Cracking the exams needed for overseas admissions

Education Counsellor, Dr.Karan Gupta takes you through the exams needed to study abroad

 

Most of the competitive exams needed for admissions to top institutes abroad check your knowledge of English and Math. Of course the way the papers are structured, the difficulty level and the type of questions they ask differ from exam to exam. It is best that these exams be taken at least 1 year prior to the year you intend to study abroad.

 

If you are a student applying for an MBA at just about any top international university in any country, you will need to appear for the GMAT. The GMAT is a graduate management exam which consists of English and Math and tests your analytical and logical skills. The sections of the exam include Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing and an Integrated Reasoning Section. The maximum points for the exam is 800 (minimum being 200) and most top business schools expect candidates to have scores over 600 to be considered for admission (the writing section is scored separately on 6 and the integrated reasoning is scored on 12). The fees for the exam are US$250 and the registration is online at www.mba.com

 

The GMAT is a computer adaptive test which means that the computer decides the difficulty level of questions that you have to answer. What this means is that if you get the first question correct, you will be given a harder question and so on and so forth and eventually you will land up taking a difficult version of the GMAT. But you can be assured that the score you get will be excellent. On the other hand, if you get the first few questions incorrect, you will be given easier questions for the rest of the exam but your overall score will be low. A good test taking strategy then would be to spend a few extra minutes on the first few questions of the GMAT so that you get the hardest version of the exam, therefore scoring better. The validity of the GMAT exam score is 5 years.

 

If you are a student applying for a non-business Masters degree course at US universities, you will most likely need to appear for the GRE. The GRE is a graduate exam and the sections of the exam include Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning and an Analytical Writing section. The maximum points for the exam is 340 and most top graduate schools expect candidates to have scores over 310 to be considered for admission (writing section is scored separately on 6). The fees for the exam are US$205, the registration is online at www.gre.org and the exam scores are valid for a period of 5 years.

 

Some institutes in the UK such as London School of Economics also need the GRE for admission to many of their courses. And it’s worthwhile to note that many business schools around the world also accept the GRE for admission. However, an unsaid trend among these top business schools is that the GMAT is preferred for MBA admissions and the GRE is preferred for Masters admissions.

 

If you are an undergraduate student looking for admissions to top institutes in the US, you will appear for the SAT or the ACT. The SAT is an undergraduate exam which consists of evidence based reading and writing and math, and the maximum points for this exam is 1600. A separate essay writing section on 24 is also part of the exam. A few colleges in Singapore and Canada also require or prefer the SAT exam. The fees for the exam is US$109 and you can take the SAT as many times as you like and send only your best scores though a process called score-choice. Also, there is no negative marking in the SAT and you can guess answers if you don’t know how to solve a particular question.

 

Some Ivy League universities (and other top institutes in the US) also need students to appear for the SAT Subject tests for admission. The subject tests can be done in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Math, World History, US History, French, Spanish and Literature. If you want your application to be competitive and want a great chance of admission at top institutes, it is imperative that you appear for the SAT Subject tests as well. To register for the SAT or SAT Subject tests visit www.collegeboard.com.

 

The ACT is an alternate to the SAT and is now preferred by students given the problems faced with the SAT registration and availability of test dates. The ACT measures what you have learned in school and high school and consists of English and Math. There is also a Science Reasoning section in the ACT and while it is not necessary to have science knowledge to answer these questions, your logical and reasoning skills should be strong to crack this section of the test. The maximum score in the ACT is 36 and the maximum writing score is 12. You can register for the exam on www.act.org. Students who start their application process early, sometimes appear for both the SAT and the ACT and then choose the higher score and send that to universities abroad. The scores for the SAT, SAT Subject tests and the ACT generally do not expire although institutes abroad may ask for scores of exams taken within the last 2 years. 

 

The Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL is an exam needed by almost all students who wish to study abroad at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Although the exam is primarily needed by US universities, many universities in the UK and Canada also recognize the TOEFL. The exam consists of sections in speaking, writing, reading and listening and the maximum score in the exam is 120. An acceptable score by most universities is 80, but top institutes ask students for scores of 100 and above. The exams costs US$180 and the registration for the exam can be done at www.toefl.org

 

The IELTS is similar to the TOEFL and is also used by undergraduate and graduate students who wish to study abroad. The exam is recognized and needed by almost all UK and Australian universities. The exam consists of sections in speaking, writing, reading and listening and the maximum score in the exam is 9. An acceptable score by most universities is above 7. The exams costs Rs.12100 and the registration for the exam can be done at www.ielts.org It is important to note that most UK universities and even the British High Commission now prefer that students appear for the UKVI Academic IELTS. While the content for the UKVI Academic IELTS is the same as the ‘old’ IELTS, the testing conditions are more secure and hence students are advised to select the UKVI Academic IELTS. The scores for the TOEFL and the IELTS are valid for a period of 2 years. Remember that students who have studied in English medium schools and colleges find the TOEFL and IELTS easy and don’t have to study for more than a week for these exams.

 

The author is an alumnus of Harvard Business School

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