Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Archive

As you search for information about studying in the United States, you can enter in the search box below some key words or a question you would like an answer to, or you can look in one of the nine categories of most frequently asked questions listed below. If you speak Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian or Portuguese, please select your language from the pull down box below, and you will see these topic areas change to the selected language.

Standardized Tests
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SAT Reasoning Test: $41.50

SAT Subject Tests
Basic registration fee: $18.00
Language Tests with Listening: add $19.00
All other Subject Tests: add $8.00

To check all the fees applicable to SAT and SAT Subject Tests, please go to:

Note: Pay attention to the “International processing fee”, applicable to students testing in countries other than the United States, U.S. territories and U.S. Commonwealth.

The College Board’s SAT Program consists of the SAT Reasoning Test, or just SAT, and the SAT Subject Tests. The SAT is three hours and 45 minutes long and measures skills in three areas: critical reading, writing and mathematics.

The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour long, mostly multiple choice tests in specific subjects. These tests measure knowledge of particular subjects and the ability to apply that knowledge. They fall into five general subject areas:

1. English: Literature;

2. History: U.S. History, and World History;

3. Mathematics: Mathematics Level 1, and Mathematics Level 2;

4. Science: Biology E/M, Chemistry, and Physics;

5. Languages: Chinese with Listening, French, French with Listening, German, German with Listening, Spanish, Spanish with Listening, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Japanese with Listening, and Korean with Listening.

According to Inside Higher Ed “The most significant difference between the two tests is how they test for speaking ability. With the IELTS, the test taker actually speaks with a human being who is trained to evaluate fluency and conversational ability. With TOEFL the test-taker essentially speaks to a computer, the conversation is taped, and then six reviewers grade the session. IELTS maintains that its test is more realistic, and TOEFL claims that because it has only one tester/grader during this section of the exam, the IELTS is more prone to manipulation and has inadequate quality control."

In fact, the answer depends on what kinds of tests you are good at and where you plan to apply. We suggest that you read all the information posted about the two tests, take the sample tests available and make your own choice. Below, there are some key differences compiled from the essay by Walton Burns (See

a) British versus American English

IELTS tends to use British English and the TOEFL uses mostly American English.

b) Multiple choice versus Copying Down

For the reading and listening sections, TOEFL gives you multiple-choice questions, whereas IELTS generally expects applicants to copy down words from the text or the conversation word-for-word. Multiple-choice questions tend to require slightly better abstract thinking, but the IELTS favors people who have good memories and think more concretely. In multiple-choice questions it is easy to spot wrong answers, whereas in copying down activities the applicant Just has just to find the answers and repeat them. So, concrete thinkers tend to do better on the IELTS and abstract thinkers tend to excel on the TOEFL.

c) Predictable or Different Every Time

TOEFL is also more predictable than the IELTS. The IELTS uses many different question types and the instructions are often slightly different every time. That makes it harder to prepare for.

d) Speaking to a Person or a Computer?

The IELTS test is done separately as a live interview, so applicants may get nervous. On the other hand, you might feel more relaxed in a conversation, with a person there to explain instead of a computer screen. So it depends on what you are more comfortable with. If you like talking to people, the IELTS is a better bet. If you just want to be alone and not feel judged, the TOEFL should be your choice.

e) Holistic versus Criteria

The speaking and writing sections of the TOEFL are graded holistically. The score is based on the overall quality of the essay, including vocabulary, logic, style, and grammar. The IELTS by contrast is marked by individual criteria and you are scored individually for grammar, word choice, fluency, logic, cohesion, and a dozen other criteria. In other words, if you write well but have a lot of small grammar mistakes, your TOEFL score might be quite good because graders will ignore small mistakes if the overall essay is logical and detailed. The IELTS will not overlook bad grammar. On the other hand, if your grammar and vocabulary are strong but you have trouble expressing your opinion or organizing an essay, you could end up with a low TOEFL score but the IELTS will give you good marks for language use.

f) Test format

One more significant difference between the IELTS and TOEFL tests is that, in some countries, TOEFL is delivered in both paper-based and computer-based formats, which makes it easier for students to choose the kind of test and the time and the place of its completion which suits them the most.
IELTS has four parts – Listening (30 minutes), Reading (60 minutes), Writing (60 minutes) and Speaking (11–14 minutes). The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Listening, Reading and Writing tests are done in one sitting. The Speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests. To find out more and see a test sample, go to
a. Academic – Institutions of Higher and Further Education

The Academic format is for those who want to study or train in an English-speaking university or Institutions of Higher Education.

b. General training – for school, work or migration

The General Training format focuses on basic survival skills in a broad social and educational context. It is for those who are going to English-speaking countries to do secondary education, work experience or training programs.

All candidates take the same Listening and Speaking tests but different Reading and Writing tests.

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