Students in Chile can choose between 25 traditional universities (public or private) and over 50 private ones, which are increasingly growing in number. However many of the newer private universities are considered of inferior quality when comparing to the older traditional universities. The difference in quality is accompanied by large differences in prestige rankings, PSU scores for admittance and years of government accreditation.
There is a single, transparent admission system to all traditional universities which integrate the so-called Council of Rectors (Consejo de Rectores). The system, called PSU, an acronym for University Selection Test (Prueba de Selección Universitaria), is very similar to the United States’ SAT Reasoning Test. The design and the evaluation of the test is performed by the University of Chile, while the system itself is managed by the Ministry of Education (Ministerio de Educación).
The test consists of two mandatory exams, one in Mathematics and one in Language. There are also two adittional specific exams, Sciences (including Chemistry, Physics and Biology fields) and History, depending on which undergraduate program the student wishes to apply to. The cumulative grade point average achieved during secondary school is also taken into account in the final admission score. Every university assigns different weightings to the results of the various exams.
Even though it’s not mandatory, several private universities uses PSU scores to select their students.
There are several scholarship programs granted by the government to students based on merit or need. There are also loans programs through private banks with the state acting as guarantee.
In 2010, a total of 250,752 persons took both mandatory PSU tests.