Entrance Exams

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This article will brief you on some of the significant examinations that you will need to take in order to pursue your education abroad.


1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

What is it about?

TOEFL is an English language proficiency test that gives you an advantage at thousands of universities around the world by helping you stand out during your admissions. The general rule of thumb is that all non-native English speakers who are international students will need to take this test and submit their test scores during admission.

Who can and should take it?

TOEFL scores are used by universities during the admission process. TOEFL is taken by students who wish to attend school abroad. As the level of the test is quite high, it is suitable for candidates studying at high school level or higher.

Exam Structure (of iBT)

Since most people prefer to take the TOEFL iBT (InterntBased Test), its structure has been described as follows:

The duration of the test is approximately 3.5 to 4 hours with the time split between the following 4 sections.

1. Reading (36-56 questions): 64-72 minutes

You will read passages and answer questions. Most reading questions will be of the multiple choice type.

2. Listening (34-51 questions): 41-57 minutes.

You will listen to lectures/ conversations and answer questions.

3. Speaking (6 tasks): 17 minutes.

You will answer prompts on familiar topics.

4. Writing (2 tasks): 50 minutes.

You will compare a passage and a lecture and write your opinion on a given topic.

Validity and Number of Attempts

TOEFL scores are valid for two years. This test can be attempted as many times as the candidate wants. However, there must be a 12 day gap between retakes.

How much does it cost?

The registration fee in India is $180.

2. International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic

What is it?

Jointly managed by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English, IELTS is an international standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native speakers. IELTS scores are accepted by most academic institutions in over 140 countries including the US, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand, among others.

Who can and should take it?

The IELTS Academic is taken by students who wish to study for higher education in a country where most communication is in English. Their admission to an academic institution may be based on the results of the IELTS Academic. For taking the IELTS, you must have a valid passport and must be of at least 16 years of age.

Exam Structure

There are 4 sections: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

1. Listening (40 questions): 30 minutes.

2. Reading (60 questions): 60 minutes.

3. Writing (2 questions): 60 minutes.

4. Speaking (3 questions): 11 to 14 minutes.

The total duration of the exam is 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Validity and Number of Attempts

Usually, the IELTS report will be valid for a period of 2 years after which you will need to retake the test unless the candidate proves that they have worked to maintain their level. There is no limit as to the number of times you can take the IELTS until you are satisfied with your score.

How much does it cost?

The cost to take the IELTS in India is Rs 13,250.


IELTS is not taken as often as the TOEFL by students looking to attend graduate schools in the US, however it is more popular in the UK and Australia. While both TOEFL and IELTS are accepted by most schools, it is better to take the one that might be preferred by the schools. For example, the majority of schools in the US seem to prefer TOEFL scores over other English language proficiency tests.

Part II: GMAT and GRE

3. Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

What is it?

The GMAT is a standardized test that intends to assess the candidates analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English. The test predicts a candidates success in graduate business programs.

Who can and should take it?

If you wish to do an MBA, then taking GMAT is essential as GMAT scores are a prerequisite in more than ? of the business schools around the world to gain admission.

In order to take this test, you need to be of at least 18 years of age. Candidates between 13 to 17 years of age must get a written proof of permission from their guardian. There is no upper age limit for GMAT. The examinee must also have an undergraduate degree (discipline no bar) from a recognized university.

Exam Structure and Syllabus

The exam is divided into 4 sections, namely, Analytical Writing Assessment (1 essay question), Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), Verbal Reasoning (36 questions) and Quantitative Reasoning (31 questions). All together, the tests takes 3 hours and 7 minutes to complete with the time divided between various sections as follows:

Section NameDuration
Analytical Writing Assessment30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning30 minutes
Verbal Reasoning65 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning62 minutes
Total3 Hours, 7 minutes

In addition, GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT), meaning, it is a computer based test that adapts to the examinees level. Also called tailored testing, in a CAT, the next questions are tailored based on the correctness of the examinees answers to the recent questions. Examinees cannot go back and change answers. GMAT is thus, a test of ability.

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

The AWA tests your essay writing skills and your ability to communicate your ideas effectively and formulate an appropriate and constructive assessment.

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

This section tests your logical reasoning ability and the questions in this are divided into 4 types: Table Analysis, Two-Part Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning, Graphics Interpretation.

Verbal Ability (VA)

This section will test the examinee on their reading ability, reasoning ability and your argument assessment skills. The questions are divided into three categories: Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension and Sentence Correction.

Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

The questions in this section are divided into two types: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. In this section, the examinee will have to deal with Arithmetic problems, Elementary Algebra problems, Geometry Concepts and Word problems.

Validity and Number of Attempts

GMAT scores are valid for a period of 5 years. However, if you are not satisfied with your results, you can retake the test once every 16 days. You may not take the test more than 5 times a year, though. If you score a GMAT 800, you must wait 5 years before you can retake the test.

How much does it cost?

Irrespective of where you are in the world, the registration fee for GMAT is $250.

4. Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test

What is it?

The GRE General Test is a standardized test that is a prerequisite for admissions in many graduate schools in the US or Canada.

Who can and should take it?

Graduate and business school applicants from all around the world take the GRE General Test. There is no official age or education qualification bar for taking the GRE. However, your education qualification might matter at the of admission in any institution in addition to your GRE scores.

Exam Structure and Syllabus

The GRE is divided into three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. Since examinees are tested on skills that are developed over a long period of time, GRE is not limited to just a particular area of study.

With 1000+ test centres around the world, the test is either computer based or paper based. In areas where the computer delivered tests are available, it is available on a continuous basis throughout the year. In other areas, the paper delivered tests are available twice a year, once in February and once in November. The overall duration of the examination is 3 hours and 30 minutes.

Structure of computer delivered test

1. Analytical Writing (1 section with two separately timed tasks): 30 minutes per task.

2. Verbal Reasoning (2 sections with 20 questions each): 30 minutes per section.

3. Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections with 20 questions each): 35 minutes per section

4. Research: Time varies (unscored).

5. Unscored: TIme varies (unscored, for research purposes).

Structure of paper delivered test

1. Analytical Writing (2 sections): 30 minutes per section

2. Verbal Reasoning (2 sections with 25 questions per section): 35 minutes per section.

3. Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections with 25 questions per section): 40 minutes per section.

Unlike GMAT, GRE allows you to go back and change your answers.

Validity and Number of Attempts

GRE scores are valid for 5 years. There is no fixed number of attempts that one can take, however, there must be a 21 day gap between two consecutive tests that an examinee can appear in. The examinee can only take the test a maximum of 5 times in a year.

How much does it cost?

The GRE General Test costs $230 in Australia, $231.30 in China, $226 in Nigeria, $225 in Turkey and $205 in all other areas of the world

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