State Examination-ICFES in Colombia

Undergraduate Test

State Examination- ICFES (Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educacion Superior)

ICFES (Colombian Institute for the Promotion of Higher Education) is a Colombian organization that is responsible for the evaluation of education and institutes/schools in Colombia. 

The ICFES conducts the evaluation of the basic education- SABER test for students in 3rd, 5th and 9th grade. Also, it develops and administers the state exams of secondary education- SABER 11°, and higher education exam-SABER PRO. The institute also offers the pre test KNOW 11° for high school students in order to make them familiar with the state exam.

The ICFES exam, now known as SABER 11 is a standardized test required for admission to the higher education institutions in Colombia. ICFES state exam takes place every year and is for 11th grade students. The test is divided into 2 sessions, each one of 4 hours and 30 minutes. 

This exam comprises of a series of tests that measures the students’ expertise in the following subjects: Spanish language, mathematics, natural sciences (physics, chemistry and biology), a foreign language (German, English or French), social sciences, philosophy, and chosen interdisciplinary areas (communication and culture, environmental studies, and society).
The ICFES state exam (Examen de Estado) assesses your strengths and weaknesses of what you learned in school as a basis for entry into higher education institutions in Colombia.

Grading System

ICFES State Examination

 Scale  Grade description (In English) Grade description (In Spanish)   US Grade 
 71.00-100.00  High Performance  Alto  A
 46.00-70.99  High Average  Medio Alto  B
 31.00-45.99  Average  Medio  C
 0.00-30.99  Poor  Bajo  


Students who are not registered for the state examination of secondary education- ICFES know 11° can apply for the Pre-SABER. This is a test run for the students to familiarise them with the actual testing and application conditions. The test has the same attributes as the state exam- ICFES known as 11° but is not valid for higher education admission.

Pre-SABER Structure

The test comprises of 5 sections:
  • Mathematics
  • English
  • Critical reading
  • Social and civic science
  • Natural science
It also has 2 sub-tests:
  • Citizenship skills
  • Quantitative reasoning

SABER 11° (Knowing the 11th)

SABER 11° is required for admission to higher education in Colombia. Students who have completed eleventh grade must undertake this exam. This exam consist of 5 tests- 
  • Critical reading: It tests the language skills. 
  • Mathematics: It tests the knowledge of mathematics and quantities facet of reasoning. 
  • Natural sciences: This includes physics, chemistry and biology. 
  • Social and Citizen: This includes social and civic sciences.
  • English
The subtests are:
  • Citizenship skills 
  • Quantitative reasoning 
Both the sub-tests are generic in nature.The questions are multiple-choice types. 

Postgraduate Examination

SABER-PRO (or ECAES- Examen de Estado de Calidad de la Educacion Superior)

The State examinations for Higher Education Quality –SABER PRO (ECAES) is an academic test for all university pupils aspiring to graduate. It assesses the skills of the pupils who are in the final year of undergraduate programme offered by the Colombian higher education institution. SABER PRO filing is compulsory as degree requisite, in addition to other prerequisites that each higher education institution has set up.


The SABER PRO has two modules, held in two sessions. 
  • General skills modules (first session): This module comprises of written communication, critical reading, English, quantitative reasoning, and citizenship skills. 
  • Specific skills modules (second session): This module has three parts:
    • Maintenance, assembly and operation of machinery and equipment
    • Installation and maintenance of hardware and software
    • Health promotion and disease prevention

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