Standardized test scores are key criteria for admission into universities in the USA. All students who dream of studying in the States must provide these scores along with their application to be seriously considered for admission. There are many different and often competing tests which you can give. Depending on your desired course, level of education and target universities, you may have to give one or more entrance tests.
All major educational institutions in the USA require foreign students to pass an English proficiency test. The TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) is the most popular with American universities though some will accept IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores as well. For entrance to undergraduate courses SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) scores are required, which measure your proficiency in English reading, writing and math. There are also special subject-SATs you can take for certain specialized courses.
For post-graduate courses, US colleges require GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, which is an aptitude test with a verbal, quantitative and analytical writing section. Then, there are various field specific tests like the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) which you will need for admission into advanced study courses in many locations.
Like all examinations, these tests too carry with them a superfluous cloud of stress and pressure. With the requisite preparation and a clear focus, you can ace these tests with ease. Here are a few tips to help you pass these tests with flying colours:
With the power of the internet on your side, you can easily find out exactly which exams you need to give and how to start writing these tests. All the necessary information is on the internet and nowadays you can even register for these tests online.
The flip-side to the excellent online resources is that often you will be overwhelmed by information. It’s important to get all the details straight so the next step is to focus on finding the details which are relevant to you. Carefully compile all the documents you will need and figure out the step by step process from registering to results delivery.
Define Your Targets
It is important to identify exactly what your target score is. This will depend on the country you need a visa for, the university you are applying to, the specific course you wish to pursue as well as any scholarships you hope to get. Each of these may have separate minimum requirements. Having a crystal clear goal in your mind will help you focus and study better.
Sometimes the study material is available online, while at other times you can buy textbooks from the market. Go for second hand books to avoid extra expenses and study diligently.
Follow your Schedules
Some tests don’t require much preparation, like the IELTS and TOEFL, but others like the SAT will require a good bit of studying. There are a million things to do when applying to US universities. It can become very easy to be lax about studying for these exams. So create a well-structured study plan to figure out how and when you will cover all the information you have to.
Talk to people
It is always helpful to get the perspective of someone with experience. Talk to people who have given the test in recent years. They will have invaluable insights on seemingly unimportant details which you may have overlooked. Another great option is to browse the internet for educational forums which host relevant discussions.
Major entrance tests almost always have the option to sit a practice test online before the actual test. Practicing the test beforehand will do wonders for your confidence. You’ll get the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the format. Moreover, you will get a chance to see your mistakes and learn from them.
Most of these tests have rules over and above the general exam room etiquette. Check up on exam room protocols, like which writing instrument to use, how to identify yourself on the answer paper and so on. Be prepared for any eventualities to avoid last minute hassles.
The key thing is to keep calm and organized. These are standardized tests which provide fair and equitable results. Don’t see them as hurdles to be overcome; instead view them as a good opportunity to distinguish your application and gain a competitive edge.