Both the western and Indian higher education system has its strengths. The Indian system helps students develop the ability to absorb large amounts of information quickly, and acquire a strong theoretical understanding of topics. However, the emphasis on practical learning and critical thinking is sometimes low. Overseas, students are expected to apply their knowledge and theoretical understanding of subjects to real world problems, which is mostly discussion based where students are expected to be creative and innovative with their solutions. The west, especially the U.S., offers students a great degree of flexibility in selecting subjects and college majors. This allows students to explore different areas of study before deciding their major which is very beneficial since it's not uncommon to be confused at that age about what one wants to study. In most colleges, be it the U.S. or any other part of the world, scores from standardized tests form an integral part of the undergraduate university application. For instance, the SAT, which is a globally recognized college admission test, tests the reading, writing and math skills that students learn in school. It gives both the students and colleges a sense of how they'll be able to apply the thinking, writing and study skills required for college course work. Questions on SAT are straight forward, rigorously researched and tested to make sure students from all backgrounds have an equal chance to do well. There are no tricks designed to trip students up.
SAT scores are one among the many factors considered in college admissions, which is why each year, more than 2 million students in 175 countries and territories take the SAT because for more than 80 years most colleges and universities have used the SAT to make admission decisions. SAT scores allow colleges to fairly compare applicants from different backgrounds. Some universities might require them as a mandatory part of the application because it allows students to highlight academic achievement in subjects of their choice. Practice is the key for doing well on the SAT and this website helps students prepare well by even giving them the required feedbacks.
The SAT has now been redesigned to focus on fewer things, the first administration of the Redesigned SAT will take place in the spring of 2016. In this redesigned pattern, the exam is for 3 hours and is scored on a total of 1600, with the essay writing being optional but it will be reported separately and an additional of 50 minutes will be given for it. There is also no deduction of points for incorrect answers and calculators will be allowed for mathematics. There are some alterations for the vocabulary section too. For the first time ever, students who want to take the SAT will be able to prepare for the exam for free because College Board is partnering with Khan Academy to build and provide the world with free materials for the redesigned SAT which will launch in the spring of 2015.
Students should focus on their academic performance too, as it is usually the most important part of an application. Universities look at academic transcripts of 4 years (9-12), so students focus on academics throughout high school. Taking the AP (advanced placement) exams while in high school helps in demonstrating, the challenges students are ready to take. AP courses, helps students to stand out in the college admissions process. This can help students to graduate early, save tuition, pursue a double major, move into upper level courses sooner, or complete an internship. Experiences and achievements beyond studies, both inside and outside school, is also important, but students should not try to create a long list of extra-curricular activities to strengthen their application. Getting involved deeply in a small number of activities or projects for a long duration has more impact in whatever they later chose to do in college. Students should start early and begin planning in grades 9/10, by the time they're in grade 11 they should take the test and focus on other parts of the application in the 12th, it also gives them a window to retake the SAT in grade 12, if needed. Students should look beyond college rankings for the short listing process and should look out for the colleges, which fits them best.
As told to John Angami.