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Study Abroad Exam Guide: IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT & More

Apr 29, 2023

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Thousands of students travel throughout the world each year to pursue higher education abroad. The scenario for education abroad has significantly expanded to accommodate students with various academic backgrounds and interests, so certain prerequisites need to be satisfied to be admitted to a prestigious university or institution abroad. To be eligible, students must get decent scores on the language proficiency and aptitude tests.

Competitive "study abroad" exams also assist students in obtaining scholarships and other forms of financial aid for continuing their education. In several countries, students need to present scores from tests like the GRE, GMAT, SAT, and IELTS to seek admission. To help you understand the specifics of these exams thoroughly, let's analyse and understand the test preparation for SAT, GMAT, GRE, IELTS, and TOEFL.

Types of exams for studying abroad

Qualifying exams to be eligible for higher education abroad generally fall into two categories: aptitude tests and language proficiency tests. The following sections contain a detailed explanation of them to help you get a better insight into the necessary exams you need to apply for studying abroad –

Language proficiency exams

Language proficiency exams determine a person's ability to comprehend a foreign language, mainly English, for most universities. The language proficiency exam sometimes depends on the language spoken in the nation you intend to study. The most popular language proficiency tests would be the English proficiency tests such as IELTS and TOEFL because English is the language of teaching in the top universities.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most popular language proficiency exams. The widely accepted standardised English proficiency exam measures a person's expertise in reading, writing, and speaking English. IELTS is graded on a band system curated by the British Council and IDP. The majority of countries demand a band of 6 to 6.5 for student visas; however, prestigious universities may require a band of 7 or above to provide admission.

The exam is valid for almost 24 months after the declaration of results. So, if you were to take the exam on June 1, 2021, you may use the results up to May 31, 2023, for both visa applications and other purposes. However, what you must keep in mind is that the majority of student visas demand that you have a score that will be valid while you are travelling. So, if you are thinking about appearing for IELTS and are in need of academic guidance, try to get IELTS coaching to help you through the syllabus modules.


The TOEFL, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language, is a popular language competence test. The test is widely recognised in the United States, although several European nations, Canada, and Australia may not accept it as an admission prerequisite. Similar to the IELTS test, the TOEFL evaluates applicants' proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English. Universities usually set the bar by requiring a minimum score of 80 or 90 on a scale of 120.

Like IELTS, the score for TOEFL is valid for two years from the date of application. TOEFL tests are usually tough, and you may need guidance for the same. So, to help you prepare better for the TOEFL exams, you could opt for offline or TOEFL online coaching at your convenience.

Also, you must take note that there are additional tests for language proficiency that you might have to take. For instance, a student may need to take the relevant German language test if they intend to study in Germany and apply for a German course. However, for most European nations, courses are now taught in English, so they accept the IELTS for entry and grant of student visas. 

Aptitude Tests

The primary purpose of aptitude tests is to evaluate an applicant's mental readiness for the chosen subject. While GRE (Graduate Record Exams) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) are both required for admission to postgraduate programmes at foreign universities, the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, is used for undergraduate admissions.

  • SAT

The Scholastic Assessment Test is a mandatory prerequisite for admission to undergraduate courses at US and Canadian universities. Although universities in the United Kingdom do not require the SAT, many prestigious universities abroad prefer applicants with an SAT score. 

The test consists of three sections: evidence-based reading and writing, maths, and a basic aptitude test. Another added section in the SAT is the essay section; however, foreign universities occasionally do not consider the score of the essay section. Out of the total of 1600 points, an SAT score of at least 1200 is required for admission to the most prestigious universities. So, make sure you have proper test preparation for the SAT before you sit for the examinations.

  • GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is one of the most popular aptitude tests. It is a graduate-level qualifying test, and numerous universities use the score to admit students to their various courses. This multiple-choice computerised exam is accepted for entrance to business, engineering, and even social science courses. 

  • GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test is one of the most preferred aptitude tests in the world, accepted by numerous global universities for admission. The top universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, Europe and others accept the preferred score for enrolment in all management-related courses. The GMAT is a computerised online aptitude test that evaluates students' analytical writing, verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, and mathematical reasoning skills, much like the CAT in India. Out of the total score of 800 marks, a GMAT score of about 650 is a minimum requirement for admission to many good B-schools abroad. 

Apart from GRE and GMAT, there are other specialised examinations like USMLE, LSAT and so on, which are required for admission to different professional examinations. Also, many countries have specific aptitude examinations conducted in the native language for admission to various professional courses.

Parting thoughts

Students should remember that while aptitude tests may or may not be required for admission abroad, language proficiency exams are generally a prerequisite for courses or visa applications. Students must therefore have thorough knowledge about the university they wish to apply to and be aware of its particular admission criteria. Also, you can always write to the university and ask for clarification if you are unsure about any admission prerequisite. Some colleges might also ask you to sit for specific tests even if it is not required. Hence, the first rule is to complete your research before selecting the exam you want to take. Also, contact KC Overseas Education for detailed information regarding language proficiency and aptitude tests.


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