Katie Schenk - November 04, 2019
Top international graduate programmes – even in countries like Spain and China – use English as the medium of instruction in many cases. You’ll need to demonstrate English proficiency to get a seat.
There are a variety of common English proficiency tests, but no normal set of standards. Each university sets their own minimums for scoring and determine the English language exams they'll accept.
You’ll need to do your research before tackling one of these English proficiency tests.
Every programme sets its own parameters, but there are some generalities you can expect.
For a start, waivers are often provided for applicants from certain countries. If you're from Australia and want to study in England or the United States, you probably won’t need an English proficiency exam.
But, if you're an English-speaking applicant from a multi-lingual country, you might not be so lucky.
If you're from India or South Africa, you might need to take an English proficiency test even if your mother tongue is English or you previously studied in English.
But, there are often ways around these stipulations.
If you recently completed an undergrad degree using English or you've worked for at least 2 years in a country with English as an official language, you're likely to receive an exemption.
Remember, however, that the United States does not have an official language, so American citizenship or residence may not be enough for admissions committees.
While there are several exams out there, only a few are widely accepted at the top post grad universities.
The most common are TOEFL and IELTS tests.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is perhaps the most widely accepted – and, therefore, the best known exam of English proficiency.
There are currently two different types of TOEFL exams:
Following the recent revisions of the TOEFL pBT, the scoring is the same between the new formats:
If you've already taken the TOEFL pBT, universities will continue to accept those scores until the two-year expiration point is met.
There are two International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams; the General Training Exam and the Academic Exam.
While many universities accept the IELTS exam, there are fewer programmes that will take these scores than will accept TOEFL scores. And, most post-graduate universities that take the IELTS test only accept the Academic test.
The IELTS also tests your reading, writing, listening, and speaking abilities, but the scoring is considerably different from the TOEFL exam. Final scores are provided on a nine-band scale.
In addition to TOEFL and IELTS, there are a few other tests available. Though less common, you will find programmes that accept these exams. If you happen to attend an institution that proctors these tests, you may find it easier to enrol in them, but you may struggle to find schools that accept them.
One of the biggest benefits of the Pearson (Academic) Test of English (PTE) is that results are available within 5 days and many receive their results in as little as 2 days. If you need to rush your English test, give this one a go.
The PTE is scored on a scale between 10 and 90, with a 90 being generally comparable to a 9 on the IELTS.
In addition to the TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE tests, you'll find that there are institutions that accept other exam results.
The number of schools accepting other scores is relatively low. But you should consider them if:
Even if universities accept TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE results, many have a preference for one or another.
Additionally, some departments have a different requirement than the university generally.
For example, Duke University accepts IELTS and TOEFL scores for many grad-level programmes. But, if you want to attend the Pratt School of Engineering, you can only submit a TOEFL score.
If you're hoping to get a teaching or research assistantship, the minimum score you need might be higher than the admissions requirement.
Additionally, while most test results are valid for 2 years, many universities require the test scores to be valid until the first day of class – not the date of admission. If you’re results are aging, you may need to sit the exam again.
California Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Purdue University West Lafayette
University of California San Diego (Jacobs)
University of Texas Austin (Cockrell)
Texas A&M University College Station
Johns Hopkins University (Whiting)
Northwestern University (McCormick)
University of Wisconsin Madison
Duke University (Pratt)
North Carolina State University
Ohio State University
Rice University (Brown)
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
University of Washington
University of California Davis
University of Colorado Boulder
Pennsylvania State University University Park
University of California Irvine (Samueli)
Iowa State University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Virginia
University of Florida
University of Rochester (Hajim)
University of Dayton
University of Delaware
University of Notre Dame
University of Pittsburgh (Swanson)
Harvard Business School
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
Columbia Business School
University of California at Berkeley (Haas)
Yale School of Management
IESE Business School
Northwestern University (Kellogg)
Dartmouth College (Tuck)
University of Cambridge (Judge)
National University of Singapore Business School
HKUST Business School
Duke University: Fuqua
Esade Business School
IMD Business School
University of Virginia (Darden)
Indian School of Business
New York University (Stern)
University of California Los Angeles (Anderson)
Cornell University (Johnson)
Georgetown University (McDonough)
Nanyang Business School
IE Business School
Indian Institute of Management Bangalore
Fudan University School of Management
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
Warwick Business School
University of Texas at Austin (McCombs)
Emory University (Goizueta)
University of Florida (Warrington)
Imperial College Business School
University of Hong Kong
Sungkyunkwan University GSB
Singapore Management University: Lee Kong Chian
Indiana University (Kelley)
Durham University Business School
University of Southern California (Marshall)
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
University of California at Irvine (Merage)
University of Washington (Foster)
Indian Institute of Management Calcutta
Shanghai Jiao Tong University (Antai)
If standardised tests aren’t your strong point – and you already need to sweat through the GMAT or GRE, consider applying to one of the top business schools that doesn’t require the TOEFL or any other English exam. Believe it or not, these programmes do exist.
That doesn’t mean you can get by in another language; you’ll still need an excellent grasp of English – but you don’t need a test to prove it.
This small handful of universities check for English proficiency through essays, the verbal sections on the GMAT or GRE and interviews.
These schools include:
Whether you can waive the requirement for an English exam, you’re not going to get away from verbal gymnastics in any grad-level course. It’s important to get in (or back in) the groove of reading complex texts regularly so you do well on your exams and in the classroom.
Already passed your exams?
If you've already jumped through all the standardised testing hurdles, you might want to investigate how you'll pay for your international grad school education.
Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Post updated for accuracy and freshness on November 4, 2019. Originally published on August 13, 2018.
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