International students Antonio Alvarez and Kathy Song had very different paths into the Australian National University, but both agree the English testing to secure their place was expensive and challenging.
The minimum threshold of English skills for international students has been questioned in recent days, after a Four Corners investigation into the pressure universities are under to attract full-fee-paying students.
Allegations of unethical behaviour by recruitment agents used by Australian universities including the ANU were also revealed.
But Mr Alvarez, Ms Song and fellow student and ANU International Student Department president Arebelle Ximian Zhang believe the process is rigorous.
Domestic and international students at ANU must meet the same minimum English language ability.
For citizens or residents of 23 countries determined by the ANU, that means showing a transcript proving they have studied English at a secondary or tertiary level.
But others, like Mr Alvarez from Ecuador and Ms Song from Beijing in China, must pass an English language test within two years of applying for university.
Mr Alvarez completed the ANU College foundation studies before tackling the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Paying about $180 upfront for the TOEFL, which now costs about $386 in Australia, made Mr Alvarez nervous from the start.
"Some people take it twice because they think the first go wasn't as good, I just took it once because I didn't have the money," he said.
"I spent one semester [in the college] to get to use English, learn to write properly and get used to the fact that I'm not in Ecuador anymore … for essay writing especially it was very helpful."
For his bachelor of science degree he needed a minimum TOEFL score of 80 out of 120, but his time in the foundation course paid off, and he scored 95.
Ms Song chose to complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) assessing listening, reading, writing and speaking, to study her master's in accounting.
For ANU, students need an overall IELTS score of 6.5 out of 9 and a minimum of 6 for each component.
If someone fails to reach the IELTS score they need for one component they must retake the entire exam, which costs $330 in Australia.
"Usually reading and listening is the easiest part for [Chinese] students, but speaking and writing is the hardest," Ms Song said.
"I took it three times in China to get what I wanted; it's kind of a way of studying English."
For Chinese-born and Singapore-raised Ms Zhang the path was easier. Her high school certificate would have been recognised by the ANU to enter the double-degree of law and business administration, but she chose to do the IELTS in case she decides to remain in Australia after studying.
Mr Alvarez and Ms Song have found the language barrier a challenge at times during their study, but all three students agree there is little that can be done to prepare students for the culture shock of studying in Australia because every experience is unique.
"Students seldom do presentations in class [in Beijing] … but here ... you need to talk, you need to answer the lecturer's question in class," Ms Song said.
"The first time, I was so embarrassed."
Ms Zhang and Ms Song went through agencies to make the application process easier and both recommended the ANU.
Mr Alvarez's tuition and accommodation are paid for by an Ecuadorian government scholarship.
For Ms Zhang and Ms Song, their ANU education will cost their parents about $35,000 a year – about three to four times more than domestic student fees. But both believe it will be worth it in the long run.