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  • Which Exams Should be Cleared if you Want to Study in the US?

    Which Exams Should be Cleared if you Want to Study in the US?
    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Most universities in the US requires international students to take two tests, i.e. a standardised college admission test and an English language test. These tests are a common measure to understand the abilities of students from different educational backgrounds. 

    Undergraduate and Graduate: Common English Language Test

    It is compulsory for both undergraduate and graduate applicants to take the English language test so that they have a proficient knowledge of the English language that is needed to enrol in English-speaking universities. TOEFL and IELTS are the two language exams students need to write to study in the US.

    Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

    Required in both the graduate as well as undergraduate program application, TOEFL is accepted by a majority of the universities the US. It is one of the two major English-language tests in the world. It is recognised by 9,000+ colleges, universities and agencies in over 130 countries.

    Exam Fee: INR 11,358 approx ($170)

    Frequency of Test: 50 times in a year
    Duration of the Test: 4 hours + 10 minutes mandatory break

    Score Validity: 2 years from date of exam

    Total Score: 120

    Minimum Score: starts from 61 to 110

    TOEFL is taken online as well as offline and it consists of four sections, i.e. Speaking | Writing | Reading | Listening. Here are the evaluation details for the online test.

    SectionDescriptionTimeWhat it tests
    Reading3–5 passages, each carrying 12–14 questions60-90 minsunderstanding of rhetorical functions: cause-effect, compare-contrast, argumentation
    Listening6–9 passages, each carrying 5–6 questions60-80 minsunderstanding of main ideas: details, the relationships between ideas, ability to organise information etc
    Speaking6 tasks20 minsSpontaneity in speaking while conveying ideas clearly and coherently
    Writing2 tasks50 minsability to write in an academic setting

    International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

    IELTS is used for testing the English language proficiency for non-English speakers which is now accepted by universities in the US as well. It is recognised by 8,000+ colleges, universities and  agencies in more than 130 countries.

    Exam Fee: INR 11,300

    Frequency of Test: 4 times a month
    Duration of the Test: 2 hours 45 minutes

    Score Validity: 2 years from date of exam

    Total Score: 9 band scale

    Minimum Score: starts from 5.0 to 7.5

    IELTS is used for measuring a student’s ability to communicate in English in the four categories, i.e. Listening | Speaking | Writing | Reading. It is conducted 4 times a month, throughout the year in their set exam centres.

    Listening30 mins

    Academic reading/

    general training reading
    60 mins

    Academic writing/

    general training writing
    60 mins
    Speaking11-14 mins

    However the scoring is on a band scale basis where students will be scored on a nine-band scale, each scale reciprocating a certain competence in English. The nine-band scale and how it is rated-

    ScaleRemarkWhat it means
    9Expert UserComplete operational command and complete understanding: appropriate, accurate and fluent
    8Very Good UserComplete operational command. In unfamiliar situations, unsystematic accuracy and inappropriacy may occur.
    7Good UserPossess operational command yet liable to situational mistakes: inaccuracy, appropriacy, and misunderstanding.
    6Competent UserEffective command yet liable to commit to incidental inaccuracy, inappropriacy and misunderstanding.
    5Modest userPartial command with basic communication skill, grasp overall meaning most times yet liable to commit many mistakes.
    4Limited UserCompetence is limited to familiar situations where understanding and expression is a problem.
    3Extremely Limited UserLimited understanding except for the general meaning in familiar situations
    2Intermittent UserFinds it difficult to understand spoken and written English and basic communications carried out by using isolated words or short formulae.
    1Non UserNothing beyond a few isolated words.
    0Test not attemptedNo assessable information provided at all.

    Undergraduate Exam to Study in the US

    Applicants for the undergraduate study in the US are required to sit for one standardised admission test  i.e. Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). This is to assess the academic potential alongside the academic results that’s been reported on your transcript. This is needed in determining admission as well as merit-based scholarships to international students.

    Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

    The SAT is needed for undergraduate admissions in most of the US Universities. This is to determine how well the students can apply their knowledge in managing the college courses in critical reading, mathematics, and writing. SAT is generally divided into two as SAT-I(Reasoning test) and SAT- II (Subject tests). 

    Exam Fee: INR 7,015 ($105)

    Frequency of Test: 7 times annually
    Duration of the Test: 3 hours (50 mins for essay writing)

    Score Validity: 5 years from date of exam

    Total Score: 1600

    Minimum Score: Starts from 1000-1450

    SAT is tested on three particular skills/knowledge, i.e. Writing | Critical Reading | Mathematics.

    A detailed table

    SectionAverage ScoreAllotted Time Content
    Writing48460Grammar, usage, diction.
    Mathematics51170Number and operations (algebra, geometry, statistics, data analysis, probability)
    Critical Reading49570Vocabulary, Critical reading, sentence-level reading

    Out of the new 1600 SAT score, 1000 is considered the average score, 1200 as excellent and 840 as poor.

    Some universities will require students to take SAT- II Subject Tests along with SAT-I. In subject tests, the test duration is one hour. Questions are primarily multiple choice format. This is to test your knowledge of the subject and how you apply the knowledge. 20 Subjects available for SAT-II, out of which 12 are a foreign language. The general subjects are Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics (Level 1 & 2), World History and US History.

    Graduate Exam to Study in the US

    For international students to qualify for a master’s program in the US, universities require the test scores of one or more standardised admissions tests. The two most common tests are:

    i) Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

    ii) Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).

    Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

    GRE is needed for admission to most non-business programmes in the US, for both masters as well as PhD programmes. Aside from the GRE General Testing, there are also seven GRE Subject Tests. There are over 1,000 test centres in more than 160 countries.

    Exam Fee: INR 13,795 ($205)

    Frequency of Test: Computer-based test, multiple times a year; paper-based test, 3 times a year.
    Duration of the Test: 3 hours 45 minutes

    Score Validity: 5 years from date of exam

    Total Score: 340

    Minimum Score: 260

    In GRE General, students are assessed in three areas, i.e. Analytical writing | Quantitative reasoning | Verbal reasoning

    SectionQuestion typeAllotted timeWhat it measures
    Analytical Writing2 essays, i.e. Issue task & Argument task60 minsArticulation of ideas, presentation of supporting evidence; correct usage of the English language
    Verbal ReasoningMultiple choice questions60 minsSynthesising of information after analysing and evaluating written materials; analysing relationships among component parts of sentences; establishing relationships between words and concepts
    Quantitative ReasoningMultiple choice questions70 minsNumerical reasoning. Determining if the basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis are being understood

    Some universities may also require students to take the GRE Subject Test, each subject test lasting up to 170 minutes. The subjects available for the subject tests are Biochemistry (Cell and Molecular Biology), Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology and Literature (English).

    Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

    Essential for getting admission in any graduate masters course, GMAT is a graduate management exam required for admissions at almost all top business schools worldwide. This test is taken to assess the applicant’s verbal, mathematical and analytical skills. There are 600 test centres in 114 countries.

    Exam Fee: INR 16,743 approx ($250)

    Frequency of Test: Multiple times a year.
    Duration of the Test: 3 hours 30 minutes

    Score Validity: 5 years from date of exam

    Total Score: 800

    Minimum Score: 200

    The GMAT consist of four sections, i.e. 3 reasoning and 1 analytical - Quantitative | Verbal | Integrated | Analytical writing. The test is a mix of multiple choice questions and essay.

    SectionAllotted timeNumber of QuestionsAllotted Marks
    Quantitative reasoning75 minutes410-60
    Verbal reasoning75 minutes370-60
    Integrated reasoning30 minutes120-8
    Analytical writing30 minutes1 essay0-6

    A score of 400-600 is considered an average score in GMAT. Thus, the scores to get into a business school entirely depends on the school you are applying. Applicants should also note that GMAT is administered only in English.

    Quick Recap:

    To study abroad in the US, you need to take one English language test and one standardised admissions tests. To apply for an undergraduate program, you need to take either of the English language test, i.e. TOEFL or IELTS, and SAT for the standardised admissions test.

    For a graduate or PhD program, you need to take IELTS or TOEFL for English language test, and GRE or GMAT for the standardised admissions test.

    We hope that helps!

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