Introduction Edit

Some UK students have taken American university entrance tests in the UK, and used these to gain entry to UK universities. It is cheaper than taking A-levels as an external candidate, and some who have done it feel that it is less work. Not all universities will accept these tests from UK applicants, and in some cases the additional tests required end up being as much hassle as A-levels. If your heart is set on a particular course or a particular uni, then check very, very carefully before taking this path. But if you do not have time to complete A-levels, or cannot find an exam centre to accommodate your options, then this may be a way to demonstrate what you can do and get to uni.

One home-educator comments:


US Universities generally require entrance exams scores (SAT or ACT) in addition to a high school diploma. Home educated students in America usually went about getting a diploma in a couple ways:

  1. By keeping track

of their courses the last 4 or odd years (high school years) and issuing their own or one by an online high school

  1. Getting a GED (a test taken that is equivalent to a diploma - tho it is not generally looked upon as

highly so having other skills like extracurricular activities is a plus). Note that University applications are not the same in the US as in the UK. There is no standardised application system. Each University handles applications however they want but many have begun to welcome home educated students.


Many English universities accept the American SATs, but most of them are quite specific in what else they require - either APs, SAT subject tests etc.

Look at the 'International student' section of each university web page and the requirements should be stated.

Case Studies Edit

M has three children who bypassed GCSEs and A-levels, and instead applied to university with American SATs:

Both my girls took the US College Board SAT, bypassing both GCSE's and College..My daughter was just accepted straight into university to study for an honours degree in Applied Biology and Zoology. Another was accepted for an honours degree in English.  My son did not want to go to college to gain qualifications because he feels passionately about his home education and always knew he had been educated to university standard, so we set about contacting universities of his choice in order to ascertain what was required for entry. They all said they would accept US college board SAT scores and so we worked towards that. This is a much cheaper option as it does not require individual exams but rather one exam testing, Math and English. It costs $85 and books can be purchased cheaply from Amazon and even better this year practice tests and study aids are all free on Khan academy. My son applied through UCAS and was accepted straight in university based on his scores and was even offered full merit scholarships to universities in the US.

Most unis list the entry requirements on their websites now. Because the applications are being submitted through UCAS, my children have never been questioned as to why they have SAT scores, the universities just accepted them. In this last case,.. I called them first to ensure they knew her place would be funded through SAAS (the Scottish funding agency) and also that they knew ( being very nice about it of course) how to apply SAT scores. When she then submitted her UCAS application, the university offered her a place within days.

My other daughter who is going to Stirling university to study English, simply completed the UCAS application and was offered her place without any contact.

How you are doing / using SATS? Is it possible to do it for a year as an alternative to Advanced Scottish Highers?
You mention books what are these called? Where do you have a syllabus or past papers ?
With SATS do you get treated as an overseas student?

 I really don't think you would need a full year to prepare for SAT's. Have a look on Khan Academy, my girls have found that invaluable for test prep. Test prep books can be purchased on Amazon and unfortunately the college board redesigned the test in March of this year so there are no past papers as such to go on but my son says the questions look much the same as the test he took two years ago. All of the work is covered on Khan Academy where it can be done for free. They also let you write an  essay for the essay part ( which is no longer compulsory for the new SAT) and send it to them for marking. We bought this book which my daughters liked for the information it had on the essay in addition to the explanations.

As far as university applications, yes you are treated like an international student in regards to the application. We completed the UCAS form as usual, listed the subjects we had covered ( we use a US Catholic home study school) and the grades. Then in the qualification parts we listed my son's SAT score ( he received unconditional offers from Stirling, GCU, Dundee based on his  score) and in my daughter's case we completed it saying she is due to sit SAT's this year and she has received conditional offers subject to achieving the required SAT score. My son is studying Psychology and my daughter will be studying English.

For us, it is a much much cheaper option and I honestly believe that due to the English skills my children have learned by doing learning this way, they are much better prepared for university than were my older school educated children.

SAT's are not study courses like GCSE's, but are rather tests to let the universities ascertain what level of competency the student has reached. SAT's are merely meet an entry criteria for universities that satisfy them that the student has the capabilities for the course. That's why I always recommend trying some practice tests and if the student does well on them or has worked through Kahn Academy prep which is free, then for $85, it is by far a much cheaper route than a whole lot of individual GCSE's. It does not take the place of studying courses, it only limits what the student is tested. 

Discussion from the group Edit

Comment from S:

All the information required for SAT subject tests - topics covered etc is found on the CollegeBoard website.  Practice tests are available on various websites.

We looked into SAT subject tests when DD was midway through IGCSEs.

There are a couple of things to check first before going down the path.

Firstly whether your student's prospective universities are going to accept them.  Second, and what I found most frustrating, was finding a test centre.  There are 27 centres in England listed on the CB website search engine. Of the eleven/twelve schools I rang only one would accept a candidate that was not a student at their own school. I gave up after that.

The curriculum required for each subject, is what is normally offered in an honours level high school subject in the USA.  There are booklets available on Amazon for all the subjects. The range of subjects is pretty limited - there are 20 subjects and 12 of them are languages.

It seems many UK universities accept the SATs for admission but not in isolation. As always with anything 'different' it pays to check the small print.

A quick look at some major universities' admission pages reveal that most seem to want a lot more than the SAT1 results. There are SAT subject tests which are similar to AS/A level tests other than the prevalence of multiple choice questions (which the USA seem to favour). The subject tests cannot be taken on the same day as the SAT1 tests and there are different dates for different subject tests so a single morning of exams doesn't look promising.

If children have a university/Further Ed path in mind, it is best to check first what that institution requires and reverse-engineer the process so you can give the University what it wants.

There is a document somewhere on the CIE website which lists which US universities will take students with just IGCSEs.  The list is quite extensive and from recollection there were some surprising names on the list.

Comment from K:

A few years ago we looked into the possibility of following an American programme rather than IGSEs , as sitting SATS seemed a much easier way to get a child into Uni, but we were not keen on what came before that, i.e. achieving a High School Diploma. We felt that GCSE qualifications would be more useful both in terms of employment in the UK (even just Saturday jobs) or in the case of a child who chose not to go to Uni but instead wanted to take an apprenticeship (as my two oldest sons, to our surprise, ended up doing in order to avoid debt from Uni). My question is, would you say the HSD is a necessary pre-requisite to the SATS, or might someone take GCSEs and then swap? Just wondering how flexible it is to move between the two.

Also, we looked at Oxford entry requirements (DS 3 is keen on a course there) and from what I can gather, at least three excellent AP or SAT subject results are required in addition to the general SATS score. Our thinking was, that sounds pretty much like 3 A level subjects, and A levels seem easier, practically speaking, to achieve than the US equivalents.

Comment from one member:

It is really tricky to work it out, and I've come to the conclusion that a high school diploma with out accreditation isn't worth as much. It seems that it's worth even less without SATs and subject tests. It's a problem to gain recognition (and credits) for previous work (ie. IGCSE's), and an accredited diploma ,if you haven't done the full 4 years of US high school with a physical or an on-line high school accredited school. So far all the Uni's I've contacted (Dundee, Sterling, Edinburgh) have wanted: An Accredited High School Dip, SATs and 2 subject tests....


I agree that without other proof, universities here would not accept a parental diploma. However, in some cases the SAT scores are the other proof they require. For instance for a psychology degree and English degree, the universities my children were accepted for, cared more about their SAT scores. For my other daughter who is starting her degree in Applied Biology and Zoology, we had to have her diploma in addition to her SAT scores. I did however find it interesting that they did not ask specifically for her science grades!

For us, it has been a much easier route to take.

Another comment:

Had a very interesting chat with a local veteran home-edder, who told me that her oldest (now mid-20s) sat the American SATs in London , to apply for UK university entry.  He did not have any other qualifications and they felt that the SATs were assessing potential rather than having covered a course, so it sounded like a shortcut to uni entry. He sat the tests (English, maths, reasoning) with only a couple of months' preparation, and phoned round unis.  Many dismissed the idea straight away, but one asked him to come for a chat and then offered him a place to start that year, even though he was only 17 and had been enquiring about the following year !

More Information Edit

This is a good page about doing US qualifications as well as UK ones:

If you are planning to use the US system, particularly for US universities, then Lee Binz is your go to advisor: The HomeScholar Helper Blog - Helping Parents Homeschool High School –