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Before you even start shortlisting colleges and worrying about your application, you need to get some basic screening out of your way. We are talking, of course, about the criteria for admission in different countries. In our experience, criteria are broadly similar within a country, though there could be minor variations from university to university – read the fine print!


So here we bring you the basic criteria – what examinations will you have to give before you apply, and how important is your academic record compared to the rest of your application? Once you’re done with this section, you will clearly understand the options before you.

The United States of America

GRE: Every good college in the US will mandate GRE score submission; some programs even specify cutoffs within Verbal, Quant and Analytical sections

TOEFL: If you’re from a non-English speaking country and you haven’t studied in the US for at least a year, you’ll need to give the TOEFL and get a respectable score

Undergraduate Academic Record not a deal breaker: Unlike in many other countries, you can cancel out a couple of blips (e.g. a failed course) in your academic record with a stellar GRE score, or with exceptional academic performance after initial hiccups. Be warned: this does not mean that you can get away with a poor GRE score and a poor academic record, or that an extremely poor academic record can be salvaged by a good GRE score. All this means is that you are given the chance to scrub one or two minor blips off your academic record.

The United Kingdom

IELTS: Most good colleges in the UK made the shift to IELTS a few years ago; many have stopped accepting TOEFL scores altogether. You can give other English language proficiency tests like the CAE or CPE in some universities, but they often come with additional testing conditions. The IELTS is a must in pretty much every UK University you would want to apply to.

GRE or GMAT: If you’re looking at a specific set of courses in the top colleges (for example, Financial Economics or MSc Management in Oxford, Cambridge or LSE) you will need to give the GRE or GMAT, depending on the course guidelines. However, for many other universities (e.g. Warwick, Nottingham) and courses, the IELTS will suffice.

Good academic record required: You will find it difficult to gain admission into the top MS programs in the UK without a 65% undergraduate aggregate; consistent quality is a prerequisite for admission.


IELTS or TOEFL: This works for most colleges in Canada; check specific requirements in your colleges of interest.

GRE: Only for a couple of top colleges e.g. the University of Toronto.

Academic record requirement: The requirements are a little more stringent in the US; they are more akin to the UK. A good academic record will be a huge plus.

Australia / New Zealand

GRE only: For the vast majority of universities Down Under, only your GRE score is of interest; most do not require the TOEFL or IELTS.

Relaxed academic requirements: You have more leeway with your academic record in Australia / NZ; a 60% may not be a deal breaker. They are great places to go in case you want to settle abroad.


GRE / GMAT: The top universities in Singapore e.g. NUS, NTU will require either the GRE or GMAT. There is also a variable TOEFL / IELTS requirement based on country of applicant and English instruction history.


Test scores: Many European universities do not mandate submission of TOEFL or GRE scores (for example, EPFL calls these ‘not necessary but welcome).

Stringent academic requirements: Many of the best universities in Europe need you to have a great academic record. For example, Germany’s Master’s Programmes have some of the strictest academic cutoff criteria in the world.

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