Student Cover’s guide to studying in the US: Part 3 – Preparing Yourself

November 1, 2019


ACT, GMAT, GRE, SAT, study abroad, Study in USA

In part 3 of 5 part Student Cover’s guide to studying in the US, we try to provide important tips to students on how to prepare themselves for admission in US Colleges and Universities. In this blog, we essentially focus on the standardized admission tests and other requirements which help students secure admission in those institutions.
As already mentioned in the previous blog, getting admission to a degree course requires students to possess minimum academic qualifications. However, in addition to that, colleges and universities in the US also seek test scores of standardized admission tests.

Admission Tests for Undergraduate Degree(UgD) Programs

At undergraduate level, there are two tests which an international student is required to appear – Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT). Although the tests themselves do not guarantee admission in the college or university, the scores help institutions determine whether the student is knowledgeable enough to get admission.


The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is one of the most popular admission tests taken by fresh school graduates to be admitted to a UG degree course in the US.

Main features of SAT test:

  • – They are conducted 7 times a year (March, May, June, August, October, November and December) with over 2 million students taking the test every year.
  • – It is a 3-hour test which has 4 mandatory sections namely Reading, Writing, Math (without calculator) and Math (with Calculator).
  • – Besides that it also has an optional section where one can write an essay. A student opting to take the fifth section gets additional 50 minutes.
  • – The SAT scores range from 400 to 1600.

SAT Subject Tests – In addition to SAT test, students can also choose to take SAT subject tests in order to increase their chances of getting admitted to a college. Previously called ‘Achievement Tests’, SAT subject tests include Literature, US History, World History, Mathematics(L1 & L2), Biology, Chemistry, Physics and 12 foreign languages. They take 1 hour to complete and a student can take a maximum of 3 subject test on a given date.


The American College Testing (ACT) is another quite popular standardized test for college admission. It is a standardized test conducted by a non-profit organization of the same name. At present, Act score is accepted by all colleges and universities in the US for undergraduate admission.

The test consists of 4 parts namely English, Mathematics, Reading and Science and takes 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete. It also has an optional writing test for which a student gets 30 minutes. The ACT scores range from 1 to 36. It is also conducted worldwide and each year about 1.9 million students take this test.

Admission Tests for Graduate Degree Programs (GraD)

Like UG admissions, GraD admissions also require students to take certain admission tests. However, GraD programs being a specialized in nature there are specific tests for different disciplines and fields of study. Some popular tests are


Graduate Record Examination [GRE] is taken by students who wish to get admitted to a US College or university for a graduate degree course (Master’s Degree).

Main features of GRE test:

  • • The test measures a student’s Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Analytical Writing and Critical Thinking skills.
  • • The GRE Scores range from 130 to 170. It is a computer based test conducted and takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete.
  • • Over half-a-million students take GRE test in over 1,000 test centers located across the globe.
  • • In a given year, a student can appear in GRE test for a maximum of 5 times.

GRE Subject Tests: Similar to the SAT, GRE also has subject specific tests which a student can take. These include Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, English Literature and Psychology. Each of these tests take 2 hours 50 minutes to complete. Some Colleges and Universities also accept GRE scores for MBA admission.


The Graduate Management Admission Test is undertaken by students who wish to pursue MBA in a College or University in the US. These tests measure a student’s analytical, quantitative, verbal, reading and writing skills to assess whether he or she is skilled enough to undertake an MBA program. The test takes 3 hours and 7 minutes to complete and the GMAT scores can range from 200 to 800.


Medical College Admission Test [MCAT] is undertaken by those who want to get admitted in a medical school in the US. Other than problem solving and critical thinking skills, this test aims to measure a student’s knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and theories. An MCAT paper consists of 4 sections namely,

  1. Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

It is an exhaustive test and takes 71/2 hours to complete. The score for MCAT tests range from 472 to 528. The MCAT scores are valid for a period of up to 3 years.


The Law School Admission Test or LSAT is undertaken by those students who wish to get admitted to a law school in the US. Organized 6 times a year all over the globe, these tests aim to assess a student’s logical and verbal reasoning and reading comprehension skills and is taken by over 100 thousand students each year.
The test consists of 5 sections namely, Logical Reasoning (Arguments and Logic Games), Reading Comprehension, Variable Section, Writing Sample (Un-scored). It takes a total of 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete and the score can range from 120 to 180.

Let’s Wrap Up!

Admission to undergraduate and graduate degree courses require students to take certain admission tests whose score is used by colleges and universities in the US to assess a student’s competency. For undergraduate degree admission, students are required to submit scores of SAT and ACT whereas for graduate admission, they are required to present scores of GRE. GMAT, MCAT and LSAT are discipline specific admission tests.

Disclaimer: The content of the following article is based on the personal research of the writer. Readers are advised to exercise discretion. Student Cover will not be liable for any wrongful interpretation of the content of this article.

Recent Blog Posts

Need help? Chat with us