The "Entrance Test Mentality", which many international students and parents seem to have, is a strongly-held belief that strong entrance test scores are the absolute most important factor in gaining acceptance to top-ranked universities.
In order to clearly understand the requirements of gaining acceptance to American universities and become a top candidate, this way of thinking, and the narrow focus and efforts that accompany it, must be set aside in order to be the type of well-rounded applicant that is most attractive to the top universities. Getting students, and particularly their parents, to change their approach, however, is no easy endeavor. It usually consists of nothing less than undoing, or at least loosening, beliefs that their academic institutions have deeply-embedded into them their whole lives.
When preparing to apply to an American university, it is important for international students to learn early how tests scores are weighed alongside many other factors by admissions officers. First, it's important for students and parents to understand that English proficiency tests like IELTS and TOEFL are merely indications of how well a student can understand English as may be used in an academic environment. Second, it's important for students to know that a good IELTS or TOEFL test score does not determine which classes they can register for in their first term at university. All American colleges and universities give new students, American and inernational alike, an English placement test after their arrival at school. The results of this test, NOT the IELTS or TOEFL test score, determines which classes students can/ cannot take in their first term. Also, students need to be aware that the TOEFL and IELTS tests are limited in their assessment of their ability to communicate in everyday situations and function well in an American college or university classroom environment. Among the many important skills these tests cannot evaluate are the students' ability to take notes, do oral presentations, have classroom debates, and do research for projects and reports. Students can develop these and other academic skills by enrolling in a college or university-based Intensive English Program. These programs put students in English-only environments on American campuses and help them quickly develop their general English proficiency skills in a variety of situations in and outside of the classroom. Additionally, many of these programs allow the students to gain conditional admission to bachelors and masters degree programs without taking the IELTS or TOEFL tests if they complete the necessary course in their program.
In Part 2 of this topic, we will discuss other undergraduate entrance test scores (SAT/ ACT), which students need to take them, and how they are weighed against other admission criteria.
To learn more about college and university-based Intensive English Programs and getting conditional admission to bachelors and masters degree programs, contact American Education Partners' School Placement Team at: firstname.lastname@example.org