There are two main tests that international student applicants may be required to take in order to determine their level of English: ELTiS and TOEFL. Almost all U.S. high schools that CIEE partners with accept results from the ELTiS test, however some schools require the TOFEL. In addition to the ELTiS and the TOEFL exams, some U.S. high schools require additional test results from any student who is applying. Two of the most common additional tests are the ISSE and the SSAT.
Learn about each of these tests below and share what you learn with your students to help them be better prepared for the school application process.
ELTiS: English Language Test for International Students
The English Language Test for International Students (ELTiS) is a standardized test designed to measure the listening and reading comprehension skills of high school age English language learners. It is a shorter test, only 1 hour and 10 minutes long, and it evaluates students’ ability to understand academic classroom language.
Essentially, it tests if the student can manage the English language requirements of secondary school classes where English is the language of instruction. The scores are available immediately.
TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) has a paper version or an online version, called the TOEFL IBT. Many U.S. universities require the TOEFL IBT for international student admissions at the university level. TOEFL scores take about three weeks to get to the student or school. This test is generally more difficult because it is used for university entrance as well as for high school. In contrast to the ELTiS, the TOFEL and tests only general English abilities.
Because the TOFEL has been around longer, schools that have been accepting international students for many years often require the TOFEL test. This is most common with boarding schools and prestigious private schools, but not always. Most schools that CIEE partners with accept ELTiS scores because it is the test recommended by CSIET, the regulatory standards council that releases guidelines for running international F-1 visa programs.
SSAT: The Secondary School Admissions Test
The Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) is another test that some U.S. high schools require, and it is a popular admission requirement for exclusive private schools. Schools rely on the SSAT to assess a student's overall academic abilities, rather than knowledge in specific subjects. The SSAT is 3 hours and 5 minutes long and covers 167 questions including an unscored essay that is sent to schools. It evaluates quantitative skills, reading comprehension skills, and writing skills.
While this test is difficult, it gives the prospective schools a holistic assessment of the student’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Taking this test also provides a predicted Grade 12 SAT score.
ISSE: Independent School Entrance Examination
The Independent School Entrance Examination (ISSE) is used for admission to some private high schools. The test is given several times throughout the year, but the majority of the testing dates fall during the fall and early winter and the number of available test dates depends on your location. This test includes sections for verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, mathematics achievement and an unscored essay.
Schools that use this test have found that have found that the ISEE test scores are the most consistent indicators of predicting success for students for their rigorous academic programs. The test is 2 hours and 40 minutes long and covers 161 questions including a scored essay.
Many private schools will require a second standardized test along with the English test. Because private schools in the United States are so selective, many schools use a secondary test, such as the ISEE or SSAT, to allow them to compare students from very different educational backgrounds. Very rarely, schools will set limits to these scores. Often times they are used to help the student instead of hurt their chances of gaining admission to a school. Most boarding schools require the SSAT, while some independent schools accept either the SSAT or the ISEE. While it makes the application process longer and more difficult, these tests are used to help determine which students are very serious about applying to the school, compared to those that are applying because it is easy.