Around 3 lakh students go abroad every year for higher education. Now, the craze for studying abroad may be taken adversely as it is brain-drain for the country, or the positive aspect for the individual may be noted.

Nevertheless, the process of flying overseas to study is a tedious one. Apart from the various passport and immigration complexities, a student has to prepare for various exams to be merely eligible for getting into the college and course he/she aspires for.

As IELTS/TOEFL/PTE, GRE/GMAT/SAT and other options for all such exams can confuse students, to help them out, here are the top 5 international exams that are taken by students aspiring to study abroad:

Which exam to give for which course to study abroad?

If you are planning to study abroad, the admission process will require you to give one language exam and one standardized exam. However, depending on the country, course or college you are targeting, you may be exempt from standardized exams, but you would still be required to take one language exam to show English language proficiency. Depending on the course and college, you may also be required to provide scores of one standardized test.

Language exams

The language exams show your English proficiency skills. You need to give either one of the language exams to get admission to any university in an English speaking country. These are required for almost all courses; Undergraduate courses, Postgraduate courses, Certificates or Diplomas (unless mentioned).

Different countries give preference to one language exam over others. TOEFL is the preferred exam for universities at US and Canada, while it is not accepted at many colleges in UK. On the other hand, IELTS is the preferred exam for getting admission to universities at UK, Australia and New Zealand. PTE is accepted at a few colleges in US and most colleges in UK. CAE and CPE are given preference by the British universities.

Standardized Exams

The exams required for various courses will be different. Depending on the courses of your choice, you will be required to give only one standardized test.

Here is a table describing exam requirement according to the course of your choice –

Courses/Programs Standardized Tests Preferred English Language Tests on country basis
Undergraduate SAT or ACT TOEFL for US, IELTS or PTE for Canada,UK, Australia, New Zealand CAE or CPE for UK
MBA GMAT or GRE TOEFL for US, IELTS or PTE for Canada,UK, Australia, New Zealand CAE or CPE for UK
MS or PG degree GRE TOEFL for US, IELTS or PTE for Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand CAE or CPE for UK
Certificate course - TOEFL for US, IELTS or PTE for Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand CAE or CPE for UK

IELTS, the international English Language Testing system, provides an assessment of language ability of candidates who need to study or train in the medium of English.


TOEFL IBT is version of the test that is the most widely used today. IBT stands for Internet Based Test. The entire TOEFL IBT is done on a computer and it is the first TOEFL test to have Speaking questions. It started in 2005 and replaced the CBT (Computer Based Test) which started the trend towards computer-based testing. From 1964 to 1998, the only TOEFL version available was the PBT (Paper Based Test). The PBT test is still used in some countries where computer access is not available.


If you're planning on going to graduate school, you'll probably need to take the GRE test (or the Graduate Record Exam). It's the most commonly required admission test for grad school.


PTE test is based on real-life academic and general content. You will come across graphs, summaries, excerpts, and many more items that belong to things around you. The test also contains accents from both native and non-native speakers exactly that you hear on the television, movies, and real conversation encountered in day-to-day life.


The SAT is a standardized test widely used for college admissions in the United States. Introduced in 1926, its name and scoring have changed several times; originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test, it was later called the Scholastic Assessment Test, then the SAT I: Reasoning Test, then the SAT Reasoning Test, and now, simply the SAT.