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The Common Application

  • The Common Application membership association was established in 1975 by 15 private colleges that wished to provide a common, standardised first-year application form for use at any member institution. 
  • It's current membership of more than 500 institutions represents the full range of higher education establishments in the US, together with 16 international members from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and Switzerland.
  • UK members include King's College London, Keele University and the University of Aberdeen.
  • Membership is limited to colleges and universities that evaluate students using a holistic selection process including subjective as well as objective criteria, including at least one recommendation form, at least one untimed essay, and broader campus diversity considerations. The vast majority of colleges and universities in the US use only objective criteria – grades and test scores – and therefore are not eligible to join.
  • Once completed online or in print, copies of the Application for Undergraduate Admission can be sent to any number of participating colleges and universities.
  • A number of schools including Ivy Leagues such as Brown, Yale and Princeton, and some leading state universities such as the Universities of Michigan and Ohio State use the Common Application as their only route of entry.
  • Find out more about the Common Application system.

The SAT (Standardised Aptitude Test)

  • The SAT is a widely used entrance exam for undergraduate study in the US universities and is increasingly being used by universities around the world to assess applicants and ensure they meet required levels in three areas: reading, writing and maths.
  • It is run by the College Board, a national not-for-profit organisation founded in 1900 to encourage access to higher education and now assisting seven million students to enter higher education.
  • SAT Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. 
  • There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science. 
  • The reading section includes reading passages and sentence completions. The writing section includes a short essay and multiple-choice questions on identifying errors and improving grammar and usage. The maths section includes questions on arithmetic operations, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability.
  • There are SAT centres in 180 countries.
  • Find out more about the SAT.

The ACT (American College Testing)

  • The ACT is a newer rival to SAT, appearing in 1959. In 2011 the ACT overtook the SAT in popularity with 1,666,017 students against 1,664,479 for its older competitor.
  • The ACT consists of four tests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning, with an optional Writing test added in 2005.
  • All four-year colleges and universities in the US accept the ACT, but different institutions place different emphases on standardised tests, compared to other factors such as class rank, grade point average (GPA), and extracurricular activities.
  • There are nine ACT test centres in the UK.
  • Find out more about ACT.