External Exams

Riverside Campus Handbook 2019-2020

This handbook provides you with information that will help you become acquainted with the aims and objectives of the school, a brief overview of the curriculum as well as practical day-to-day information.

External Standardised Exams

Students taking external exams through the College Board, ACT or the International Baccalaureate may qualify for exam concessions. The Head of Student Support Services will work with parents to obtain appropriate documentation and complete applications for accommodation requests.

ACER – ISA (Australian Council of Education and Research – International School Assessment)

The ACER test is also known as the International Schools’ Assessment (ISA) and is an annual assessment programme specially developed to measure skills in reading literacy, mathematical literacy and writing for students in Grades 3–10 attending international schools. Designed and developed by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER), this assessment is based on the internationally endorsed reading and mathematical literacy frameworks of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The ISA measures profiles and monitors changes in literacy and mathematical skills across the school, within the class and at the individual student level. It is a broad assessment programme that must be culturally non-specific to accurately report the abilities of students across the world. The tests are extremely beneficial to students and the school alike as they track abilities in providing information about literacy and mathematical skills over time and offer relevant comparisons between international schools. Each student completes a reading literacy test, a mathematical literacy test and two writing tests. All of our Grade 9 students take the test.


The Pre-ACT tests are designed to measure the skills of students in reading, writing, science and mathematics and are a precursor to the ACT exam. All students in Grade 10 registered automatically for the Pre-ACT and students in Grade 11 may opt to do so. It is useful for students deciding on whether to take Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes as well as helps to identify a broad range of skill sets. The school can set the date in administering the Pre-ACT and will do so early in the school year.

PSAT and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

The Preliminary Standardised Aptitude Test (PSAT) and National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) may be administered at ISZL if the school calendar will allow it. The test is administered once a year in mid-October or early November. This is a practice test for the Standardised Aptitude Test (SAT) looking similarly at critical reading, problem-skills in maths and writing skills. All students in Grade 11 are automatically registered to take this test.

US citizens who perform well on the PSAT may qualify for National Merit Scholarships. The PSAT is a useful indication of where students stand in relation to others in these standardised tests and what further preparation may be necessary for the SAT. Additional information about the PSAT/NMSQT can be found at Students who have been approved for testing accommodations through The College Board will receive their accommodations on the PSAT/NMSQT.

Standardised Aptitude Test (SAT)

The Standardised Aptitude Test (SAT)

At the next level after the PSAT is the SAT and is offered at the Riverside Campus in October, November, January, May. The SAT includes an essay and multiple-choice questions on mathematics and English. The exam takes nearly four hours, excluding registration. Students should arrive promptly at 07:30 and should be finished around 13:00.

Students wishing to take the SAT should register online at least one month prior to the testing date at A current valid form of photo ID must be uploaded for registration and brought by the student to the exam on the day of the test. The SAT is particularly important to students considering application to US universities, Advanced Placement (AP) students applying to Canada and is increasingly recognised in the UK and throughout the rest of the world. Universities use it as an element of the admissions process to compare similar attainment levels. In order to assist students in the process, an afterschool SAT preparation course is offered for students in Grades 10 to 12 and through Method Test Prep, an online College & Career Readiness Technology Solution. Students may take the SAT more than once and most universities use the highest score from each section. While many students sit the exam more than once, we do not advise students taking the exam more than three times. Accommodations approved through the College Board are available for the SAT and SAT Subject tests. Exam results for a student receiving school-based testing on Saturday are typically available the following Monday.

Standardised Aptitude Test (SAT) Subject Tests

SAT subject tests may also be also necessary for students applying to the US and can be an additional asset for students applying elsewhere. These are offered in October, November, January, May and June, but not all subject tests are available on all dates. These are hour-long tests in specific subjects and as many as three tests may be taken on a given test date. SAT subject tests are frequently taken at the end of Grade 11 in certain subjects and early in the year for Grade 12. However, a student taking an Advanced Placement(AP) course is encouraged to take an SAT subject test at the end of their course. Language tests with a listening option are only given in November and proficient students of a foreign language are strongly advised to take them in November of Grade 11. The subjects available are:

  • Literature
  • United States History
  • World History
  • Mathematics Level 1 or Level 2
  • Biology E/M
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Languages – German, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Modern Hebrew, Spanish.

For further information, please visit:


As an alternative to the SAT, the ACT is a similar test assessing English, mathematics, science and writing. Some students find they perform better on the ACT rather than the SAT (there is a table comparing scores of ACT and SAT). The ACT is not currently offered at ISZL with the exception of students who qualify for testing accommodations but at other test centres in Switzerland. Many universities suggest that students try both tests once and then retake the test with which they felt most comfortable. For the majority of universities, the SAT and ACT are interchangeable tests, although some do insist on one or the other. Like the SAT, students may take the ACT more than once and most universities use the highest score from each section even if taken on a different date. Many students sit the exam more than once, but we do not advise students taking the exam more than three times. Many universities will accept a full ACT exam score with writing in lieu of any other SAT subject tests.

For additional information, please visit:

For information regarding taking the ACT with testing accommodations, contact the Head of Student Support Services.

English Language Assessments

Some universities require students of non-native English backgrounds to take additional English proficiency tests as part of their applications. Students may be surprised to learn that even if they are nationals from an English speaking country and have been educated in part or fully in English, they may still be asked to sit one of these exams to prove their academic English language skills.

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) analyses academic reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. This test can be taken in Zurich and other major cities around the world. Test results are current for two years so we advise that students take this test towards the end of Grade 11. We have seen increasing demand from UK universities for this test regardless of nationality or Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations. Please check your requirements individually and contact ISZL’s First Language & EAL Coordinator for more information. For further information about IELTS, please visit:

Another frequently used proficiency test is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Educational Testing Service, ETS, which operates the SAT, PSAT and AP exams also runs the TOEFL. The Internet- Based Testing Programme (IBT) of the TOEFL is offered in Switzerland and around the world throughout the year. For further information about the TOEFL IBT, please visit: