Top Exams Required to Study in the USA for Masters & Undergrads


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Shireen Parhee

Lead, Content Marketing

You’ve finally narrowed down your dream US university, a perfect fit for your academic aspirations.  


The excitement is real – you can practically feel the energy of that bustling campus. 


But then, reality hits: standardized tests. 


The acronyms – SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT—almost make you unsure about what exams are required to study in the USA.  


That’s why we have put together this simple guide for you. 


Table of contents:

  • What exams are required to study in the USA? 
  • English proficiency test exams to study in the USA
  • Exams to study in USA for Undergraduate programs
  • Exams to study in USA for Master’s programs
  • Top courses and universities to study in the USA
  • Why choose USA as a country for your higher studies
  • FAQs: Top exams to study in USA

What exams are required to study in USA

There are multiple exams for international students who are willing to start their studying journey in the USA. This guide will be your roadmap to knowing exactly what exams are required to study in the USA for both undergraduate and graduate programs. 

English Language Proficiency

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System
  • Duolingo English Test

Undergraduate Admissions

  • SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
  • ACT (American College Testing)
  • GED (General Educational Development)

Graduate Admissions (Professional Programs)

  • GRE (Graduate Record Examinations)
  • GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test)
  • LSAT (Law School Admission Test)
  • MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)


We’ll break down the different tests, their purposes, and which tests you can apply to your specific academic goals. Let’s keep reading to find out.

English Proficiency Test Exams to Study in USA

Before you dive into campus life, there’s an important step: demonstrating your English language proficiency.


US universities rely on these exams to ensure international students can succeed in their academic environment.


Since they’re a part of the admission process, and there’s no way you can escape it, let us look into the most widely accepted English language exams for US universities.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a widely taken test that evaluates your ability to understand and use English at the university level. 


The average TOEFL scores required by universities range from 75 to 80, but top-ranked universities may require scores of 100 or above. 


Section Average Score Range Number of Questions
Reading 75-80 (for most universities); 100+ (for top-ranked universities) 20 questions
Listening 75-80 (for most universities); 100+ (for top-ranked universities) 28-39 questions
Speaking 75-80 (for most universities); 100+ (for top-ranked universities) 4 tasks
Writing 75-80 (for most universities); 100+ (for top-ranked universities) 2 tasks
Total 300-320 (for most universities); 400+ (for top-ranked universities) 60-81 questions + 6 tasks



While a high TOEFL score is crucial for admission to most US universities, some institutions, like Princeton, offer English language courses to students who score lower or fail to clear the test.


The IELTS test measures your English language proficiency across four skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.


Section Average Score Range Number of Questions/Tasks
Listening 6.5-9.0 40 questions
Reading 6.5-9.0 40 questions
Writing 6.5-9.0 2 tasks
Speaking 6.5-9.0 3 tasks



Scores are reported in band scores, with 1.0 being the lowest and 9.0 the highest. 


To study in the USA, you generally need a minimum score between 6.5 to 9.0. Top US universities typically require an overall band score of at least 6.5.


The Pearson Test of English (PTE) is a computer-based test that has gained popularity among students for its convenience and quick results. 


Section Average Score Range Number of Questions/Tasks
Speaking & Writing 70+ (for admission to U.S. universities) Various tasks
Reading 70+ (for admission to U.S. universities) 15-20 tasks
Listening 70+ (for admission to U.S. universities) 17-25 tasks



A minimum score of 70 is usually sufficient for admission to US universities. Accepted by around 785 US universities and colleges, the PTE offers a stress-free testing experience with results available within 48 hours.


The Duolingo English Test (DET) was originally introduced to assess international students’ language abilities. Now, it is officially accepted as an English proficiency test by over 5,000 universities and institutions worldwide, with more joining daily.


It includes various learning exercises, multiple-choice questions, and flashcards to help you learn vocabulary, phrases, and sentences.


A growing number of institutions are recognizing this mode of test as a valid measure of English proficiency in the US.

Exams to Study in USA For Undergraduate Program

When planning to apply for undergraduate programs in the USA, you’ll likely think about which exam is required for study in the USA. 


Two important standardized tests are the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT).


The SAT and ACT evaluate your academic skills. These skills help colleges see how well you are prepared for technical and non-technical courses. 


We’ll also discuss whether these exams can be taken remotely or not.


The SAT is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. It measures your competency in science, math, and basic English grammar. 


You also have reading and writing tests to prove your college-level English, but they don’t count as standard English proficiency tests like IELTS, TOEFL, or PTE. 


The SAT scores range from 200 to 800 points for each section, for a total possible score of 1600.  


While the minimum score required for admission can be as low as 800, students aim for an average score of around 1050.


It’s essential to check the specific score requirements of the universities you’re interested in. 


Surprisingly, the Digital SAT exam flexibility allows students to write exams remotely. Simply register, pay the exam fee, and appear for the exam. 


Section Score Range Number of Questions
Reading 200-800 52 multiple-choice questions
Writing 200-800 44 multiple-choice questions
Math 200-800 58 multiple-choice questions
Total 400-1600 154 questions



The ACT is another standardized exam for undergraduate admissions. It covers four main areas: English, Mathematics, Science, and Reading. 


Each section is scored from 1 to 36, with a total possible score of 180. You should score a minimum of 18 for admission, with an average score of 20.6. 


Since February 2024, ACT has also introduced a choice between a pen-and-paper test and an online test format.


Section Number of Questions
English 45 multiple-choice questions
Mathematics 60 multiple-choice questions
Reading 40 multiple-choice questions
Science 40 multiple-choice questions
Total 185 questions


Exams to Study in USA For Master’s Programs

One of the key steps in preparing for a master’s program in the USA is determining which exam is required for study, as it forms the foundation of your application.


Master’s programs rely on tests like the GRE, GMAT, or MCAT to assess your academic abilities specifically for graduate-level studies.  


These exams needed to study in the USA delve deeper into critical thinking, analytical writing, and subject-specific knowledge.


Get ready to dive into the specifics of each test in the next section.


Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

GRE assesses your readiness for rigorous graduate-level studies. 

The exam will require your verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing skills to make it to your targeted courses.


The GRE is divided into three sections: Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 130-170 in 1-point increments.


Section Score Range Number of Questions
Analytical Writing 0-6 2 essays
Verbal Reasoning 130-170 20 (each section)
Quantitative Reasoning 130-170 20 (each section)



GRE scores are required by top universities, such as MIT, Stanford, and Harvard, for various programs, including the Master of Science, Master of Engineering, and MBA. 


Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

Across GMAT and GRE test takers worldwide, more than 7 in 10 rely on the GMAT to get into business school. 


The GMAT is crucial for admission to business schools and MBA programs. It evaluates your analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills.


The total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800. The Quantitative and Verbal sections contribute to the total score. The AWA and IR sections are scored separately and do not contribute to the total score.


Section Score Range Number of Questions
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 0-6 1 essay
Integrated Reasoning (IR) 1-8 12
Quantitative Reasoning 6-51 31



Top business schools like Wharton, Stanford GSB, and Harvard Business School often require GMAT scores, with good scores ranging from 550 to 650. 


The average GMAT score for admission is 565.


Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

MCAT is the exam required to study in the USA for medical studies. 


The MCAT is divided into four sections, with scores ranging from 118 to 132. The total score ranges from 472 to 528, with the median and mean scores for applicants being around 500-505.


Medical schools vary in their MCAT score requirements, but competitive scores are typically in the 510-520 range. 


The number of medical schools that require the MCAT is extensive, with almost all US and Canadian medical schools requiring it for admission.


Section Score Range Number of Questions
Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems 118-132 59
Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) 118-132 53
Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems 118-132 59
Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior 118-132 59



Top medical schools like Johns Hopkins, Harvard Medical School, and Stanford University School of Medicine require MCAT scores. The average MCAT score for admission is 517.


Law School Admission Test (LSAT)

The LSAT is the key standardized test for aspiring law students, measuring reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, logical reasoning, persuasive writing, and essay skills.


It consists of reading comprehension, which has 26 multiple-choice questions, and analytical Reasoning, which includes 24 multiple-choice questions. 


It also has logical reasoning comprising 48 multiple-choice questions and one essay question. 


Section Score Range Number of Questions
Reading Comprehension 120-180 (part of total score) 26 multiple-choice questions
Analytical Reasoning 120-180 (part of total score) 24 multiple-choice questions
Logical Reasoning 120-180 (part of total score) 48 multiple-choice questions (total for two sections)
Persuasive Writing Not scored 1 essay question


Top law schools like Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, and Stanford Law School require LSAT scores. The average LSAT score for admission is 152, with good scores ranging from 160 and above.

Top courses and universities to study in the U.S.

After understanding the exams required to study in the USA for different master’s programs, you might be wondering, “what’s next?” 


It’s time to take the crucial step of choosing the right exam for the right course at the right university. 


Whether you’re interested in Business, Engineering, Medicine, Law, or any other field, this decision can be overwhelming. 


That is why we have listed the popular courses and universities to help you make the right choice! 


Top Courses in the USA

The higher education system in the country offers academic programs and curriculum flexibility. We’ve mentioned some of the popular courses below. 


Sr. No. Course
1 Master of Business Administration
2 Master of Engineering
3 Master of Medical Sciences
4 Master of Mathematical Computer Science
5 Master of Social Science
6 Master of Physical and Life Sciences
7 Master of Law Studies
8 Master of Business Analytics
9 Master of Information Systems


Best Careers you can choose with these courses


Business Management

Being one of the highest-paid professionals in the USA, the mid-career salaries for MBA graduates from schools such as Stanford is $200,287, and for Harvard, it’s $177,895.



The mid-career salaries for these schools are some of the highest in the world. For example, at MIT, they are $167,200; at Stanford, they are $156,500.


Medical Sciences

Graduates from Harvard Medical School can earn around $209,000 mid-career, while those from Stanford University School of Medicine can earn approximately $207,000.


Maths and Computer Science

One of the highest-paying jobs in the USA is the mid-career salaries for computer science majors from schools such as Stanford, which is $183,100, and UCB, which is $181,100.


Social Sciences

The mid-career salaries for social sciences majors from schools such as Harvard are $159,600, and MIT is $166,800.


Physical and Life Science

The mid-career salaries for physical and life sciences majors from schools such as Harvard and Yale are $147,500 and $149,100, respectively.


Law Sciences

Mid-career salaries for law school graduates are impressive, with Yale Law School graduates earning around $184,000 and Harvard Law School graduates earning about $177,000.


Top Universities to Study MS Courses in USA

According to the World University Rankings, most universities in the top 200 globally were from the U.S. 


The following universities have been acclaimed for offering the best MS courses in the USA, which include Ivy League universities, tier-1 universities, and 2 and 3-tier universities as well. 


Ivy League Universities


  • Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
  • Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  • Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  • Columbia University (New York, NY)
  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Brown University (Providence, RI)
  • Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)


Tier 1 Universities


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Cambridge, MA)
  • Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
  • University of California–Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (Pasadena, CA)
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL)


Tier 2 Universities


  • University of California–San Diego (La Jolla, CA)
  • University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX)
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison (Madison, WI)
  • University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
  • University of California–Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
  • North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
  • Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)




Feeling overwhelmed by the many options? 


The options are plenty but valuable real-world guidance makes things easier. That’s where SelectRight takes the lead. 


SelectRight helps you choose a college that matches your grades and budget, informs you about exams needed to study in the USA, helps you shortlist your top picks, and even connects you with the universities themselves. 


Plus, we’ll guide you through every step of the application process, making things smooth and stress-free.


With SelectRight by your side, you can make your dream of studying in the USA a reality.

Why Choose USA as a Country For Your Higher Studies

Choosing the right country for your higher studies is a big decision. 


The USA isn’t just a popular option for international students – it’s a strategic one, packed with advantages that can set you up for success. 


But with so many universities and programs to choose from, navigating the process can feel overwhelming.  

  • Top-Tier Education

The US dominates the QS World University Rankings, boasting 27 out of the top 100 institutions. 


That’s a concentration of academic excellence you won’t find anywhere else!


You’ll get in-depth learning and hands-on research opportunities, especially in booming areas like engineering and medicine.


This research-based study translates to rigorous academics, world-renowned professors, and the potential to be at the forefront of your field!


  • Flexibility and Exploration

A 2022 report by the National Center for Education Statistics found that over 75% of US bachelor’s degrees require the completion of general education courses alongside your major. 


This allows you to explore different subjects before specializing, discover hidden passions, and tailor your education to your exact goals. 

  • Globally Recognized Degrees

A 2023 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that US business degrees are the most valued by employers worldwide. 


This recognition extends beyond business – a US degree signifies not just knowledge but critical thinking, innovation, and problem-solving skills highly sought by employers globally. 


  • Top in Research and Development

The National Science Foundation reported that the US spent $832 billion on research and development in 2022, the highest in the world. 


And in 2023 the US spent $110.9 billion on research and development in 2023.  

  • Practical Learning & Post-Graduation Options

Many US universities offer programs with internships or practical training components, like Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT)


FAQs: Top Exams to Study in USA

  • Should international students wanting to study bachelor’s in the USA take the SAT exam?

Unlike other community colleges, top universities and colleges require the submission of an SAT score to study for a bachelor’s degree in the USA. As a result, it may be vital to take the exam just in case it is required during admissions. 

  • Can I avail of financial aid without SATs?

International Students can only receive financial aid based on their SAT score or ACT scores. However, Sacred Heart University discusses merit-based and activity-based scholarships.

  • What exams are required for a Master’s program in the USA?

For most Master’s programs, you’ll need to take the GRE or GMAT and an English proficiency test like the TOEFL or IELTS.

  • Is there any alternative to the SAT exam?

The SAT or ACT is typically required for undergraduate studies, along with an English proficiency test if you’re an international student.

  • Can I study in the USA without taking the GRE?

Yes, it is possible to study in the USA without a GRE. Recently, more universities have been scrapping their GRE requirements. Instead, they provide other conditions to enter a graduate degree. Some of the general conditions are work experience and a good academic record.

  • Which English proficiency test should I take to study abroad?

There are numerous English language proficiency exams to study abroad. You can choose any entrance exams for abroad studies that suit your entry requirements the most. The most popular exams are IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE. 

  • Should I attend an LSAT or LNAT upon applying to a law school in the US?

To apply to a law school in the US, you need to clear an LSAT, or the Law School Admission Test. The LSAT is also accepted in Canada and Australia. It is necessary while applying for a master’s in law. 

  • Are exams like the MCAT and LSAT required for all students?

No, the MCAT is specifically for undergraduate medical school admissions, and the LSAT is for undergraduate law school admissions in the USA.`

  • What exams are required for a Master’s program in the USA?

You’ll need to take the GRE or GMAT, as well as an English proficiency test like the TOEFL or IELTS.

  • Can International Students Get Into Medical School In The USA?

Yes, international students can study medicine in the USA. Before applying to a U.S. medical school as an international student, verify it is SEVP-approved. If you are enrolling in an undergraduate pre-med program, your SAT/ACT score and an English proficiency test are required. 

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Shireen Parhee

A creative producer turned content marketeer, Shireen has a flair for weaving words into compelling stories and bringing them to life through captivating videos. A vivacious leader, she naturally inspires her team, driving them to surpass expectations with her positive energy and insightful feedback. Boasting over a decade of experience across different forms of media, she is on a mission to create memorable content that will leave a lasting impact for years to come.

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