Standardized tests: What’s required & what’s not



Unlike most countries there is not a specific test or set of tests that are universally required for admission to U.S. colleges and universities. Traditionally, U.S. students have had to take one of two primary standardized tests: ACT or SAT (and SAT Subject tests at more selective institutions).

Over the last few years, however, there have been a growing number of institutions that are now waiving SAT and ACT exams as requirements for admission for U.S. and many times international student applicants as well.

These test-optional colleges now number over 800 institutions that do not require SAT or ACT exam results to evaluate applicants. Keep in mind that scholarships at selective schools are often, in part, based on test scores, so if that is particularly important to you, you may still have several schools that will require an SAT or ACT score. 

One other area of testing that also has no hard and fast rules among U.S. colleges for international students is English language proficiency. If your native language is English, you will likely not need to present a test result. There are even colleges that will exempt you from having to take a proficiency exam if you completed your entire secondary school years in an English language medium school. For everyone else, until recently there were two exams that students were required to take: TOEFL or IELTS. A third test, PTE Academic, has become available, though not as widely offered or accepted as IELTS or TOEFL (simply because it is a newer exam).

Our friends at EducationUSA have excellent resources to help you better understand the different tests and the various styles of exams. On-demand webinars on TOEFL, IELTS, PTE Academic, SAT, and ACT are available to hear from the testing folks themselves on their exams.

Of course, all students want to know what scores they need to be admitted to a particular college or university. However, unless you are applying to a “open enrollment” or less selective institution that set minimum test requirements for admission, most colleges, you won’t get a straight answer. Over the next few weeks, this blog will examine many of the components that go into an admissions decision, from deadlines, to essays, to recommendation letters and more. Stay tuned, and start getting those applications ready.

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