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English Language Testing for International Students

English Language Testing

Depending on where in the world you choose to study, and if your first language is not English, you will likely be required to prove that your English language skills are at a high enough standard. This can be a requirement for admission onto your course, but also to gain a student visa. Without proof of language skills and a student visa, some institutions will not accept your application.

Different institutions might require different tests, and they will ask for a certain score on these tests. They will normally specify the tests and scores required for admittance. Requirements are usually higher for certain study areas such as Medicine. 

Tests are offered in different formats, with some being paper-based and some internet-based. Most tests have to be taken under supervision at an assessment centre or approved institution, but there are options that allow prospective students to sit their test outside of one of these environments. You can find more information about that on the assessment providers website.

To take the assessment, you will have to pay a fee. This fee varies greatly depending on which test you are taking and where you are taking it. Fees are different from one test centre to the next, so you should always check with your local test centre, or the centre you intend to use. Most tests are offered at least once a month, but as with the fees, this varies, so you should make sure to check on your chosen test providers website in advance.

If you are unable to meet the requirements for your course, some higher education institutions offer preparatory language courses. These can help you increase your language skills and be better prepared to study in English. You may also be able to access language classes throughout your studies, which will continue to improve your understanding of the English language and prepare you for further study or employment. 

Another option for students who have gained a lower score are pathways or pre-masters programmes. These are normally offered by the institution themselves, and are designed to develop your English language skills specifically for studying at a university level. These programmes are typically longer than a simple assessment, and can range between a few weeks for pre-sessional courses to over a year for a foundation course. Find out more about pathways and pre-masters programmes as well as what courses are on offer in our Pathways section.

Many universities will allow you to apply for one of their courses without an English language test score, on the condition that you take a test and gain a certain score before you are firmly accepted. This is often referred to as a provisional offer of admission, and can mean that you are able to look around at courses and institutions before taking the test. This is helpful for many people, as they are able to take the specific test required for admission, and ensure that they get the minimum score needed for entry.

The following English language tests are accepted by many countries and higher education institutions around the world, as well as professional bodies and government agencies. They may also be applicable to your visa application. It is always recommended that you check the specific language requirements for your chosen institution or course, and contact the international or admissions office if you have any questions or need any assistance.


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is one of the most widely used and recognised tests across the world. The system is split into four sections: writing, reading, listening and speaking. There are two types of IELTS tests, Academic and General Training. If you wish to study at a higher education institution at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you will take the IELTS Academic test.

The Academic IELTS takes 2 hours 45 minutes to complete, and is scored in bands. You will be awarded a score between 0 and 9.0. The higher you score in your test, the better your understanding of English and ability to communicate.

There are different entry requirements for IELTS depending on what level you choose to study at. These are an example of the requirements for studying in the UK:

  • University Foundation – IELTS 4.5 (4.0+ across all skills)
  • Bachelor’s Degree – IELTS 6.5 (6.0+ across all skills)
  • Pre-Master’s – IELTS 5.0 (5.0+ across all skills)
  • Master’s/Research Degree – IELTS 6.5 (6.0+ across all skills)

Requirements may be different in other countries, so it is always recommended that you check with your institution to ensure you work towards the score you need.


The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is another one of the most recognised English language tests, and is relevant for those wanting to study at undergraduate level. The test is taken in 4 sections – reading, listening, writing and speaking.

Your test will normally take around 3 hours to complete, and you will receive a score out of 120 for all four sections combined. The higher your overall score, the better your English language skills.

The TOEFL requirements can vary greatly depending on where you choose to study, however you are generally expected to achieve a score of at least 70 for most universities, with some institutions requiring scores of up to 110. It is also possible that your institution will want specific scores in each of the sections of the test. For detailed information, we recommend that you check the course you wish to apply for.

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) is used for students who wish to study at undergraduate or postgraduate level. The test is computer-based and assesses your speaking, writing, reading and listening in 3 separate sections.

The test takes 3 hours to complete, and you will receive a score out of 90 for your overall performance, and a score out of 90 in each separate section. The higher your score, the better you performed.

The PTE Academic scores required for study vary at each institution. Most universities will require a score of at least 50, but some institutions will make allowances for lower scores. You will find more specific information about requirements on the website of your institution.

Cambridge English Advanced

The Cambridge English Advanced, also known as the C1 Advanced, is a paper or computer-based exam. It is split into five sections: writing, reading, listening, speaking and use of English. Each of these sections contribute 20% towards your overall score.

The test takes around 4 hours to complete, and is scored out of 199. The higher your score, the better your language skills. It is possible for you to score above 199, which would put you at the level above C1, but would still be acceptable to most institutions.

There are a number of other English language tests that institutions might accept, these will either be listed on their website, or will be accessible if you contact them.

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