Law School IELTS Requirements

IELTS Policies at Law Schools

In the United States, the TOEFL is more widely accepted for law school admission than the IELTS. Master of Laws (LLM) programs usually require one of these tests, but many Juris Doctor (JD) programs do not expect applicants to complete an English language assessment. Some American law schools will allow applicants to submit scores for either exam, but others require or prefer the TOEFL, which is an American test. Harvard Law School is an example of an institution that will consider TOEFL scores only (the IELTS will not be accepted). Duke University School of Law will reluctantly consider the IELTS, but this program "prefers" the TOEFL. The University of Pennsylvania Law School permits students to take either the TOEFL or the IELTS. Language testing waivers are usually conferred on students who have completed their undergraduate degrees at tertiary institutions in English-speaking countries. Law study in the United Kingdom frequently begins at the undergraduate level, where IELTS policies and acceptance are the same as for undergraduate admission in other subjects.

Law School IELTS Score Requirements

Because the law is a subject area that requires strong verbal skills, law schools tend to set high benchmarks for the IELTS and other language tests. At Georgetown Law Center, for example, the minimum total IELTS score is 7.5, and all paper scores must be at least 7.0 each. The University of Illinois College of Law, a less selective institution, expects a composite IELTS score of 6.5 or higher and individual section scores of 6.0. The minimum IELTS score range for most law schools is between 6.0 and 7.5, and very few institutions have IELTS standards below 6.0.

Submitting IELTS Scores to Law Schools

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) offers a Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which allows prospective law students to much more easily submit all components of their law school applications, including IELTS scores. Some programs actually require their applicants to use this service. Students use CAS by sending all of their documents to LSAC, which will then compile and forward those documents to as many specific institutions as the student wishes. Because the student does not have to complete the full application process for each law school, CAS saves a considerable amount of time. Law school applicants should use whichever CAS is appropriate for their degree program (LSAC provides separate services for JD and LLM offerings). The fee for CAS is currently $185, and students may sign up on the LSAC website.

International Students at Law Schools

Law schools prize diversity in all of its forms, including country of origin. Applications submitted by international students will be considered fairly, but non-native speakers of English may have to take the IELTS or another test (especially if their undergraduate studies were completed in countries where English is not the official language). Most law schools in English-speaking countries have fairly sizable international student populations, although the applicant pool is not as large as it is for graduate programs in some other disciplines. Columbia Law School states that it is among a "small handful" of law schools that integrates JD and LLM students in coursework, which creates a more diverse classroom experience. About 11% of Columbia Law School's current JD students are international, and they come from 37 countries. Harvard Law School reports that its student population is 17% international, with 16 foreign countries represented. About 10% of students at Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law are foreign nationals, which is nearly twice the rate at the University of Chicago Law School (5.3%). Online law school class profiles do not always list international student percentages, but the American Bar Association does require disclosure of the number of non-resident aliens in each class. These statistics can be found in the Standard 509 Information Report for each law school, under the "JD Enrollment and Ethnicity" category.

Financial Aid for International Law School Applicants

International students wishing to study at U.S. law schools cannot qualify for federal student loans, but there are a number of options available, which may be either need-based or merit-based. Harvard Law School, for example, uses the same formula to determine need-based aid for international students as it does for U.S. citizens. At the University of Virginia School of Law, international students are "fully eligible for merit-based assistance." A number of private financial institutions offer loans that can be used to pay for law school. These loans may or may not require a U.S. cosigner, depending on an individual student's circumstances. Scholarships funded by private entities such as law firms or charitable foundations may also help international students absorb the cost of a legal education.