Studying in America and Canada  

3.1.2 Entrance exams

The purpose of a standardized exam is to test your knowledge and abilities, relative to other candidates. These entrance exams are standardized, which means that:

  1. These exams are the same no matter when and where in the world you take them, not in terms of the exact questions but in terms of types and level of difficulty of the questions.
  2. Your performance will be scored as a percentile on a statistical basis relative to others, and not on an absolute basis. That is, your scores will reflect the percentage of candidates who scored higher and lower than you did.

Colleges use the standardized test as one indicator that is independent of the prestige and reputation of your college(s) of prior education. It tests your personal abilities, knowledge, and preparation. The test doesn’t care whether you went to an IIT or a no-name engineering school. It tests you and your readiness.

This topic is extremely important to you. We have dedicated an entire chapter, Chapter 4, to help you prepare for standardized exams. Here in this chapter, we are simply outlining the requirements for entrance exams. We shall not discuss the details of individual entrance exams and related issues such as how to prepare for them and how to do well on them; that we will do in Chapter 4.

Depending on the level and discipline of the program you wish to pursue, you will be required to take an entrance exam. In addition, you may be required, depending on school-specific requirements, to take a standardized exam to demonstrate your proficiency in the English language. This standardized test is typically TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language).

Undergraduate Studies

You will be required to the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). The SAT has a general test (referred to as the SAT I) and a subject-specific test (referred to as the SAT II). You will be required to take at least the SAT I, and you may be required to take the SAT II depending on your prospective college and your choice of the program of studies.

A less commonly used alternative to the SAT is the ACT (American College Test). Typically, you can take either of the two but you should take the one recommended by your prospective college. If you have taken one, you do not need to take the other.

Colleges in Canada simply require the TOEFL, and no other standardized entrance exam. Some colleges in Canada, however, do recommend taking the SAT.

You do not need to take the GED (General Education Development) Test. It is not relevant.

Graduate studies

The entrance exam requirements vary by discipline. Most reputable schools offering quality education require you to take a standardized entrance exam.

Table 3A. Typical Entrance Exams Requirements for Graduate Studies in America and Canada


Entrance Exam Requirement

Business - MBA

GMAT (Graduate Management Aptitude Test)

Business - Non-MBA

GRE (Graduate Record Exam). Some schools offer the choice for some programs of either GRE or GMAT

Computer Science







LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test)


MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)



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