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Study in the U.S.

Test Information

Most American colleges and universities will require that you take at least one American standardized test.  It is at the discretion of the individual school whether they require applicants to take these tests.  It is best to contact the international admissions officer at the schools to which you intend to apply and ask them what they require.

Test Registration

The American Center is not a testing facility nor is it a registration center.  The easiest way to register for all of the standardized tests is by registering online.  In order to do this, an internationally recognized credit card is required.  A second option is mail-in registration, but you will need to build in several months in your timeline, to ensure you are registered in time to sit the exam(s).  Testing bulletins with registration information and forms are available at the American Center in Lusaka, or at the American Corner in Kitwe.

Undergraduate Tests

For Undergraduate Admissions, most American colleges and universities will require either the SAT or the ACT.  Both tests have sections on reading comprehension and mathematics.  Some schools will prefer one test to the other, but most will accept either one.


The vast majority of US universities view the two exams equally and leave it to the student to decide which to take. Since they measure different things  – the ACT is based more directly on coursework you’ve taken while the SAT is more of a reasoning test–  students should take the one on which they are most likely to score better.  The information below is intended to help you understand the differences between the two exams so that you may make an informed choice.


The ACT (American College Test) is accepted by all 4-year colleges and universities in the US.  It is predominantly a curriculum test, measuring what you have learned in your high school courses in the following:

  • English: passages with sentence-correction questions;
  • Mathematics:  pre-algebra through trigonometry;
  • Reading:  passage-based reading questions; and
  • Science:  not a curriculum test, it measures your ability to reason-out science in passages provided.

All questions are multiple-choice. There is also an optional writing section that students will need to take only if they apply to colleges that require a writing score.  Because the ACT is largely a set of subject tests, the majority of universities that require SAT Subject Tests will fully or partially waive this requirement for students taking the ACT.
The ACT includes 215 multiple-choice questions and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete, including a short break (or just over four hours if you are taking the ACT Plus Writing).


The SAT was originally conceived as a means of creating a standard for college admissions, to increase college access for all students.  Its aim is to measure the skills you have learned both inside and out of the classroom and how well you apply that knowledge.   And while not every college or university requires students to take the SAT, many do because they believe it tests how you think, solve problems, and communicate, which in turn may have some bearing on how well you will do in college.  The general SAT is composed of three sections:

  • Critical reading, which has sentence completion and passage-based reading questions;
  • Mathematics, which is based on the math that college bound students typically learn during their first three years of high school; and
  • Writing, which consists of multiple-choice questions and a written essay.

You have three hours and 45 minutes of test time, plus three 5-minute breaks, for a total of four hours to complete the entire general SAT test.

Most Zambians find the critical reading section the most difficult; the best way to prepare is to read exhaustively from various literary genres.  You should also plan to take practice tests, whether online or with books available through the Education Advising Center’s library.
Deciding Between ACT and SAT
Probably the best way to decide which exam is right for you is to try a practice exam for each and see which you score better on or feel more comfortable with. Below are links to both an ACT and an SAT practice test, as well as to the ACT-SAT Concordance Tables so you can compare your scores.

SAT Subject Tests
SAT Subject Tests are one-hour-long tests that give you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and showcase achievement in specific subject areas.  Some selective universities and colleges require or recommend one or two of these tests for admission; others use them for placement or fulfilling course requirements. By including these tests in your admission applications, you can differentiate yourself and provide a more complete picture of your interests.  SAT Subject Tests cover content learned in the classroom, as well as interpretation and problem solving within the context of a particular subject.
Taking the ACT, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests in Zambia
  In Zambia, the “ACT No Writing” costs $59, and the “ACT Plus Writing” costs $74.  The Writing option is not available in February.  You must register online at  There are no paper registration packets and you cannot register through the test center. 

The ACT is offered in Lusaka at the American International School (code 869910) on the following dates:

February 12, 2011 
April 9, 2011
June 11, 2011  
October 22, 2011
December 10, 2011
SAT and SAT Subject Tests:  To register for the SAT, which costs $75, go online to; the subject tests are $49 for international students.   You may contact the test sites directly to determine if they accept walk-ins and cash payment for the tests.  If you have any problem with registration, you may e-mail

There are a number of SAT test sites in Zambia, both in Lusaka and beyond, including:

  • American international School, Lusaka (code 80441) ;
  • International School of Lusaka (code 80445);
  • Lechwe School, Kitwe (80428); and
  • Chengelo School, Mkushi (80448).

Tests are offered on the following dates:

  • May 7, 2011
  • June 4, 2011

Graduate Level Tests

Many graduate programs require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  This exam has a verbal section, mathematics section, and critical writing portion.  It is considered a general knowledge test.  If you wish to study law, medicine or business management, you should take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), or the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) respectively.  To be sure you are taking the correct test, contact the international admissions officer at the schools to which you choose to apply.


The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) General Test is usually required for students wishing to pursue a graduate or business degree in the U.S.   Graduate programs and business schools use GRE scores to evaluate your readiness for graduate-level work. Each year, more than 600,000 prospective graduate school applicants from approximately 230 countries take the GRE.   Applicants come from varying educational backgrounds and countries, and the GRE provides the only common measure for comparing their qualifications.  GRE scores are used by admissions or fellowship panels to supplement undergraduate records, recommendation letters and other qualifications for graduate study.  The GRE is accepted at thousands of graduate and business schools as well as departments and divisions within these schools.

The GRE General Test measures skills that are not related to any specific field of study:

  • Analytical Writing — Measures critical thinking and analytical writing skills, specifically the test taker's ability to articulate complex ideas clearly and effectively;
  • Verbal Reasoning — Measures reading comprehension skills and verbal and analogical reasoning skills, focusing on the test taker's ability to analyze and evaluate written material;
  • Quantitative Reasoning — Measures problem-solving ability, focusing on basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry and data analysis.

In addition to the general GRE, there are also subject tests in eight areas that are meant to measure achievement in specific areas and assume undergraduate majors or extensive background in those disciplines.  The subject tests are in  biochemistry, cell and molecular biology; biology; chemistry; computer science; literature in English; mathematics; physics; and, psychology. 

The GRE General Test will be changing in August 2011 and it’s important that you be aware of the changes.  Visit  to learn more and be ready for the new version of the test.   There are free test preparation materials on the web site to help you get ready.

Taking the GRE in Zambia
The GRE is offered in a paper-based format at the International School of Lusaka (code #10373), Lusaka, on the following dates:

  • February 12, 2011 (general) – this is the last administration of the current GRE General Test.  After that the revised General Test will be offered.
  • April 9, 2011 (subject)

For more information or to register online for the GRE, which costs $190, go to .  You may also download a form to register by mail.


The GMAT is now being offered at the ICT Resource Center in Lusaka, located near the University of Zambia.  For more details please contact them by phone at 290249 or 0979-867396 or by email at


The TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language) test is perhaps the most widely known English-language test in the world, recognized by more than 7,500 colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries.  A number of U.S. schools require international students to take the TOEFL as a way to assess their English language skills and their readiness to attend their particular institutions.
For many Zambians who consider themselves native English speakers or who have had their entire education taught in English, you may wish to request a TOEFL waiver.  The education advisor can give the form, and your current or last English teacher or school counselor should issue the waiver letter for your prospective school. 
Taking the TOEFL in Zambia
The TOEFL costs $160, and the easiest way to register is online.  You may try going to the test sites in person, but having a credit card and internet access is the easiest and most assured way to register.  Because of the investment, you should not take the test unprepared; please familiarize yourself as much as possible with the format of the test, so there are few surprises when you come to take it.
The TOEFL exam is offered in Lusaka as a paper-based test at the following site and on the following dates:
Lusaka:   Provincial Resource Centre, Chindo Road (code E801)

  • March 4, 2011
  • May 7, 2011

It is also available as an internet-based test, taken on computer.  The paper-based and computer-based tests are different.  Once you register make sure you practice using the right materials.  For the internet-based test:
Lusaka:  Astute Business Technologies, 40 Kudu Road:

  • February 11, 2011
  • February 26, 2011
  • March 4, 2011
  • March 11, 2011
  • March 19, 2011
  • April 2, 2011
  • April 15, 201

You can register online at or find registration booklets the American Center.

Before the EXAM:  some tips
Given the investment you have made in this test, just in terms of financial commitment, make sure you are prepared and adequately know the material.  Your failure to study the test prep books or take online sample tests will be reflected in your scores.  A little practice goes a long way!
Before you take your test, whether it is the GRE, TOEFL, ACT or SAT, keep in mind the following advice:

  • Go to bed early the night before, and have a full night’s sleep; it’s too late to cram at this point.
  • Make sure you eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast on test day, and are full of energy.
  • Read a newspaper or something on the way to the test; you don’t want the test to be your first reading material of the day; make sure your eyes and mind are ready to work.
  • Dress in layers so you can adjust to the temperature of the room.
  • Bring all required documentation; don’t take any chances, as without the right ID, you may be denied entrance to the test and lose your test fee.
  • Show up early, in advance of the test start time, taking into account the potential for traffic or other problems; you will want a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the classroom and school/building, and where the toilet is; also, if you arrive after the test time, you may be denied entrance.

Also, depending on the test, make sure you bring:

  • A calculator with fresh batteries (depending on the test and if it’s allowed);
  • A watch;
  • A few #2 pencils;
  • Erasers;
  • Your ID document specified by the test program;
  • Your admission ticket; and
  • A snack—there are breaks, and you may be hungry.

During the test, here are some other tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be shaken; if you find your confidence slipping, remind yourself how well you’ve prepared: you know the test structure, you know the instructions, you know the strategies, and you’ve had plenty of practice.
  • If something goes really wrong, don’t panic.  If the test book is defective, for example, raise your hand and tell the proctor /teacher you need a new book.