Students’ record of academic achievement (grades) and scores on international standardized entrance exams are both important pieces of their university applications. Early in the application process, prospective students should confirm which exams are required by each higher education institution. There tend to be a wide variety of requirements and students are encouraged to promptly ask college or university’s admissions office staff any questions they may have. Typically, an English language proficiency exam score is required for both undergraduate and graduate degree program applicants. Additionally, undergraduate applicants usually need to submit scores from the ACT or SAT. Similarly, graduate students must submit GRE scores or scores from another discipline-specific exam.
English Language Examinations
Most undergraduate and graduate degree programs require international students to take an English language proficiency test, such as TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo.
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) measures academic reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The exam is scored from 0 and 120 and results are valid for two years. There are practice materials available on the ETS website.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) measures reading, writing, speaking, and listening. There are two versions: Academic and General. Most universities require the Academic version. The exam is scored from 0 and 9 and results are valid for two years. There are preparation materials available on the IELTS website and well as from the British Council and IDP.
Duolingo English Test (DET) measures reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The test can be taken online, anytime, anywhere. It is scored from 10 to 160 and results are valid for two years. Practice exercises are available on the Duolingo website.
Standardized Examinations for Undergraduate Degree Applicants
Other common exams are the ACT or SAT for undergraduate study applicants
ACT is a test of English, reading, mathematics, and science, with an optional essay section. The exam is scored from 1 and 36 and results are valid for three years. Study materials are available on the ACT website.
SAT is an exam that measures reading and writing, and mathematical abilities. It is scored from 200 and 800 and results are valid for three years. Study materials are available on the College Board website and through Khan Academy.
Standardized Examinations for Graduate Degree Applicants
Graduate study applicants are usually required to take a GRE exam. However, those applying to Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs submit GMAT scores and those applying to medical and law school submit MCAT and LSAT scores, respectively.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a test of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. It measures readiness for graduate-level study. Verbal and quantitative reasoning skills are scored from 130 to 170 and writing is scored from 0 to 6. Results are valid for five years. Study materials are available on the ETS website as well as from the Princeton Review.
Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a test that measures quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning, and analytical writing skills. It is typically used in admission to MBA programs. Tests are scored from 200 to 800 and results are valid for five years. There are study materials available on the MBA website.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a test that measures reading comprehension, reasoning, and writing skills. It is typically used in admission to law school. Tests are scored from 120 to 180. Results are valid for five years. Study materials are available on the LSAC website and from Khan Academy.
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a test that measures problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts. It is used in admission to medical school. Tests are scored by section and combined for a total score that ranges from 472 to 528. Results are valid between two and three years. Study materials are available from Khan Academy.
Most exams should be taken between four and six months before university applications are due and nearly all need to be taken at a designated test center. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, some entrance exams can now be taken online instead in-person at designated test centers. As Central Asian students are creating their university application timeline, they should decide when it is best to take each required exam. Some exams may need to be taken more than once in order to achieve a desired score. Students should identify where the closest testing centers are located. This could require traveling to another country, such as the United Arab Emirates. Test dates are usually scheduled months in advance. Due to limited seating at test centers, students should try to register as early as possible. Those who choose to take any standardized exams online are advised to preview the online test format which could be slightly different from the test center exam version. They should also check that the computer equipment that will be used for the exam meets the technical requirements of the exam and be sure to choose a well-lit and quiet space to take the exam.
It is advised that exam takers prepare well-ahead of the exams and take mock exams to become familiar with all the standardized test formats. Free study materials are provided by most of the testing companies. In addition, there is a plethora of preparation materials available online for English language improvement in particular which can benefit those taking any of the English language examinations.