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Exams Required to Study in USA

Updated on 01 February, 2024

Gauri Agrawal

Gauri Agrawal

Sr. Content Writer

Prospective college and university students in the USA have to undergo various standardized tests to prove their language proficiency and academic qualifications. But are these exams really important to take? Recent reports suggest that students who rely solely on their academic records may face increased rejection rates at institutions where these standardized tests are considered optional. This article will provide you with a comprehensive list of the examinations vital for pursuing higher education in the USA, with fee details and other important information.

What Exams Are Required to Study in USA 

ACT (American College Test) 

The multiple-choice test is a standardized college admission test. It evaluates critical thinking and analytical skills to understand the readiness of students to join a college. The official ACT scores vary depending on the universities and courses one is applying for. The minimum accepted score is 22 in general. Here are the further details related to ACT Exam

Exam duration3 hours, 35 minutes (writing included)
Exam fees

$68.00 (without writing) 

$93.00 ( with writing)

Number of SectionsMath, English, Reading, Science
Qualifying score24
Who should apply for the ACTHigh school graduates applying for UG courses, stronghold on science, trigonometry and English

SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test)

SAT Exam is a multiple-choice test that helps in evaluating students’ knowledge in writing, reading, and mathematics. This paper-based test also helps to obtain grants from the government. The College Board examines students applying for admission in undergraduate courses by looking at the SAT scores. Top universities accept SAT scores in the USA, including Harvard. Many universities in India also accept SAT scores for admission.

Exam duration3 hours, 50 minutes (writing included)
Exam fees$60
Number of SectionsReading, Writing and Language, Mathematics
Qualifying score


Who should apply for the SATHigh school graduates applying for UG courses, strong problem-solving capability 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

GRE Test is mandatory if you are applying for engineering and a master’s in the USA. Along with GRE, there are subject-specific tests that one can take up. Some business schools have also started accepting GRE scores for admission in MBA. The test comprises three different sections and is accepted by more than 1400 universities across the globe. It is available in online and offline mode.

Type of testGeneral test and Subject test
SectionsAnalytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning
Score 160
Test DurationGeneral- 3 hours, 45 minutesSubject- 2 hours, 50 minutes
Who can take the testStudents aiming to take admission in MBA, MS, and law etc.
Exam fees


Subject- $150

USA Free Course

The USA hosts the largest number of international students from across the world. Over the past few years, it has become one of the most popular destinations for studying abroad. Reasons such as best-ranked institutions, excellent support facilities, flexible academic environment, and cultural diversity contribute to making it the most preferred destination amongst students planning to study abroad.

LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

To take admission in law, taking up LSAT is mandatory for students. The accepted score for the LSAT is 130. However, if you want to take admission in top law schools such as Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and more, you will have to score higher than 160.

Exam duration2 hours, 20 minutes
Exam fees$222 ( includes writing)
Number of sectionsAnalytical Reasoning, Logical Reasoning I, Logical Reasoning II, and Reading Comprehension.
Qualifying score150-160
Who should apply for LSATStudents aiming to enroll in law schools

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

GMAT exam is mandatory if you aim to take admission in top B-schools in the USA. The average score students need to score is around 700. A GMAT score is required if you wish to pursue an MBA in the USA. Please note that though many universities do not require GMAT scores while taking admission, companies ask for it while interviewing.

Exam duration3 hours, 07 minutes (excluding two 8-minute breaks)
Exam fees$275
Number of SectionsIntegrated Reasoning, verbal Reasoning, quantitative Reasoning writing
Qualifying score650-700
Who should apply for GMATStudents enrolling for MBA

MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)

Students aspiring to enroll in medical school need to appear for the MCAT. The computer-based test evaluates biological and physical science, writing skills, and verbal reasoning. There are also psychological, biological, and social behavior foundation sections. MCAT is generally a success predictor test that officials use to determine whether you can survive through the course and its rigorous curriculum.

Exam duration7 hours, 30 minutes
Exam fees$330
Number of Sections
  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems.
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems.
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour.
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Qualifying score500-650
Who should apply for MCATStudents aiming to enroll in medical schools

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

Almost all the universities in the USA accept IELTS scores to measure the English Proficiency of international students. However, many universities do not require the IELTS score if you have documents to support your language knowledge. 

Exam duration2 hours, 45 minutes
Exam feesINR 16,500
Number of SectionsSpeaking, Reading, Writing, & Listening
Qualifying score6.0 to 8.0
Who should apply for IELTSStudents aiming to enroll in best universities of the USA

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

The TOEFL Exam is one of the majorly used English language frequency tests to determine the required language knowledge. Students aspiring to enroll in Ph.D. will also have to take the test and score higher to be eligible. However, you need to consult with the university you are enrolling to confirm the exam scores that they require for admission.

Exam duration2 hours, 30 minutes
Exam fees$255
Number of SectionsSpeaking, reading, writing, & listening
Qualifying score600 to 900
Who should apply for TOEFLStudents aiming to enroll in best universities of the USA

PTE (Pearson English Test)

PTE is an English language computer-based exam commonly accepted by all the universities around the globe. For students seeking to study in a major English-speaking country, the PTE-academic test is most beneficial to them. It is a computer-based test and recently has launched the test-from-home format. 

Exam duration3 hours
Exam fees$235 
Number of SectionsSpeaking, Reading, Writing, & Listening
Qualifying score600 to 900
Who should apply for PTEStudents aiming to enroll in best US universities

The above-mentioned entrance exams are needed to study different programs in the US. To choose the exam that best suits you, consider your preferred course, college, and university. If you score exceptionally high marks in these exams required to study in the US, the university may grant leverage to lighten your financial burden. US universities offer various scholarships for international students based on their entrance scores. To know more about what exams are required to study in specific US universities, you can connect with our upGrad professionals now.


Ques: Is the SAT exam necessary to study in the USA?

Ans:  Most colleges in the USA have made SAT scores optional. Some may require you to submit the SAT score according to the course you are applying for.

Ques: What exams are required to study in the USA after the 12th?

Ans: An applicant must have achieved a required number of English language proficiency test scores such as IELTS or TOEFL. To get admission to a US university, students must acquire a minimum required score in the standardized examinations such as SAT or ACT.

Ques: Do USA universities accept IELTS or TOEFL?

Ans: Both IELTS and TOEFL are widely accepted by US colleges and universities, but some institutions may prefer one exam over the other. It's important to research which exam your chosen institutions prefer before registering for a test.

Gauri Agrawal

Sr. Content Writer

Gauri Agrawal is a passionate, professional and proactive content marketer who wants to grow in the field of content creation. She carries a rich experience of working in the Digital News sector with renowned names like Times Now Digital, and News X as a Copy Editor.

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