Exams to Study in USA: GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, SAT

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    Bhavya Rawal

    Study Abroad Expert

    When planning to study in USA there are a few things to consider apart from your visa application process. To get admissions with US universities you are required to take certain tests as proof of language and academic assessments. These include academic assessments at both UG and PG level of admissions to US Universities. These exams are IELTS/TOEFL (English language assessments), SAT/ACT (academic assessment at UG level), GRE/GMAT/LSAT/MCAT (academic assessment at PG level), and more.

    These standardized tests act as a measure for comparing students coming from varied educational backgrounds from across the world. Now choosing between two types of tests to study in USA can be difficult for an international applicant. Let us find out what exams you will need to take and how can you make a choice when presented with one.  

    Exams to Study in U.S.A: Application Fees for Indian Students 

    Test Fee in INR
    IELTS 12,000
    TOEFL 14,500
    SAT 6,200 to 7,000
    ACT 6,000 to 7,700
    LSAT 3,800
    GRE 14,600 (general test)
    GMAT 18,800
    MCAT 25,700
    DAT 6,000

    English Proficiency Tests Required to Study in the U.S.A

    If English is not your native language, you will be required to submit scores or proof of English language proficiency for pursuing higher education in the US. You can submit scores of tests like TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE for the same. 


    Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL exam is one of the most often take tests as proof of language proficiency. Depending on the course and university you opt for TOEFL scores required can vary from 65 to 85 on the internet-based test. However, to get admission to Ph.D. in USA, you must present higher scores. 

    TOEFL does not play a decisive role in your admissions as many universities like, Princeton offers English language courses for students who do not clear their TOEFL or score poorly.  You can also choose to give IELTS over TOEFL, however, before applying for either of these English language tests, you must check with the university about which test is accepted. 

    Find out more on IELTS vs TOEFL!


    Around 3400 universities and colleges in the USA accept the IELTS score of an applicant to judge his/her English language proficiency. The minimum IELTS score requirement in the US varies between 6.5 and 9 depending upon the course and university one is applying to. Though there are many top schools and colleges in USA that do not accept IELTS scores even now, yet IELTS is increasingly becoming popular among students because the IELTS fee is lower than the TOEFL fee. However, students are advised to check with their opted university on whether IELTS scores are accepted or not. 


    Pearson Test of English has recently started gaining acceptance in the USA. It is accepted by around 785 universities and colleges in the USA. The minimum PTE score in the USA is 70. But it can vary with the courses and university one is applying to.

    Exams to Study UG Courses in USA

    For all undergraduate courses, you will be required to take either SAT or ACT tests. These test scores demonstrate the academic and aptitude skills of students in high school and junior schools. Based on your strengths and the choice of university, opting for one exam may prove better than the other. 

    Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

    SAT is one of the most important exams while applying to undergraduate programs in the USA. Almost all universities in the USA accept SAT scores. The minimum SAT score in the USA is 1300 but that can easily vary with the courses and universities. For instance, Harvard doesn’t call students with a SAT score of less than 1520 out of 1600. Top-ranking universities in U.S. may ask their applicants to submit both SAT reasoning and subject test scores. 

    SAT Duration 3 hours 50 minutes (with essay)
    No. of Sections 3
    Reading, writing, maths
    Fees 101 USD without essay, 178 USD with essay
    Opt for SAT if have a strong vocabulary, can work well with complex and hard worded sections

    American College Test (ACT)

    ACT Exam evaluates the aptitude and critical thinking abilities of an applicant and is an important exam while applying for undergraduate programs in the USA. The minimum ACT score in the USA is 22 but it can vary with the courses and universities that one chooses. Similar to the SAT, many top universities ask students to take the ACT with writing to get admissions.

    ACT Duration 3 hours 35 with writing
    ACT Fees 50 without writing
    68 with writing
    No. of Sections 4
    English, Maths, Reading, Science
    Who should take ACT have strong science, are good at trigonometry, prefer simply worded questions

    Exams to Study PG Courses in USA

    Depending on the subject you choose to study, there are various specific academic assessment tests for graduate programs. Exams like MCAT, LSAT, GMAT are specific to medical, law, and management/business courses in the USA. GRE on the other hand is accepted for both MS in USA and engineering programs in the USA. 

    Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

    GRE is taken before admission to USA graduate programs, specifically Business Management programs. Along with the general GRE test, there are 7 subject-specific tests that one can take. The minimum GRE score in the USA is 160. Since the GRE exam is taken for many graduate programs, different scores can be requested for different USA graduate programs. In some cases, these scores come of use while looking out for post-degree options in the U.S.A. 

    GRE Fees General test 205 USD
    Subject test 150 USD
    No. of Sections 3
    Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical writing
    Competitive university requirements Subject tests

    Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

    LSAT Exam is necessary to apply for admission to Law schools in the USA. The average LSAT score required to get into a US Law school is 150, but the top 25 law schools demand more than 160. Many US Law schools give 70% weightage to LSAT scores in the selection process.

    Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

    Students seeking admission in Medical schools in the USA must take the MCAT exam. The average MCAT score in the USA is 510. But the best medical schools in the US might demand more. The more the score, the better one’s chances.

    Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

    Admission to a B-School in the USA requires the applicant to take the GMAT exam. The average GMAT score for admissions in USA B- Schools is 700. Good GMAT scores along with a high GPA play a very important role in the selection process in US B-schools. Having GMAT scores is a necessity if you wish to study MBA in USA. Even though you may find GMAT waivers but many sectors, like financial and economics ask for GMAT scores when MBA graduates are seeking jobs in the USA. 

    GMAT Fees 250 USD
    No. of Sections 4
    Writing, integrated reasoning, verbal, quantitative
    Test Centers in India 39 in 34 cities

    Wondering whether you want to take GRE or GMAT before applying for MBA? 

    Dental Admission Test (DAT)

    Students seeking admission to a Dental School in the USA require to take the DAT exam. It is accepted by 66 Dental schools in the USA. The DAT academic score ranges from 12-28 in the US.

    Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

    The OAT exam is the primary exam for admission in an Optometry School in the USA. The exam is accepted by all the 21 certified Optometry schools in the USA. The minimum OAT score accepted for admission in US Optometry is 310.

    Exams to Study in U.S.A: Important Dates 

    Test name Application Deadline Exam Date/ Month
    IELTS 1 month before the exam date Applicants book the suitable test dates
    TOEFL 1 week before the exam date Throughout the year on Sundays and Saturdays
    SAT (multiple deadlines) Nov 2, 2020 December 1, 2020
    ACT (multiple deadlines) September 27, 2020 October 26, 2020
    GRE December 20, 2020 February 3, 2021
    GMAT May 2020 June 2020
    LSAT November 6 2020 to April 20, 2021 May 10, 2021

    With all these test requirements and several scholarships to study in the U.S.A the life of an international student seems a little less complex.


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