Three Minute Guide To International Tests – TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT


When you begin researching about overseas studies, you hear about a number of tests – TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT. What are all these? Do you need to take all of them or just a few? And which ones? You feel like someone should help you! Take it easy… Getting overwhelmed is natural and here is all that you need to know.

Let’s first understand the fundamentals – why do they even have so many tests? Clearly, each test is developed for a particular reason and understanding it will simplify the whole mumbo jumbo. These tests can be roughly split into two categories – Language Tests and Entrance Tests.

Language Tests

These are tests that validate a candidate’s proficiency in the English language. These tests judge candidates in all four sections of the language – reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

TOEFL – Test Of English as a Foreign Language

TOEFL is an academics-oriented language test, required primarily by the US universities to ensure that incoming students from non-English speaking countries are able to understand English as experienced in an academic environment. TOEFL can be taken in paper-and-pen format or, more commonly, computer-based format.

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

IELTS comes in two versions – Academic, for study purposes similar to TOEFL, and General, for work and immigration purposes. IELTS is traditionally taken in paper-and-pen format, while a computer-based IELTS has been introduced in 2018. IELTS is preferred over TOEFL in many European universities.

Both tests require candidates to have good knowledge of English. Scoring well on either test requires familiarity with the test format as some question types need regular practice to master. However, both tests are of similar level of difficulty.

So which one should you take? TOEFL or IELTS? There is no clear answer, though most universities require international students to take one of the two. Please check with your program of interest before deciding on a particular test.

Entrance Tests

These are tests that judge a candidate’s ability to perform in a specific program – undergraduate, graduate, management, or legal programs etc.

SAT – Scholastic Aptitude Test

SAT is the entrance test for all undergraduate programs in the US. The test is devised to judge students’ readiness for college and assesses students on language (reading and writing) as well as math skills.

ACT – American College Testing

Another college entrance test for undergraduate programs in the US is ACT. ACT is very similar to SAT in terms of difficulty level, but has two key differences. ACT has a dedicated section for Science, which is not the case with SAT. Also, SAT score gives greater weight to Math scores, as compared to ACT. Since both tests are acceptable by all colleges, students must go with a test in which they feel they can score better.

GRE – Graduate Record Examination

As the name suggests, GRE is a graduate-level entrance test, required to judge students’ ability to deal with graduate-level academics. GRE, like SAT, assesses both language and math skills, but has a higher level of difficulty and specific question formats. The test is the first step towards MS or PhD programs, and some MBA programs, across the globe.

GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test

Once again, as the name suggests, GMAT is a graduate-level management program entrance exam. It is similar to GRE in terms of difficulty level, but puts greater emphasis on analytical ability which is more critical for management programs. Almost all leading business schools around the world have GMAT as a core admission evaluation criteria.

LSAT – Law School Admission Test

LSAT is a specialized graduate-admission test for law schools. It is designed to evaluate reasoning skills in candidates, as required from a law school perspective. The format of the test is quite dissimilar to both GRE and GMAT, as it focuses more on reasoning ability (analyzing complex text and evaluating arguments), as opposed to analytical ability.

Generally speaking, one of the Language Tests and one of the Entrance Tests as suitable for your program is all that you need to worry about. However, do check the specific requirements of your programs of interest before you start preparing for any tests. If you need further assistance, we are here to help!

At Beyond Consultant, we help you bring your dreams to life, by guiding in your overseas education journey. For a free consultation, please get in touch with us here.

Eligibility and Entrance Exams

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