We’re sure that your dreams of an academic future are lofty, and many of you want these plans to include studying abroad at some of the most prestigious universities in the USA, home of some of the world’s best research and technical universities.

You should know that admissions to these schools for an MBA for example require sitting several examinations. In this article, we’ll explain two of these tests: the TOEFL and the GRE. We’ll give you our recommendations for your application and for how to prepare for these tests effectively and earn a top score. Hint: preparation is the key!

To get started on your American university adventure, follow these tips to have your best chances for admission.

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A brief introduction to the TOEFL and GRE

The TOEFL (which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test designed to assess the English language skills of non-native speakers as required for higher education, mainly in the USA. It is recognized by more than 5,200 schools worldwide and has been a reference in English proficiency assessment since 1964. Nowadays, it is administered almost exclusively via computer and is known as the TOEFL iBT (for Internet-Based Test).

The GRE (for Graduation Record Examination) is another standardized test required for admission to all graduate programs in the United States. It was introduced by Carnegie University in 1936, and today is a requirement not only for foreign students but all students wishing to apply for graduate and post-graduate studies, including US citizens.

In other words, plan on taking the GRE no matter where you apply, but also plan on taking a language proficiency exam such as the TOEFL if you are a non-native English speaker applying to these US universities.

A brief introduction to the TOEFL and GRE

Apply to US universities with the TOEFL and GRE

Many of the United States’ most prestigious universities are open to international students, but these candidates will still need to pass their GRE and, depending on their past education in English or lack thereof, will need a certain score on the TOEFL as well.

Note that GRE results are valid for 5 years from the day you take the test, while the TOEFL score is valid for only 2 years, so be attentive to application deadlines to avoid unpleasant surprises or having to take the tests again! Above all, be sure to find out how long your scores will take to be reported so you don’t miss out sending your score and on your US university dream because of a deadline.

There are more than 200 graduate schools in the US that accept TOEFL and GRE as part of their application process. Each school has their own admission policy so be sure to verify before you apply so you know what your target score will be for the TOEFL.

Here are some examples of schools and their individual TOEFL requirements:

Name of Institute Minimum overall TOEFL score
Massachusetts Institute of Technology90 (100 recommended)
Harvard UniversityVaries depending on program/department
Princeton University108
Columbia University100
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)78
Stanford University89-100 (depending on department)
Yale University100
University of Chicago100 minimum, recommended higher
University of Pennsylvania100
Northwestern University90
Duke University90
John Hopkins University100
Dartmouth University78
Brown University90
University of Notre Dame105
Vanderbilt University100
Cornell University100
Washington University (St. Louis) 90
University of California, Los Angeles 83

Recommendations for your application

Note that even if you are a non-native English speaker but you received your undergraduate degree from an accredited university in an English-speaking country, you may be exempt from providing TOEFL results. As a general rule, you must provide proof of your proficiency in English, and while most schools accept results from a variety of tests, they all accept TOEFL, which is one of the world’s most widely accepted. Some even accept TOEFL results only! In the end, your best bet is to sit the TOEFL exam.

Looking at the table above, you’ll see that requirements may vary a bit, but in general, the TOEFL score requirements are quite high (the absolute highest score you can get on the TOEFL is 120), so there’s no wonder these are such prestigious programs with strict selection policies!

How to reach your target TOEFL score

One way to boost your reported TOEFL score is through ETS Global’s MyBest Scores service. ETS Global is the official administrator of the TOEFL and in case you have to take the TOEFL more than once, they will report only the highest score on each section, resulting in a higher overall score. This can be a great way to report only your best score if, for instance, you take the test multiple times but do poorly on only one section one time… or several times!

Of course, a good TOEFL score can only be earned with proper preparation. Taking a comprehensive preparation program with GlobalExam will make it entirely possible to earn a few extra points to reach the threshold of your university’s admission department. With the Exam Mode, get full-scale exercises that match the TOEFL format exactly, personalized revision schedules and statistics so you can control your revision at your own pace, and of course, several free mock TOEFL exams so you’ll have an idea of what the TOEFL test feels like before you take it.

Once you start preparing for the TOEFL and practice using mock TOEFL exams, and you find that your results on the exam fall within 10 points of these threshold scores, you can rest assured that your target score is within reach with a comprehensive TOEFL preparation program from GlobalExam.

Now that you have a clear picture of what the TOEFL exam entails, you’ll be able to apply test-taking strategies, manage your time effectively, and focus on your weaker areas so you can get a good score the first time. Let your American university journey start with GlobalExam!

Next step: start working abroad with the TOEFL IBT!

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