

2. Essay proofreading

One of the biggest issues that ESL students face on either exam is time management and proofreading. With such a short amount of time to even write the essay, proofreading often gets pushed to the side. However, it’s especially important for ESL students to practice proofreading their essays, either as they go or at the end, in order to make sure that spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are all in line with Standard American English. One way students can do this is to work with a tutor who can help them identify their common mistakes so that on the day of the exam they can do a quick scan of their essay and look for things they are most likely to make a mistake on rather than attempt to do a close proofreading and run out of time (READ: “Tips from a Private Irvine Tutor: 4 Apps to Improve Spelling”).

3. Math word problems

Math is the same in any language and numbers are numbers but many of the math problems on both exams can come in the form of a word problem. Although tricky for all students, students who speak and read English as their second language may find it difficult to pick out the numerical information buried within the English language text. This is a situation where practice makes perfect, and ESL students are encouraged to go through as many word problems as possible in their test prep book and learn to pick out numerical information until they get it down to a science.

4. Words in context

Although words in context may seem similar to studying vocabulary, they are actually a much more complicated issue.  One word can mean many different things when used differently in a sentence and can also have different emotional meanings depending on whom the speaker is and who they’re speaking to.  Words in context are especially important to the long passages on the SAT and can earn or lose students many points (READ: “ESL Study Tips For Taking the SAT”).

5. Reading graphs and charts

Charts and graphs in the science section are only found in the current ACT. In reality, the science section has nothing to do with science and everything to do with how to read a chart or graph. This is an incredibly difficult section for students who speak English as their first or second language because it can be unclear what information needs to be used and which information needs to be ignored. ESL students are encouraged to work with their tutor to determine which information they can simply cross out and which information is crucial to solving the problem.

TutorNerds has the best private ESL tutors in Orange County! Call us today and ask about our test prep tutoring services for ESL students.

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