Everything you need to know about admission tests in the U.S.

Most U.S. colleges and universities require undergraduate or graduate applicants to take one or more standardized admissions tests-usually the SAT and TOEFL. These tests are designed to assess an applicant's academic knowledge and competence to provide a common measure to compare the abilities of students from a variety of educational backgrounds. These scores are sent with the other documents when the application is made.

Generally, universities determine an international student's ability after reviewing all of the above criteria, including whether their English language skills are sufficient to successfully complete their academic program. Some schools may place more weight on these results than others. There are several factors that complicate the interpretation of standardized test scores of international students. For example, the degree of English proficiency may affect your eligibility. In addition, school officials must take into account the cultural and educational background of foreign students, since the tests were developed for U.S.-educated students.

Institutions may also give more weight to certain sections of the English proficiency tests, such as grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing. Some departments may consider it crucial to have high scores in listening and speaking, while others may feel it is important to have high performance in reading and writing. Since many graduate students work as teaching assistants, some departments expect them to excel primarily in speaking.

Pre-med students, meanwhile, will have to take an entirely different test called the MCAT and those who want to enter business majors at Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg or Wharton will have to take the GMAT or GRE exams to gain admission.

Didn't you know that there were so many admission tests to get into an American university? Well here we will detail each of them for you:

For undergraduate admissions:

Scholastic Assessment Test or Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): consists of multiple choice questions and an essay that measure the skills you have developed in school and your ability to apply them. SAT scores help colleges make admissions decisions by providing an indicator of your academic readiness to do college-level work. The test includes two sections composed of three tests: Reading, Math, Writing, and Language Arts, plus an optional Essay. Some colleges may require the essay, so be sure to ask before taking the SAT.

Who is required to take the SAT?

Students who want to apply to a four-year degree program at a college or university in the United States; most have this test as a prerequisite.

American College Testing (ACT): is an entrance exam used by most colleges and universities to make admissions decisions. It is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test. Its purpose is to measure a student's readiness and to provide colleges with a common data point that can be used to compare all applicants. The importance of ACT scores in the college application process varies from school to school.

Who should take the ACT?

Since this test serves the same purpose as the SAT, it should also be taken by any student who wants to pursue a four-year degree at a college or university in the United States.

You are not required to take both the SAT and the ACT; one test will suffice.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): the most respected English language test in the world, recognized by more than 9,000 colleges, universities and agencies. The TOEFL iBT test measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level and to combine your listening, reading, speaking and writing skills.

Who should take the TOEFL?

Students planning to study at an institution of higher education, candidates for scholarships and certifications, English language learners who want to track their progress, and students and workers who want to apply for visas.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS): is, like the TOEFL, a test designed to assess the language ability of non-native speakers of English for admission to higher education and other purposes. The IELTS tests all four language skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Who must take IELTS?

There are two versions of IELTS. The Academic Module is for students who wish to pursue higher education where English is the language used to communicate. While the General Training Module is designed for those who plan to study in secondary education, non-university programs or vocational training.

As is also the case with the SAT and ACT, it is not necessary to take both tests-the TOEFL and the IELTS-one is more than enough.

For graduate admissions and specializations:

Graduate Record Examinations (GRE): for those wishing to study liberal arts, science or mathematics.

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): for those who want to enter business schools/studies for MBA (Master in Business Administration) programs.

Law School Admission Testing Program (LSAT): required for admission to law schools.

Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): for applicants to medical schools.

Dental Admission Testing Program (DAT): for those seeking admission to dental schools.

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT): a prerequisite to begin studying pharmacy.

Optometry Admission Testing Program (OAT): standardized test for admission to optometry schools.

As you can see, the tests to enter an American university are varied, however, to study undergraduate careers the SAT/ACT and the TOEFL/IELTS are indispensable. But if, on the other hand, you want to specialize or do a postgraduate degree, there are specific exams that you will have to take, you just have to find out which one your school requires.