IELTS Graduate School Requirements

IELTS Policies at Graduate Schools

In the vast majority of cases, English language testing is waived if a graduate school applicant is either a citizen of an English-speaking country or has completed an undergraduate degree in an English-speaking country. Citizens of countries in which English is only one of the national languages, such as Canada or Cameroon, are exempt from the IELTS or TOEFL only if their undergraduate degree program was taught in English. Language testing requirements apply mainly to graduate school applicants whose undergraduate education was obtained in a language other than English. Acceptance of the IELTS is nearly universal in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but some graduate programs at universities in the United States will not consider the IELTS (Stanford University, for example, accepts TOEFL scores only). The IELTS website is the most comprehensive resource for information on IELTS acceptance, where students may search for specific institutions or types of organizations and review their IELTS requirements. Because the IELTS database does not always have the most up-to-date information, graduate school applicants are advised to verify all IELTS policies on university websites.

IELTS Score Requirements at Graduate Schools

English language proficiency requirements for graduate programs can exist at several administrative levels, and they are not always consistent across all of these levels. Graduate divisions usually establish minimum IELTS standards, but a department or degree offering within that graduate division may have different test score expectations. Among graduate schools in the United States that accept the IELTS, the total score requirement is usually between 5.5 and 7.5, depending mostly on the selectivity of the program. The widely respected Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University expects overall IELTS scores of 7.0 or higher and section scores of at least 6.5 each for full admission. The IELTS benchmark for graduate students at less-selective South Dakota State University is a total score of 5.5. IELTS standards at top postsecondary institutions in Canada tend to be at least 6.5. Specific examples include McGill University (minimum IELTS score of 6.5 total and 6.0 per section), the University of Toronto (7.0), and the University of British Columbia (6.5 total and 6.0 per section). IELTS requirements at UK universities also vary. The University of Oxford, known for one of the world's most stringent sets of English standards, mandates a score of at least 7.0 on all four IELTS papers. At the University of Manchester, the IELTS requirements range from 6.0 to 7.0, depending on the subject studied.

Remedial English for Graduate Students with Low IELTS Scores

Failure to meet minimum IELTS standards will often lead to outright rejection of a graduate school applicant, but some universities allow students with slightly substandard scores to secure full admission by completing some form of English instruction or by passing an additional language test. Remedial English courses typically last for a semester or more, and students must pay fees that can equal the cost of any other university course. Prospective graduate students should make every effort to receive IELTS scores that will guarantee full admission without need for remediation. Additional English study is a costly distraction to the timely completion of a graduate degree program. Furthermore, admissions officers at highly selective graduate schools may consider language skills to be a "tiebreaker" when deciding between applicants who are otherwise similarly qualified. Professional IELTS instruction before taking the exam is nearly always less expensive and more practical than fulfilling English requirements after matriculation, assuming the latter is even an option.

International Student Populations at Graduate Schools

It has been estimated that more than 4 million students are currently pursuing postsecondary education in foreign countries. Nearly 800,000 of these international students are enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs in the United States, while approximately 400,000 have chosen to study in the United Kingdom and about 240,000 have opted for schools in Australia. There are many graduate programs with large percentages of international students. At the University of Southern California, for instance, almost 27% of all graduate students are from countries other than the United States. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, Columbia University, and the University of California-Los Angeles also attract large numbers of international students. In the United Kingdom, the University of Oxford, Kingston University, the University of Manchester, and University College London are known for a high proportion of international students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.