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Which Tests Do You Need?

The American system of education relies on various specialized or "standardized" tests, which students must take in order to apply to a particular university or program. These exams offer universities a common basis for comparison of applicants.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Nearly all international students whose native language is not English need to provide a TOEFL® score as proof of English proficiency for university study. In fact, a TOEFL score is accepted at over 9,000 colleges and universities in over 130 countries, including nearly every top university in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Most international students take the TOEFL test in addition to another admissions test such as the GMAT, GRE, MCAT, SAT or ACT. The TOEFL test measures receptive and expressive skills equally: half of the total score on the test is based on reading and listening abilities (how well students receive and understand English) and the other half is based on speaking and writing abilities (how well students express themselves). The exam, which recently transitioned to an Internet-based format, is approximately 3 to 4 hours long. Your TOEFL score is valid for two years.

Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT)

If you are thinking about going to business school, the GMAT is almost always a necessary part of your application. A 3½ hour computerized exam, the GMAT tests analytical writing skills, quantitative skills and verbal skills (reading comprehension, sentence correction and critical reasoning) through 78 multiple choice questions and two analytical essays. An estimated 110,000 individuals take the GMAT each year. At least 1,500 graduate business and management programs use GMAT scores as part of their application process. Your GMAT score is valid for five years.

Graduate Record Examinations® (GRE®)

As the most widely accepted admissions test for graduate and business school programs, GRE® revised General Test scores are used for admissions decisions for all types of master's, MBA, specialized master's in business, and doctoral programs as well as for awarding fellowships. The test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. These skills closely align with the types of skills that are required for success in today's demanding graduate and business school programs. The test is administered at more than 850 test centers worldwide. The computer-delivered format is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes in length. The GRE® Subject Tests measure undergraduate achievement in specific fields of study and are intended for students who have an undergraduate major or extensive background in one of seven disciplines. The paper-delivered Subject Tests are approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes in length. GRE scores are valid for 5 years.

Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is a 3½ hour paper-and-pencil test required for admission to most U.S. law schools. Comprised of roughly 125 multiple-choice questions plus a writing sample, the test is designed to test the critical reading, data management and analytical thinking skills that are deemed necessary for success in the first year of law school. Of all admissions tests, the LSAT carries the most weight in the admissions decision-making process, and can account for up to 50 percent of a candidate's application at the most competitive schools. An estimated 110,000 students take the LSAT annually. Your LSAT score is valid for five years.

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The MCAT is a computer-based multiple choice examination used by medical school admissions officials to predict future success. The MCAT is designed to test problem-solving skills, critical thinking abilities, and writing skills, as well as knowledge of basic science concepts. The test consists of 3 hours and 20 minutes of multiple-choice testing, plus one hour devoted to a writing sample. With all of the administrative details and breaks, the exam can last for 5½ hours. Approximately 71,000 people worldwide take the MCAT each year. In most cases, MCAT scores are valid for 3 years. However, this time frame varies from school to school.


The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support and scholarships, in a way that's fair to all students. The SAT and SAT Subject Tests keep pace with what colleges are looking for today, measuring the skills required for success in the 21st century. The SAT is a globally recognized college admission test that lets you show colleges what you know and how well you can apply that knowledge. It tests your knowledge of reading, writing and math — subjects that are taught every day in high school classrooms. Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year of high school, and almost all colleges and universities use the SAT to make admission decisions.


The ACT is an internationally administered, standardized test that helps universities to evaluate candidates for undergraduate study. The ACT comprises four subject areas — English, mathematics, reading, and science and includes an optional essay. Also administered in paper-and-pencil, the ACT lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes (excluding the Writing Test) or 3 hours and 25 minutes (including the Writing Test). More than 1.8 million students took the ACT exam last year, making the ACT one of the most-taken university entrance exams in the United States.

ACT's principles and research are highly regarded in the industry. International students would be well served in taking this exam as all four year colleges and universities in the US, and many outside of the US, accept ACT scores as an indication of a student's academic performance.

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