Do you need coaching classes to crack qualifying tests to study abroad?

The university admissions process is a stressful time for students and parents alike, and especially so if you are planning to study abroad. Presenting solid academic credentials, a promising extracurricular record and persuasive personal essays are all crucial components of the process. When it comes to the preparing for the various qualifying tests to study abroad, however, you may find the assistance and advice from a tutor or coaching classes to be of tremendous help.


Here is an overview of the various qualifying tests required for admission into universities in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and Australia – along with tips on where you stand to benefit the most from the help of a tutor:

1. The USA

The application process for American universities is the most demanding and extensive, so this is where coaching classes are likely to be most helpful in fulfilling your dreams of studying abroad.

Here are the various tests that will probably be listed as a requirement to the application to your dream university:

  • The SAT (the Essay portion may be optional) OR the ACT (the writing portion may be optional)
  • MELAB, TOEFL, or IELTS scores (you can get an exemption for this, since English is the primary language of instruction is Singaporean secondary schools and junior colleges)
  • The SAT subject tests (may be required, recommended or considered[1])

Given the strength of the Singaporean mathematics curriculum, you are unlikely to find the mathematics component of the ACT or the SAT to be particularly challenging. You can also prepare for the reading comprehension components on your own, by taking numerous practice tests.

The writing/essay components are likely to be the trickiest, especially if this is not your strong suit. Since time is likely to be of the essence, additional assistance in this department will be most valuable.

You also stand to benefit from being tutored on the SAT subject tests. Tutors will be very familiar with the overlap between these tests and their ‘A’ Level equivalents, allowing you to revise accordingly and catch up on the novel material.

2. The UK

The application processes to all British universities have been streamlined via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Most British universities are familiar with the Singapore A-levels, the International Baccalaureate, and the Singapore Integrated Programme Cambridge ‘A’ Levels (SIPCAL).

As such, it is often possible for Singaporean students to apply without needing to take the IELTS or TOEFL. For example, the University of Cambridge considers the Singapore Integrated Programme (SIP) to be “an acceptable English language qualification[2]”.

Furthermore, selective British universities may use a face-to-face interviewer to assess your English language skills alongside your academic aptitude for your chosen field of study.

To be safe, check with the admissions office of each British university that you plan to apply to and confirm if you need to sit for an English language proficiency test.

As with the SAT and ACT, the writing components of the IELTS and TOEFL are where you stand to benefit most for additional tutoring.

3. Australia

Like their British counterparts, Australian universities often find the Singaporean curriculum sufficient in fulfilling their English language requirements for international students.

To be sure, make an inquiry with the admissions unit of each Australian university and only sign up for the IELTS and TOEFL if you need to.

Some Singaporean students ace these qualifying tests on their own, while others find the services, advice, and coaching from a tutor to be a great time-saver and stress-reliever. Objectively assess your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate for admission, and decide if the additional helping hand is necessary!

By Dave Tan