AST Overview

The Aptitude Scholastic Test (AST) is an academic standards test first created by the Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research in 2003.

Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research is an international non-profit non-governmental organization that works with world-class universities to select and admit China’s best and brightest candidates for overseas study. 

2003: A Strong Beginning

In 2003, Ambright teamed with the University of Cambridge to create a “Cambridge/ Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research Selection Center”. Today, that center is known as the CEIS Project Center.

Through that joint effort, students who took the AST could apply to Cambridge programs in order to gain acceptance without having to take A-level courses or the SAT examination.

During the pilot year of the program in 2003, the first batch of admitted students created a legacy of success. For example, student Hao Zhang graduated near the top of his class and went on to work for a major global corporation. In each subsequent year, the AST has consistently determined highly productive students for well-known universities.

Rapid Development Over Years

Since 2003, AST has grown at a rapid pace. Aside from the University of Cambridge, many world-leading universities now accept the test results as a basis for admission, which frees Chinese students from needing to complete A-level studies or other such prep courses.

Participating schools that use AST as a basis for admission are: University of Cambridge; University of Durham; University of Warwick; Aston University; University of Bristol; University of Nottingham; University of Glasgow; University of Edinburgh; University of Reading; University of Auckland; Singapore Nanyang Technological University; Tennessee Technological University; The University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Boca Prep International School. 

An International Test with Chinese Characteristics

Unlike other international examinations, AST is tailored for Chinese students, using an assessment system and knowledge focus points based upon the Chinese high school syllabus.

This allows Chinese students to participate in normal Chinese high school programs and frees them from the extra burden of particular prep courses. In this way, a wider range of students gain access to study overseas, depending on which schools accept the test as a prerequisite.

Cutting-edge Research and Development

AST boasts a dedicated group of education experts who design exam papers at the AST Centre. These experts – on average – have been engaged in education research work for over two decades.

With their rich testing experience and international insight, they work on continious development of the test to ensure that it exactly mirrors the academic level and comprehensive study ability of test participants by international criteria.

In addition, the exam marking group is made up of senior teachers from various subject fields. The AST center randomly assigns the exam marking group members, which ensures the fairness and transparency of the exam paper.


AST allows a wider range of students access to study overseas.

The following students are eligible to take the test:

  1. Those currently studying or having graduated from a Chinese high school program.
  2. Those who are seeking study opportunities at overseas universities.
  3. Students from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau are welcome.
  4. Study level requirement: students who have completed their second year of a Chinese high school program (or equivalent).
  5. Preparation session: this is an optional 3-day program that test-takers may register for to gain a deeper insight into the nuances of the exam. Click here for details about this session. 

Examination Particulars

AST Testing Centers

The Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research has a firm relationship with myriad Chinese schools that are certified AST test centers.

All test center schools (after a careful screening and appointment of an on-site administrator) may join Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research training programs for free. The purpose of these test centers is to give students China-wide the opportunity to access to overseas universities’ presentations, seminars, or forums organized by the Ambright Institute of Education and Scientific Research.

Since 2003, AST has focused heavily on testing proficiency in English and mathematics. Students may also choose optional test modules based on the requirements of the AST member universities that they are applying for.


The test helps myriad students realize their dreams

Examination Dates

AST takes place every year at multiple locations across China in August.

Typical Exam Schedule

Day 1:
9:00-12:00 am, Mathematics 
14:00-16:30 pm, English 

Day 2:
9:00-12:00 Physics 

Test Methods

The bulk of the test uses short answers and multiple choice, while the listening portion uses a voice recording plus short written answers.

  • English exam is 150 minutes long (including a 30-minute listening portion)
    • Questions are written in English and must be answered in English. Many of these are essay questions which require the student to think logically and independently to express their individual point of view on each topic.
  • Math exams are180 minutes long
  • Physics exam is 180 minutes long

Test Processing

After the students complete their tests, their scores are sent to the CEIS member universities by request for a small processing fee.

Alternatively, universities can also verify the candidates’ AST results by contacting the AST centre directly. We are glad to provide the electronic transcript for free.

If a conventional hard copy is required, additional processing fees may be charged (it takes at least 5 working days to process these requests).

The AST Network

Spread over 19 provinces, AST currently has 36 testing sites in China, most of which are nationally top-ranked high schools (such as Beijing No.4 High School and Shanghai Gezhi High School). AST administrators have worked closely with these high schools for many years, in order to provide trustworthy, high-quality testing services.

The AST is a powerful tool with nearly a decade of development behind it that effectively bridges exceptional Chinese high school students with world-leading universities. Unlike other international examinations, AST is tailored for Chinese students, using an assessment methodology and knowledge focus that is based upon the Chinese high school syllabus.

The results speak for themselves: in the years that the AST has been used by the University of Cambridge, hundreds of students have gained admission to the University of Cambridge via the test, while several hundred others have been admitted to other schools in the AST network.