College Entrance Exams for International Students looking for Admission to American and Canadian Schools

These are the common standardized examinations required for admission into the United States/Canada as an international student. They include SAT, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo.

Every year high school students from all over the world come to the United States and Canada for tertiary education for reasons such as the large number of institutions available (translating to having multiple school choices), advanced technology, availability of a wide range of disciplines, and even the experience of the western world. Each student has a peculiar academic experience so aspiring undergraduates (domestic and international) may be required to take standardized tests. 

Besides the fact that standardized tests are used to assess prospective undergraduate students, they are also important for students interested in financial aid or scholarships. Most institutions that give funding have these tests as part of their admission requirements. Standardized exams are written in English and the fees are in US dollars. A valid means of identification is needed to take any of these tests. This could vary from country to country, for example, the international passport is the only ID acceptable for Nigerians.

It is always advisable to begin the application process at least a year ahead of the prospective admission sessions so that you can be able to prepare properly and write these exams. Before preparing and taking any of these tests, check with your prospective institution, ensure it is accepted, and find out the minimum score. For example, some schools require a subject-based SAT instead of the general SAT and some schools don’t require them at all.

Another important requirement is English proficiency. English is the language of instruction in most schools so prospective institutions check the English capability of non-native English speakers using exams like TOEFL, IELTS, and Duolingo. Students from countries where English is the official language may be exempt from this requirement (this is at the discretion of the school). Also, fewer schools accept Duolingo as opposed to TOEFL and IELTS.


Undergraduate Standardized exams are:

Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT): 

It is published by the college board and administered by the Educational Testing System (ETS). Additional regional fee applies to test-takers outside the US: $43 for Sub-Saharan Africa, $43 for the Americas, $53 for East Asia/ the Pacific, $49 for Europe and Eurasia, $47 for the Middle East and North Africa and $49 for South and Central Asia. Additional charges are also applicable for extra services. From June 2021, SAT subject tests and SAT with essays will be discontinued internationally. For more information and to register for this exam, visit SAT Registration | College Board.

  • General SAT: It evaluates Mathematics, Critical Reading, and Writing. Test score ranges from 400 to 1600. It takes 3hrs (without the essay) and an extra 50 mins with the essay. This exam costs $52 without the essay and $68 with the essay. 

  • SAT Subject Tests: This tests your capability in a specific subject. It is divided into languages (Spanish, Italian, German, French, Chinese, Modern Hebrew, Latin, Japanese, Korean), history, mathematics, sciences (physics, chemistry, biology), and English. In-depth knowledge of the subject being tested is required in order to ace the exam. It takes an hour and the score is between 200 and 800. The registration fee is $26, each subject test is $22, and language tests with listening cost $26.

 American College Testing (ACT):  

It is developed and administered by ACT Inc. ACT evaluates students in four areas: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. There is also a writing section which is optional. It takes about 2hrs 55mins (plus 40 mins with writing) to take the test and scores are between 1 and 36. It costs $55 without writing and $70 with writing for US test-takers. Test-takers outside the US pay $150 for ACT with no writing and $166.50 for ACT with writing. To register for this exam, go to Registration – The ACT Test | ACT

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL):

It is an exam that measures the English Language ability of international students from countries considered non-English speaking. It is developed and administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). Scores are valid for 2 years. To register for this exam, visit their website The TOEFL Family of Assessments (

  • iBT: About 98% of test-takers take the internet-based TOEFL exam. Most countries have test centers where the exam is taken many times a year. Currently, most countries also offer the home edition. The exam comprises of the Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing sections and takes about 3hrs 23 mins (including break) to complete. Each section is scored from 0-30 and the total of the four sections is the overall score. It cost about $185.

  • PDT: It is only available about four times a year in locations where internet access may be a problem. It is like the iBT version without the speaking section which is not included. It costs $180 and takes 2hr 25mins.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS):

This exam evaluates the English language proficiency of non-native English speakers. It is developed and administered by the British Council, IDP Education, and Cambridge Assessment English. It takes about 2hrs 45 mins to complete the four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. Scores range from 0 to 9 and is valid for 2yrs. IELTS is taken in about 140 countries all year and costs about $250. There are two types of IELTS: academic and general training. The academic IELTS is the exam students seeking a higher education take. It can be taken either on paper (paper-based) or using a computer (computer-based). For more information on IELTS visit IELTS Home of the IELTS English Language Test


This is an English proficiency test that can be taken from the comfort of your home. It costs $49. It takes about an hour to complete the test and the official result is released in 2 days. Official scores are sent to as many schools as needed for free. To register for this test visit Duolingo English Test


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)

Quick Notes

1) Depending on your country, 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,

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email