3 Reasons Studying a Foreign Language Can Boost ACT & SAT Scores

Some students take to a foreign language like a pescado to agua, or a poisson to l’eau. For others, a year or two of foreign language is a necessary evil, simply a requirement for a high school degree. Whether you’re excelling, enjoying, or dreading every minute, you might be happy to learn something: studying a foreign language can actually translate to a few extra points on the ACT and SAT. Here’s how.


Studying a foreign language is linked to better critical reading skills.

I remember the first time my profesora told me we were going to be reading an entire novel in Spanish. I almost laughed out loud. When high school students read passages and books in a foreign language, they’re often reading purposefully: pinpointing the main ideas and answering specific content questions. Sound familiar?

The way you’ve been reading in your foreign language class is actually incredibly similar to how you’ll handle the reading sections on the ACT and SAT! All those hours spent trying to figure out what a single paragraph is actually saying were not in vain – you’ve just been in critical reading boot camp.


It can actually boost your English vocabulary!

If you’ve been studying a Romance language like French, Spanish, or Italian, you’ve likely noticed that some of their words sound a lot like ours. This is because these languages have roots in Latin, and therefore share many similar roots (like bene, meaning good, dict, meaning say, and mort, meaning death, to name just a few). Speaking a foreign language can strengthen your knowledge of various Latin stems, which, in turn, gives you context for figuring out words on the ACT or SAT you might not otherwise know.

Let’s say you see an SAT question that needs you to determine the meaning of the word “benevolent,” which you’ve never seen before. However, you know the Spanish words beneficiosa (beneficial) and bueno (good). By understanding that the root word “bene” must therefore mean good, you can likely figure out that benevolent means generous or kind. The more words you know – in any language – the easier it is to deduce the meaning of any unknown words.


It can improve your overall memory.

Just like a muscle, the more you use your memory, the better it becomes. And, as anyone who has studied a foreign language can attest, it involves a lot of memorization. Studies have actually shown that when older individuals study a new language, they actually show “improvement in global cognition” and it can promote healthy aging. The benefits are not exclusive to older people, however.

Because the ACT and SAT both naturally require content memorization, a strong memory is a massive benefit. The tools and tricks you use when learning a new language – whether that’s flashcards, mnemonic devices, or another genius hack you’ve discovered – will come in handy when you’re prepping for the ACT or SAT.

Most of us are well aware that being bilingual is a strength on college and job applications. In today’s world, it’s a skill that will also undoubtedly prove useful. However, if you needed just one more reason to stick with your foreign language studies, consider the boost it can give your SAT and ACT scores.