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Exams to Study Abroad

From India: A Complete Guide

Overseas Education Path, Essential Exams for Indian Students

Exams for studying abroad

Everything you need to know so you can prepare better. Get the right advice for great scores.
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Best Exams To Study Abroad

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Exams For Study Abroad

Setting your sights on studying abroad opens up a world of opportunities. To turn this dream into reality, preparing for exams to study abroad after 10th and 12th is a key step.

There are so many standardised tests available, like the TOEFL, IELTS, SAT, ACT, GRE, and more. Understanding the difference between these can make all the difference. These exams are your gateway to global education, helping you cross borders for your academic journey.

So, if you want to study abroad after 12th grade, read on. Getting into your dream university always requires taking these standardised exams. These exams demonstrate your skills and readiness for a global academic environment.

But with so many exams out there, where do you start? This guide will help you understand different exams to study abroad and make the best choices for your journey.

So you want to study abroad after 10th and 12th. There are broadly three kinds of exams you will need to take: language, academic, and graduate admission. The language exams are to show universities that you can communicate and understand academic English. The academic exams show that you have enough knowledge in the subjects you plan to study.

So, let us break down the study abroad exams that you will need.

  • English Language Exams

Here, you have four main choices. Each of these exams will test you in four sections: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In many cases, you will be working with academic English material.

For example, you will be reading academic topics and answering questions. You will be listening to the audio of a lecture being given in college. You will be writing on academic topics as well. This aims to prove that you know the English language well enough not to be hindered by it in college/university.

Your four main options are as under.

1. IELTS

IELTS is short for "International English Language Testing System". It is one of the most popular English study abroad exams. It's widely accepted by institutions in English-speaking countries.

A good score demonstrates your readiness to undertake education in an English-medium environment. The test format includes academic and general training versions, but for college, you will need the academic version.

Read more: IELTS.

2. TOEFL

While the IELTS is very popular, another exam that is just as widely accepted is the TOEFL. This stands for the "Test Of English as a Foreign Language". Many people who target the US to study abroad after 10th and 12th opt for the TOEFL. Where the IELTS scores you out of 7 "bands", the TOEFL is more nuanced, with a total possible score of 120.

The TOEFL is said to better simulate academic English environments than the other options on this list of English study abroad exams. That is why universities use your TOEFL score to see if you're ready for classroom learning.

Read more: TOEFL.

3. PTE Academic

PTE stands for the "Pearson Test of English". The "academic" at the end simply means that your academic English is being tested because the PTE is also available in a "General" track.

However, you will need the academic track to study abroad after 10th and 12th, hence the PTE Academic. It is just as widely accepted as the IELTS and TOEFL, but is not offered everywhere in India. That is why it is a little harder to get free resources for.

Read more: PTE Academic.

4. Duolingo English Test

Lastly, we have the DET or Duolingo English Test. This test is fairly recent, and not accepted everywhere. However, the test is much cheaper than the other options ($59 vs. $300+ for the others) and is available on multiple devices.

Not all, but an increasing number of universities accept it. For example, Trinity College Dublin (120+), Baruch College (105+), and UC Cork (120+) spring to mind as accepting the DET for admission.

For all of these, your scores are valid for two years, so if you are looking to study abroad after 10th or study abroad after 12th, that's where you start.

You cannot go wrong with choosing any of those four to prove your English skills to study abroad after 10 + 2. You can look at standardised academic exams once that is out of the way.

Standardised Academic Exams

There are four main types of study abroad exams for you to consider here. The SAT, the ACT, and subject-specific AP exams.

SAT

SAT stands for "Scholastic Aptitude Test" and is a requirement for many US colleges. It tests your maths, reading, and writing skills and has an optional essay component. Remember that not all colleges require the SAT essay, but certain courses (departments) might.

Write to your target university and confirm, as not having an essay for a required course may impact your score. Also, taking the SAT with an essay component costs a little more than the regular exam. Here is a breakdown of the SAT costs, at the time of writing.

Learn more: Free mock SAT Papers.

ACT

The ACT is another option for college admissions. It's similar to the SAT, with English, maths, reading, and science sections. ACT stands for "American College Testing", but the scores are widely accepted by other countries.

Choosing between the SAT and ACT can be tough. Like the IELTS vs. TOEFL situation, people applying to the US generally choose the ACT. If you're applying to other countries as well, the SAT tends to be a little more widely accepted.

Learn more: Free mock ACT paper.

AP Exams

AP or "Advanced Placement" exams are another option that students look at when they want to study abroad after 10th and 12th. These are subject-specific exams (history, American history, European history, computers, and so on). Each exam is scored out of 5, but the amazing thing is that they can count towards college level. You know how your college degree is broken down into "modules"?

Well, an ACT exam is just like a mini-module at the college level. So, if your chosen degree has the same material as the ACT exam, you can show your ACT score and skip it. This helps thousands of students save on some course fees each year.

Each ACT exam has a unique subject code. Write an email to your target college and ask if they accept that ACT score. Sometimes, they may say that they accept it for admission consideration only, and sometimes, they will give you course credit for it.

JEE

Yes, you read that right. India's toughest examination is accepted by a great number of foreign universities as well. However, these universities only accept your JEE advanced scores, not the JEE Mains.

The prime example here is Nanyang Technological University, one of the best in the world. They ask for JEE advanced for admission to their engineering programs. Below is a screenshot of their website.

  • Graduate Admission Exams

Just like you had the SAT and ACT for undergraduate study, you will have the GRE and the GMAT for graduate programs. Here is a breakdown of each.

GRE

The GRE stands for "Graduate Record Examination." It's a common requirement for various graduate programs, not just business school. The GRE tests your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Think of it as a more advanced version of the SAT or ACT tailored to graduate-level thinking.

A strong GRE score demonstrates your readiness for the rigours of graduate studies. Universities look at your score alongside other application materials like transcripts and essays.

GMAT

The GMAT stands for "Graduate Management Admission Test." This exam is specifically designed for business school admissions (like getting an MBA). It tests your maths, reasoning, and language skills relevant to the business world.

Universities use your GMAT score to assess your potential for success in their MBA programs. While business schools are the primary users, some other specialised master's programs might also accept the GMAT.

Read more: GMAT vs GRE: Understand the Difference Between the GRE and GMAT.

Universities will ask for one of the two exams, especially in quantitative fields like finance, science, and management.

Here is a quick checklist that outlines the student requirements for study abroad courses.

Next, let us look at a high-level overview of what the process to study abroad applications looks like.

The path to college abroad after 12th begins well before the application deadlines creep near. Here is what the process should look like for students from India.

Let us assume you are currently in class 10 and are targeting 2026 to study abroad after 10th and 12th.

1. For undergraduate programs

  • In 2024 (Class 11)

You will need to take your first round of exams in 2024, which would be in grade 11. Tackle the SAT, ACT, IELTS, TOEFL, and/or AP exams, preferably in the first half of the year. This leaves ample time for resit attempts and score improvements if required.

  • 2025 (Class 12)
  • Finalise University Choices. Narrow down your target universities based on your research and exam scores.
  • Prepare Documents. Get your transcripts and recommendation letters, and start working on your application essays. Your school will be able to assist you with getting a full transcript.
  • Apply to Universities. Submit applications according to university deadlines. Many US universities have deadlines in fall/winter of the year before your intake. For the UK you will need the UCAS application. For the US you will need either the Common App or the Coalition App.
  • Financial Planning. Explore scholarships and finalise how you will finance your studies.

2. For graduate programs

  • 2025 (Final Year of Undergraduate Studies)
  • Research. Explore graduate programs, universities, and their specific requirements. Pay attention to deadlines and any pre-requisite courses.
  • Take Required Exams. Schedule and take the GRE and/or GMAT, leaving time for potential retakes. Start early in the year for better preparation time.
  • 2026 (Year of Graduation)
  • Finalise University List. Shortlist universities based on your research, scores, and fit with your goals.
  • Gather Documents. Get your transcripts and recommendation letters, and start drafting your statement of purpose.

Apply to Universities. Submit applications as per deadlines, usually falling in fall/winter for a fall intake the following year. Also, note that if you went to a foreign college after 12th, they usually offer an "alumni benefit", either in terms of tuition or in ease of admission.

Financial Planning. Look into scholarships to fund your studies. Other financial aid paths that open up for master's students are fellowships and assistantships.

If you haven't been able to narrow down on a university, or if you've narrowed down on a university but haven't figured out funding, GradRight is here to help. We have two tools to help you: SelectRight and FundRight.

  • Find your best university, with SelectRight

SelectRight's AI-powered platform finds your best-fit programs based on your profile, preferences, and exam scores.

It helps you avoid programs you're unlikely to get into and discover hidden gems. Don't gamble on your future. Find your perfect university with SelectRight. Start exploring now.

  • Find your best student loan, with FundRight

FundRight connects you with scholarships and loans, offering competitive rates and personalised guidance to make your study abroad dream a reality.

You don’t need to waste time looking for financial security, as we’ve done all the hard work for you. Join the 60,000 students who found their best loan with FundRight. Check your offers.

Take a look at the statistics below. It shows the most popular courses in Australia that international students opt for.

Now look at the same statistics, but for France.

Though the graphs are specific to Australia and France, they hold fairly true for the US, UK, Ireland and Canada as well. At the very least, it gives you a general idea of which courses Indian international students would aim for.

Key takeaway: Business, IT, Engineering, and the Arts are the most popular fields of study.

With that in mind, here are the most popular programs and the cutoffs they require. Needless to say, all of them ask for good grades in school and undergraduate college, these are additional.

1. Undergraduate

  • BBA/BSc Finance. Often require SAT/ACT. Top schools might look for 1400+ on the SAT. SAT scores typically range from 1350 to 1500, and ACT scores from 29 to 34 for top programs.
  • BSc Engineering. SAT/ACT are important, focus on high maths scores. Top programs (like MIT: https://mitadmissions.org/apply/process/stats/) expect near-perfect scores.

2. Graduate

  • MBA Programs. For MBA admissions, GMAT is the standard. A score of 700+ is considered competitive for A-tier universities. (Harvard Business School: https://www.hbs.edu/mba/admissions/Pages/default.aspx). For others, GMAT scores of 650+ are common among top programs. Some may also accept GRE scores, with competitive scores typically being 320+.
  • MSc Engineering/Computer Science. Indian students would need to take the GRE, which is often a mandatory requirement. Strong scores in the quantitative section are key for selective programs. However, there is no generalised score available, as individual universities have specific requirements. Quantitative scores above 165 are often preferred for competitive schools.
  • Masters in Law (LLM). Primarily focus on English proficiency (TOEFL/IELTS), but top schools will factor in your overall academic record. However, some will also require the LSAT. For programs requiring the LSAT, scores above 160 are often sought after.

Important:  Cutoffs are just one factor in admissions. Universities also consider essays, recommendations, and overall profile including co-curricular and extracurricular work.

Aside from being mandatory requirements in most cases, there are other benefits to giving these study abroad exams as well.

  • Standardised Assessment. These exams provide universities with a way to compare students from different backgrounds fairly.
  • Global Recognition. Scores from these exams are recognized worldwide, providing you with a wide range of study options.
  • Scholarship Opportunities. Exceptional scores can qualify you for scholarships, reducing financial burdens.
  • Skill Development. Studying for these exams improves your English, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
  • Preparation for University. The rigour of these exams helps you get ready for the academic challenges of studying abroad.

Remember, even if you don't immediately get your dream score, the process of preparing and taking these exams is valuable in itself!

Get answers to FAQs about studying abroad, learn about requirements, and explore the benefits. Start your journey to global education with this guide.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, 13,00,000 Indian students enrolled in different programs across 79 foreign destinations.

When you choose to study abroad in foreign universities, you take the first step towards a promising future. Universities abroad have better infrastructure and amenities. Moreover, a global degree opens doors in the job market. Most of all, there is the lure of permanent residency and finally citizenship abroad.

Here’s everything you need to know about the study abroad journey option of study abroad loans.

Below are some general tips that will help you prepare for the exams on this list.

2. Admission Eligibility tests (GRE, GMAT)

ETS for GRE and GMAC for GMAT provide official resources and practice tests. These materials are essential for understanding the exam formats and types of questions.

Focus on building strong quantitative skills and expanding your vocabulary for the verbal sections.

Regularly take full-length mock tests to build stamina and improve time management.

Here is a sample GRE paper.

Here is a sample GMAT paper.

And with that, we come to the end of this chapter on which exams you need to take to study abroad. We hope you found it useful, and we’ll see you in the next one.

Happy Stories

Is it more expensive to study abroad compared to my home country? 

This depends on the university and destination. However, there are scholarships and financial aid options to help offset costs. You can use tools like FundRight to plan your finances better. Also, some countries allow tuition-free study if you can speak the native language. Examples: Germany, Portugal, Latvia, Romania, Russia.

I'm good at English in everyday life. Do I still need to take a formal test? 

Universities usually require an official English proficiency exam to ensure you can handle academic coursework. However, you can get a waiver if your undergraduate degree was in English. Also if you score well in your high school English, some universities will again waive the English requirement. Example: NTU Singapore waives their IELTS requirement if your high school degree is in english.

How early should I start preparing for my study abroad exams?

Ideally, start preparing 6 to 12 months in advance. This gives you ample time to familiarise yourself with the exam formats and identify areas needing improvement.

Are there benefits to taking both the SAT and ACT?

Yes, some students find they perform better on one test over the other. Additionally, having scores for both might offer more flexibility in choosing universities.

For graduate programs, how do I decide between the GRE and GMAT?

This depends on your field of study. Generally, the GRE is more versatile, while the GMAT is preferred for business programs. Check your prospective programs' requirements for guidance.