Credential Evaluators in the US

The United States of America is a land of opportunity for international students interested in growing and learning professionally as well as personally. US universities are well known for their superior resources and faculty. Admissions are open to the world offering a variety of courses tailored to suit each individual professional and personal goals.

University admissions require a minimum of 12 years of primary and secondary education which is viewed as the equivalent of a high school diploma in the US. Criteria for undergraduate admissions in the USA may require the potential candidate’s GPA scores (which, in the case of international students, a credential evaluation agency will provide), and the scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test I (SAT I) or the American College Test (ACT) scores. International students need to present a Credential Evaluation report from a recognized agency which, according to format, is a well detailed document listing the student’s past educational credentials and hold them in light of US equivalent qualifications.

Students who have completed high school or a foreign equivalent can pursue post-secondary education at a college or university leading to a bachelor’s degree in a field of their choice while concentrating on a “major”. Post secondary degrees typically last for about two to four years. Two-year degrees are called associate degrees while four-year degrees are called bachelor’s degree in most post secondary courses of study. International students can transfer to a US college or university by submitting a “course-by-course evaluation” report, in most cases, which is prepared by a recognized International Credential Evaluation Agency that shows, to name a few, the equivalence of the courses completed in ones country in terms of U.S. equivalent qualifications, hours of credit and grades. Many universities have their own sub-division of credential evaluation or certain other specifications and one would be advised to research this matter amongst others, as many Universities or colleges may differ from others in requirements.

After completion of an undergraduate degree or in other cases, an equivalent international degree, a student can proceed in pursuing higher education, for which the options are many. There are universities that offer Master’s degree, as well as various other postgraduate Certificate or Diploma courses. Again in this case, for an international student seeking to apply, the student might be required to present a Credential Evaluation in some form. Either the university will have a branch dedicated to this purpose or it might require that the student seek out a recognized Credential Evaluation Agency. Specifications for credential evaluation may differ from one university to the other. Master’s programs, in most cases, are typically designed for two years of full-time study, which typically includes a research thesis. Many courses might not require professional work experience after a bachelor’s degree to apply for programs; however, students applying to business schools are usually required to have gained a few years of professional work experience before seeking admission. Again, the candidate needs to consult the individual university in this matter.

Candidates wanting to pursue higher education after the completion of a Master’s degree can opt for a doctorate degree, also abbreviated as a PhD. A PhD degree may take anywhere between three to six years for completion, and might vary depending on the student’s subject of choice, educational background and the university’s requirements. The Ph.D. degree course might entail writing an original dissertation which holds significant research and optimally presenting and defending the work before a panel of faculty members who specialize in the discipline. The Ph.D. degree is presented after these conditions are fulfilled.

Applying for School in the US

The United States has the largest and most versatile system for higher education. Any student interested in applying for school in the US for higher studies will find a suitable place at one of more than 3000 American colleges and universities.

With so many options, how do you choose your school?

1. General Research

The internet is the best source of information since most institutions have websites with detailed information including admission, programs, scholarships, credential evaluator services, etc. Many of these institutions also give you direct contact by phone or mail to answer any questions you may not have found online.

Before deciding on your school, you will want to consider geographical locations, costs,  and, of course, programs offered in the subject of interest.

2. University/College Research

The next step is to research potential universities and obtain information from the school directly. Most universities have an online application process or detail the steps involved in the application procedures on their website. These universities will also require your educational qualifications, credential evaluation reports, test results and letters of recommendation. Many of the universities and colleges may have a center on campus that administer ESL classes. One great way to find out if this college/university is a good fit for you is by spending a few months learning English and being immersed in the environment. Some even say this could give you an additional advantage on admissions!

3. Exam Preparation

Nearly all universities in the United States require applicants to take what are known as ‘standardized tests’ designed to measure students’ aptitude for further study. Students whose native language is not English might have to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), which are administered in most countries. In these cases, many students take general English or test preparation classes at an ESL school.

Undergraduate programs usually require the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT (American College Testing) in order to gain admissions. Business graduate schools and MBA programs usually require students to do well on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) while other post-graduate programs in other disciplines generally require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Other specialized tests are offered for professional programs such as Law, Medicine, Dentistry, etc. To determine what exams are specific to your situation, contact your program to see what their minimum requirements are.

How are foreign qualifications reviewed?

Some universities employ specialists in foreign educational credential evaluation systems to review documents submitted by international students. Others will instruct applicants to have their credentials evaluated by an independent foreign credential evaluation agency, and will provide them with a list of organizations whose evaluations they accept. The right evaluation services can be found by asking the university for further instructions since each school is unique.

What else can a educational credential evaluation report do for you?

If you obtain an independent credential evaluation report it will give you some idea of what your educational background is worth in the US. Additionally, this will help determine what programs you are qualified for. That information can be very helpful when you make preparations for study in the United States, especially in finding the college or university that is just right for you.

If you are interested in studying English in the US, check our ESL Directory featuring programs and schools throughout the country.

Careers for English Speakers

No matter what field you plan to go into, communication is key. With so many people speaking English across the globe, more and more communication is done in English. According to a Financial Times article, in 2007 there were approximately 1.5 billion people speaking “reasonably well English”. NationMaster, a website providing country specific data and statistics, compared the number of English speaker in each country and found that the majority of speakers reside in America, India, and the United Kingdom (to no surprise!). Over the years, however, we have seen these numbers change as more people learn English.

One primary reason people are learning English today is because of career opportunities – either locally, or even overseas. Learning English for work can give you a competitive edge against other candidates in the application pool. Here are some top fields that require English on a daily basis:

  • Communications – Advertising, Public Relations, Customer Service, Telecommunications, Journalism, etc.
  • International Business – International Trade (Export/Import), Executive, Secretary, Receptionist, Manager, Sales, etc.
  • Translator/Interpreter
  • Education – English Teacher, Study Abroad Advisor/International Student Advisor, etc.
  • Government
  • Science – Scientist, Doctor, Nurse, Archeologist, Researcher, Engineer, etc.
  • Construction
  • Tourism – Travel Agent, Airlines, Car Rental, Hotel or Restaurant Management, Visitor Bureau, National Park and Museum Staff, etc.

Once you start thinking about how useful English is, you will begin to add more industries and positions to this list. While you may already have the skills and training, a large part of many jobs – especially managerial – require you to effectively communicate. Learning English will allow you to translate these skills and interact with people all around the world.

Credit Card v. Debit Card

Should you try to open a credit card or a debit card for use in the United States? Both are great options for making purchases without having to lug around all the cash you plan on using that day. Besides being more convenient, both of these options are safer than carrying physical money around with you in any American city. If your debit or credit card is stolen or lost, you can contact your financial institution to put a block on the card, and many will help you recover any damages in case your card is lost or stolen.

Debit cards are likely going to be the best option for English language students. To further explain, debit cards are tied to a checking account. To use the debit card, you must open a bank account and deposit funds that will be automatically deducted when you make a purchase. Be sure that there are sufficient funds available for each purchase so that you do not overdraft. Debit cards also work in Automated Teller Machines (also known as ATM) which allow you to withdrawing cash. Debit cards may allow you to overdraft your account, in other words spend more money than you have available on your account. This is normally a very costly proposition. Average fees for overdrafts run $35 dollars per transaction, and some banks do not notify you if your account has become overdrawn before assessing such fees.

Should you try to use a credit card to avoid this? If you’re like most English language students, a credit card may not even be an option for you. To be awarded a credit card in the United States, you must have a credit score, which is a record of how well you handle money that you have borrowed. This is tied to your social security number, which is a number that may not be issued. Often, English language students must start with what is called a “secured card,” which is a credit card that you make a deposit towards to ensure your good payment history.

Understanding BULATS Results

Because the BULATS exam is itself actually made up of four distinct parts with several different testing styles, understanding your BULATS Results can be almost as challenging as taking the exam itself!

Whether it is taken online or by CD-ROM, because the Reading and Listening Test is a computer adaptive test results are available immediately on-screen at the conclusion of the exam. Those scores, using an encrypted algorithm, will be broken down into three parts:

  • a listening score;
  • a reading and language knowledge score;
  • and an overall score.

The overall score is given in an easy to understand scale of 1 to 100 which corresponds to an achievement level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:

75-89C1 (Effective proficiency)Advanced

BULATS Scores Common European Framework Ability
90-100 C2 (Mastery) Very Advanced
60-74 B2 (Vantage) Upper Intermediate
40-59 B1 (Threshold) Lower Intermediate
20-39 A2 (Waystage) Elementary
0-19 A1 (Breakthrough) Beginner

Regardless of whether taken online or at a testing center, applicants who take either the Speaking Test or the Writing Test will receive their test report after their exam has been graded by at least two trained examiners. The resulting score uses the same CEFR Framework listed above but also gives finer distinctions of ability using +, – and =. Optional CEFR “Can Do” Statements can also be included in score results to demonstrate applicants’ actual functional abilities.

Because of the fact that the exact format of the paper-based Standard Test is decided by the organization using it, results for this section are designed to allow for flexible reporting. For example, test administrators may place an increased emphasis on both accuracy and speed and curve exam results accordingly. As a result, it is especially important to check with the organizations requirements before attempting the exam.