he Ameson Scholastic Test is an aptitude and proficiency test that is administered in English. Available for a growing number of subject areas, the test is designed by the Ameson Foundation for senior 2 and 3 students (equivalent to grades 11 & 12 in the US) or university freshmen who wish to pursue degrees at Western universities.
the AST is the only test currently available that balances international assessment standards with Chinese cultural characteristics, in line with Ameson's goal of localized educational globalization. Since 2002, Chinese education experts have worked alongside professors from internationally renowned institutions such as the University of Cambridge in achieving this balance.
The English and Mathematics tests debuted in 2002, and Physics was added in 2009 for potential engineering and physics students. Further AST subject tests in Chemistry and Economics will be added in the future. Students who attain a superior score in both English and Mathematics may be invited to participate in the ACEIS program.
In 2002, the University of Cambridge adopted AST as its main screening measure for Chinese students. Students who are admitted to University of Cambridge through use of the AST do not need to take pre-university courses; they are usually admitted directly to a four-year undergraduate plus master’s program. Today, more than 17 top universities use this test.
The AST English test consists of listening, reading and writing sections, which tests students’ comprehensive learning ability and research skills. The AST uses both subjective and objective testing modes, depending on the particular skill being assessed; the listening part uses an objective testing mode, while the reading and writing parts use a subjective mode.
Objective testing mode: fixed answers, ie. multiple choice
Subjective testing mode: open answers, ie. short answer responses
The English portion of the AST is similar to the IELTS exam both in difficulty and material tested. For example, in the listening portion of the test, the ‘outstanding’ line is roughly equal to an IELTS score of 6.5, the ‘excellent’ line is roughly equal to an IELTS score of 6.0, and the ‘very good’ line is roughly equal to an IELTS score of 5.5.
For the reading and listening parts, some questions are even more difficult than IELTS. The ‘outstanding’ line is roughly equal to an IELTS score of 7.0-7.5, the ‘excellent’ line is roughly equal to an IELTS score of 6.0-6.5 and the ‘very good’ line is roughly equal to a score of 5.5-6.0.
The AST in Mathematics is a combined aptitude and proficiency test. The aptitude test evaluates students and then groups them into one of the categories ‘qualified’, ‘very good’, or ‘excellent’. The proficiency test gauges actual mathematical ability. The grading scale of the Mathematics portion of the AST uses a criterion-referenced testing mode. For example, on one recent test there were 6 items with total possible score of 300. Each item was worth 50 points but contained several sub-questions. The Mathematics portion of the AST is designed to be more rigorous than other similar standardized tests and tests more challenging material than the SAT I and the A-level Mathematics test.
The Physics portion of the AST debuted in 2009 to provide additional subject assessment for students applying to rigorous STEM programs. The test lasts three hours, and its high degree of difficulty allows accurate assessment of even the brightest students. According to Professor David Cardwell, Deputy Dean of the University of Cambrdige School of Engineering and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, "the students that score in the top ten percent of the physics test, I know they’re going to do pretty well in our course.”