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Graduate School Admissions Tests for International Students

Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated October 2010

English proficiency and the TOEFL

English proficiency involves the ability to read, write and communicate orally in the English language. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a test you may have to take in order to demonstrate your proficiency to the grad school of your choice. If you have been educated in English for most of your life, you might receive a TOEFL waiver. On the other hand, you may be required to take courses to improve your mastery of English.

You should complete the TOEFL at least one year before you apply to a grad program, and English language admission standards vary depending on the school school-to-school. Some graduate schools require the Test of Spoken English (TSE) in addition to the TOEFL. The TOEFL is an Internet-based, computer-adaptive examination with a limited number of testing centers, so you must preregister. Mail-in registration should be done at least three weeks before the test date, and you will need a credit card in order to register by phone or fax.

The TOEFL is a multiple choice and essay exam with four sections: listening, structure, reading and writing. The reading portion consists of 36-to-70 questions and takes from 60-to-100 minutes to complete, while the listening section consists of 34-to-51 questions and lasts from 60-to-90 minutes. The speaking portion involves six tasks and takes 20 minutes to complete, while the writing portion involves two tasks for which you are given 50 minutes to complete.

The TOEFL is scored by combining the number of right answers with your essay score. Raw scores are converted into scaled scores for each section, and range from 0 to 30. The total score is calculated from the scaled score and ranges from 40 to 300. Acceptable scores depend upon the school, but generally a score between 213 and 250 is adequate.

The GRE and the GMAT

In order to enroll in an American graduate school, you will most likely have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which is a computer-adaptive test developed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The general GRE measures your verbal, quantitative and analytical skills, while the GRE subject tests measure your knowledge in specific subject areas such as biology, biochemistry, English literature, mathematics, psychology or physics.

The GRE consists of three sections: writing, verbal and quantitative. The writing portion has two parts, one in which you analyze an issue and another in which you analyze an argument. You will be given 45 minutes to complete the issue part and 30 minutes to complete the argument part. For the verbal section, you are given 30 questions to complete in 30 minutes, while the quantitative section is made up of 28 questions which you have 45 minutes to complete. Each section of the GRE is scored between 200 and 800.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer-adaptive test that assesses your qualifications for advanced study in business and management. This test was also developed by the ETS. It is comprised of three sections: the analytical writing assignment, quantitative section and verbal section.

The analytical writing assignment is made up of two parts, just like the GRE. In one part you analyze an issue and in another part you analyze an argument. You are given 30 minutes to complete this section. The quantitative section is comprised of 37 multiple-choice questions, and focuses on data sufficiency and problem-solving. You will have 75 minutes to complete the section.

The verbal section, which you are given 75 minutes to complete, includes 41 multiple-choice questions on reading comprehension, critical thinking and sentence correction. GMAT scores are good for five years. The total scaled score for the test ranges from 200 to 800.

Some advice

No matter which test or tests you are required to take, you should register as soon as possible. You will want to make sure that your registration fits into your graduate school timeline. No matter which test or tests you are required to take, you should register as soon as possible. You will want to make sure that your registration fits into your graduate school timeline, so find out the deadline applicable to each test. You will also want to determine any costs or fees involved in taking the examinations. To find out what tests you need to complete, contact the graduate school program you wish to attend and work out a timeline with an advisor. Good luck!


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