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Differences Between the Gao Kao and the SAT in China

By Brendan Conway updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The United States of America stands as a fantastic opportunity for any Chinese international students who want to continue their educations. It has a number of the best and most well-knowned schools in the world, not to mention some great cities and other bonuses.

But going to school in America is going to require Chinese international students to take the SAT in China. The SAT is the college entrance exam most commonly required by colleges in America.

Differences between the SAT in China and the Gao Kao

The SAT is rather unlike the Gao Kao, and it's important to keep that in mind while preparing for it. While many do claim that the SAT is "easier" than the Gao Kao, it is best to keep a serious and focused mindset in studying, to ensure the best possible results. The SAT is primarily focused on reasoning, communication, and logic, where the Gao Kao is focused on fact-based information, though these are generalizations.

The math section of the SAT in China is probably like the math section of the Gao Kao, but the verbal section of the SAT will require not only good skills with English, but also strong skills in reading comprehension. The written portion of the SAT will test your ability to not only come up with a solid argument, but also to communicate that argument effectively to a judging audience. The Gao Kao is generally less likely to have those kinds of focuses.

If you want to ensure that you do well on the SAT, seek out practice courses and training courses, either online, from books, or in person. These courses can provide you with tips about how to take the SAT, and can give you sample tests for practice. The SAT is likely to be different enough from what you'd see on the Gao Kao that being prepared in advance with these practice tests is always a good idea.

The PSAT, if available nearby, can be a good source of prep for the actual SAT; if you're at all intent upon taking the SAT, then taking the PSAT is a very good idea.

Don't Stress Out about the SAT in China

In the end, taking the SAT and doing well isn't the be all or the end all of getting into an American university; one of the advantages of American universities is that there is almost always at least one U.S. college appropriate to your academic scores. So whether you score very high or only average on the SAT, there will likely be a U.S. university appropriate for you. 


Furthermore, unlike the Gao Kao, the SAT is offered multiple times per year. This means that if you don't do as well as you might like on the first time you take the SAT, you can always just schedule yourself to take the test again on another testing date farther down the road. So in the end, you should be viewing the SAT as an additional opportunity for yourself, and not as another test to stress over and worry about.

About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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