Standardized Tests For Admission Into Colleges and Universities In The United States or Canada

The standardized tests required for admission into universities/colleges in the United States and Canada

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One of the most common questions I get is “How do I apply to study in the US“?

While, I already have a post that summarizes the process, it is also important to break down the steps you need to take.

When you decide that studying abroad is an option you would like to explore, one of the first steps is to take and pass any pertinent standardized examination. These exams are used to make decisions on admission. The United States and Canada have similar requirements, which makes it easier to take exams and apply to schools in both countries at the same time.

The following standardized tests/exams can be used to apply to the majority of the universities/colleges in the United States and Canada.

1) SAT

SAT was originally called Scholastic Aptitude Test. However, its name had changed several times over the years and is simply called ‘SAT’ now. It is the most common standardized test taken by millions of students every year all over the world. According to the College Board, it measures what you learned in high school (secondary school) and what you need to succeed in college (university). There are two kinds of SAT:

1) SAT ( I call this the ‘General SAT’)

2) SAT Subject Test (Assesses specific subjects – see full list here)

The following sections are included in the ‘General SAT’:

1) Reading – 52 multiple-choice questions (65 minutes)

2) Writing & Language – 44 multiple–choice questions (35 minutes)

3) Math – 58 multiple–choice questions (80 minutes)

4) Essay (optional section) – 1 essay (50 minutes)

Your SAT exam can either include the essay section or not, depending on the preferences of the schools you choose. The SAT subject test is only required by a hand full of schools, and for specific subjects (e.g., Biology, Physics, etc.). Some students may also decide on their own to take the subject test to get an edge in scholarship application. You should clarify with your school of interest before you proceed with the SAT Subject Test.

The prices of SAT registration differs based on your country of residence and whether you take the essay section or not, but it ranges from $41 to $64.50 (click here for a full list of prices). Similarly, the prices of the subject tests also varies and depends on what you take.

Click HERE TO Register for SAT

Click HERE TO Register for SAT Subject Tests

CLICK HERE TO Find SAT Test Centers

2) ACT

ACT was originally an abbreviation for American College Testing. It is a standardized test similar to the ‘General SAT’ and assesses similar abilities. The major difference is the inclusion of a ‘Science’ section which tests interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving.

The following sections are included in the ACT exam:

1) English – 75 multiple-choice questions (45 minutes)

2) Math – 60 multiple-choice questions (60 minutes)

3) Reading – 40 multiple-choice questions (35 minutes)

4) Science – 40 multiple-choice questions (35 minutes)

5) Writing (optional) – 1 essay (40 minutes)

The ACT also has an optional Writing/Essay section which you could decide to include based on your schools’ preferences.

The prices of ACT vary depending on whether or not you include the writing section; prices range from $50.50 to $67.00 (click here for a full list of prices).

Some schools may have preferences, but most schools can take either ACT or SAT. In addition to clarifying with your schools of interest, my recommendation is to take both (if you can afford it) and use your highest score for applications.

CLICK HERE TO Register for ACT



TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. This exam assesses your ability to read, speak, and understand English fluently.

The following sections are included in the TOEFL exam:

1) Reading – 36-56 multiple-choice questions (60-80 minutes)

2) Listening – 34-51 multiple-choice questions (60-90 minutes)

3) Speaking – 6 tasks (20 minutes)

4) Writing – 2 tasks (50 minutes)

The cost of the TOEFL exam varies depending on your country of residence with prices ranging from $160 to $250 (click here for a full list of prices).

Some schools make an exemption to this exam, if you are from a country whose official language is English. It doesn’t hurt to call or email your school’s of interest to verify.

Click here to register for TOEFL



IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. This is similar to TOEFL but has a different exam structure, and a British and Australian Origin.

The following sections are included in the IELTS exam:

1) Listening – 40 multiple-choice questions (30 minutes)

2) Reading – 40 multiple-choice questions (60 minutes)

3) Writing – 2 questions (60 minutes)

4) Speaking – 3 tasks (11-14 minutes)

The cost of the IELTS exam also depends on your country of residence with prices falling between $215 and $240.

Some schools may have a preference for either TOEFL or IELTS, others will take whichever you take. Also the IELTS exam can be used for other countries aside US and Canada.

Your registration for the IELTS exam, is based on your country of residence and the particular testing site you choose.

Click here to find IELTS Test Centers


What You Will Need To Register for Any of The Exams

1) Information on your high school/secondary school (e.g., name, address)

2) Computer/tablet with internet connection

3) About 1 hour of free time

4) Credit card

5) Headshot picture (digital or hard copy)


1) Depending on what country you reside in, you may have to register at an actual testing center, versus by yourself.

2) If you know someone in the US/Canada they can help you pay the fees with their credit card online.

3) Register for any of these exams at least 3 months in advance

I hope this post has been helpful and you find the resources at Winie’s Student World useful as you navigate this process.

I’m looking forward to your questions and comments, below.

Make it a Winning-Day,


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