9 min read

What Exams are Required to Study in the UK?

Jan 28, 2023Date Published
Please Login
to perform this action
UniSearch - What Exams are Required to Study in the UK?

The UK remains a major study abroad destination, with 85 universities finding a place on the QS World University Rankings 2022. Thousands of students apply to UK universities every year. So how can you make sure your application receives the spotlight? To make sure they’re choosing the best applicants for each course, UK universities maintain specific entry requirements. Admissions exams may fall into this category, depending on things like your nationality and the course you’re applying for. So, what are the exams required to study in the UK? Read on to find out!

Requirements to Study in the UK for International Students

1. Proving Your Language Ability

With the UK being the birthplace of the English language, it’s only natural that the majority of the courses here are in English. Not only is English proficiency a requirement for most universities, but getting a UK Student visa also requires proof of your language ability. Universities want to know whether you have a functional grasp of the language to let you complete your courses effectively. Will you be able to keep up in class, as well as meaningfully communicate while staying, studying, and maybe even working in the UK?

Depending on your level of study and course, the level of English proficiency you have to display may vary. Be sure to check the English language requirements of your chosen programs and universities before applying! Take a look at which English proficiency tests the school accepts. IELTS, delivered by the British Council, is a popular indicator for English language skills. TOEFL and PTE Academic are also popular options. These tests evaluate your ability to read, write, speak and listen effectively in the English language. 

In some cases, depending on your qualifications and place of citizenship, your school may not require proof of language proficiency. For instance, several schools will accept your qualifying grade for Cambridge IGCSE First Language English or IGCSE English as a Second Language as proof of your ability in the language. 

English Language Requirements for the UK Student Visa

As an international student, you’ll likely need to sit for a Secure English Language Test (SELT) approved by the Home Office. These requirements apply even if you’ve satisfied the English language requirements of your university. The approved SELT providers according to the Home Office are:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium
  • LanguageCert
  • Pearson (PTE Academic)
  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd

Be sure you’re aware of the target score bands, and register to sit the test at an approved location. The accepted level of English at degree level or above is Level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) scale, or its equivalent. The unique SELT number you receive after completing the test is a necessary component of your visa application.

PSI Services (UK) Ltd
Level B2
5.5 – 6.0
33 (per skill)
59 – 75


2. Applying for a Graduate Course in the UK

If you’re applying for a postgraduate program in the UK, you may have to fulfill specific exam requirements. Among the competitive exams you may have to sit when studying in the UK are the GMAT and GRE.

i. Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

If you’re applying for a graduate business program in the UK, you will likely need a qualifying score for the GMAT. Scores of this exam might play a big part in letting admissions officers know if you’re qualified, alongside your academic transcripts and work experience. 

This computer adaptive (CAT) test is over three hours long and evaluates four areas: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment.

ii. Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test

The GMAT is what you would opt for when applying for business programs like an MBA. The GRE General Test on the other hand can qualify you for a broader range of graduate programs. As one of the competitive exams in the UK when it comes to graduate-entry admissions, GRE test scores may boost your application strength even if your school does not ask for it. Master’s and doctoral degree applicants may all sit for the GRE. The test evaluates three areas: 

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning.


3. Subject-Specific Requirements to Study in the UK

Depending on your study stream, you may have to sit for specific entrance exams when studying in the UK. 

If you’re pursuing a degree in Law, you may have to sit for:

i. The Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT)

Nine UK universities require their undergraduate law applicants to sit for the LNAT. This isn’t a test of what you know about law. Rather, the test assesses your aptitude for studying this discipline. It looks at your skills in comprehension, interpretation, analysis, synthesis, induction, and deduction.

The following schools require LNAT for its undergraduate law candidates:

  • University of Bristol
  • Durham University
  • University of Glasgow
  • King’s College London
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Oxford
  • School of Oriental and African Studies 
  • UCL Faculty of Laws 


ii. Cambridge Law Test

The University of Cambridge administers this test to its Law applicants. The paper-based test evaluates students for their writing and critical reading skills, rather than their knowledge of law.


If you’re pursuing a degree in Medicine, you may have to sit for:

i. University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)

If you’re applying for a degree in medicine or dentistry, this may be one of the exams required to study in the UK. The computer-based test is compulsory for applicants to the UCAT UK University Consortium, made up of over 30 universities:

Hull York Medical School
Kent and Medway Medical School
St George’s, University of London
University of East Anglia
University of Sunderland
University of Worcester

These universities use the UCAT test to select the candidates who display the mindsets, mental abilities, professional and other attitudes and behaviours suited for a clinical career.

ii. Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) 

GAMSAT, as you can guess from the name, is one of the exams required to study in the UK by some universities for graduate-level candidates. The test assesses the following:

  • Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Written Communication
  • Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences

The test was originally paper-based but is now available in a digital format to improve its accessibility. It evaluates candidates on their problem-solving abilities, their ability to understand and analyse materials presented in different formats, think critically, and present their ideas in a logical and structured way. Universities accepting GAMSAT scores include:

If you’re pursuing a degree in Math, you may have to sit for:

i. Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT)

To apply for courses in Computer Science, Math or joint honours in these disciplines, the University of Oxford administers the paper-based MAT. The University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and the University of Warwick may require this test.

The MAT assesses students on the extent of their understanding of mathematical concepts, principles, and applications. The syllabus covers what you’ll be familiar with if you are in your final year of A-level mathematics.

ii. Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP)

This test evaluates candidates’ knowledge and application of AS and A level mathematics, to qualify for undergraduate Mathematics programs. The University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Warwick accept these scores.  

This is not an exhaustive list of subject-specific exams required to study in the UK. When researching and choosing courses you wish to apply to, make sure you’re fully familiar with the entry requirements. University websites will usually offer a comprehensive checklist of requirements, including exam scores, that you need to meet to qualify.


Our Concluding Thoughts 

Alongside the academic requirements each course and university sets for its applicants, you may need to sit for exams required to study in the UK. Be it English proficiency exams or program-specific exams, your application is incomplete if you don’t meet the university’s criteria. So be sure to thoroughly familiarise yourself with the program requirements before you apply. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, in case you need to apply, practice and wait on the results of exams like the GMAT or IELTS. By making sure you meet and exceed the minimum score requirements, you enhance the strength of your application. Entrance exams like these tend to be competitive exams in the UK. After all, universities will be on the lookout for the most qualified candidates out of thousands of applicants. Make sure you give yourself the edge you need to stand out! Start early, prepare thoroughly, and do your best!


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is required to study in the UK?

This depends in large part on the course and university you’re applying to. Entry requirements include grade boundaries and specific subjects corresponding to your chosen course. You may have to look into the grade equivalents of commonly used frameworks by UK universities, such as the GCSE and A levels. 

Alongside these requirements, UK universities will typically ask for proof of English proficiency from international students. IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE Academic fall under the most popular scores accepted by most universities. However, be sure you’re fully aware of which tests and their respective score boundaries the school accepts. Sitting for the wrong test, missing the grade boundary, or leaving the scores out altogether may lead to admissions refusal.

Certain universities and courses may also ask for specific test scores depending on the program and level of study. Graduate-entry candidates for business schools might need to sit for the GMAT, for example. GRE scores are also a popular indicator for admissions officers on how suitable a graduate candidate is for the university’s postgraduate programs. Tests like the LNAT for undergraduate law students, and the UCAT for students pursuing clinical careers, may also apply. 

So, we can’t stress this enough – make sure you’re thoroughly researching your course requirements well before deadlines roll around. You may have to sit multiple tests, sign up for workshops and practice sessions, and give yourself enough time to be sure you score well. After all, these scores are what distinguish you from the rest of the applicants! 

How should I prepare for admissions exams for the UK?

This would depend on the exam in question. Not only would the content of the exam vary, but the structure, format, and assessment areas will too. So step one is always to get familiar with exactly what the exam is going to assess. The LNAT, for example, isn’t going to test your knowledge of the legal field. Rather than trying to cram legal definitions, familiarise yourself with the types of questions and format of the test. 

Many entrance exams check your ability and skill in areas such as critical and analytical skills, verbal and written expression, rather than concrete knowledge. One of the best ways of demonstrating this is making sure you put in the practice. Do practice papers and examine sample kits available on test websites and other resources. Look into score guides to see exactly which aspects of your answer will gain you points. If you can, sign up for workshops and get hold of other helpful resources too. Don’t leave any stone unturned. After all, these exams may be your ticket to sealing the deal for your dream university!