TOEFL Requirement for Law School (JD & LLM)

TOEFL Policies at Law Schools

International applicants to law schools will be expected to demonstrate fluency in the English language, either via the TOEFL or the IELTS (some programs in the United States express a clear preference for the former). However, completion of an undergraduate degree at a university in an English-speaking country is usually accepted as proof of the required English abilities, and applicants with these credentials may be granted a TOEFL waiver. At some law schools, applicants who earned their bachelor's degrees in non-English speaking countries can qualify for exemption from the TOEFL if the primary language of instruction at their institutions was English. Requests for TOEFL waivers must sometimes be accompanied by written statements supporting those requests. Applicants who do not meet any of the above criteria for TOEFL exemptions will almost certainly have to submit TOEFL scores in order to be considered for law school admission.

TOEFL Scores Required by Highly Selective Law Schools

Individual law schools decide how to use the TOEFL in the admissions process, and each institution sets its own minimum TOEFL requirements or expectations. TOEFL standards, which can be either firm or flexible, may apply to total scores, sectional scores, or both. The LLM program at Harvard Law School expects a total iBT score of 100, with at least 25 on each of the test's four sections. This program will consider students with lower scores, but such applicants will be at a "significant disadvantage" in comparison to candidates who have met the TOEFL benchmarks. The University of Minnesota Law School "requires no minimum TOEFL score for admission," but a total score of 109 is viewed "positively" by the admissions committee. International applicants to the JSD program at New York University Law School must score at least 100 total, 26 each on the reading and listening sections, and 22 each on speaking and writing in order to be considered for admission, but successful applicants typically submit TOEFL scores that are "substantially higher" than these minimums. The Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford requires a total score of 110, with at least 22 listening, 24 reading, 25 speaking, and 24 writing.

TOEFL Scores Required by Less Selective Law Schools

TOEFL requirements are associated with institutional selectivity, and some schools outside of the top tier will accept lower TOEFL scores. At the University of Oregon School of Law, applicants required to take the TOEFL will qualify for consideration of admission with a total score of 88. LLM applicants to the University of San Diego School of Law can satisfy the TOEFL requirement with a total score of 93. The University of Hawaii at Manoa's Richardson School of Law "ordinarily" requires a 92 on the TOEFL, but this institution is "flexible on these scores in certain cases."

Other Law School Admission Requirements for International Students

Applicants to law schools in the United States who were educated in non-English speaking countries are often required to have their transcripts evaluated and authenticated. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) offers the Credential Assembly Service, which many law schools will either require or accept as a method of validating transcripts (though some institutions use other services). All applicants to American Bar Association-approved law schools, regardless of their country of origin, must also take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). LSAT scores are heavily considered by admissions committees, and are among the most important of admission requirements.

International Student Populations at Law Schools

The most selective law schools tend to have relatively modest international student populations. International students are currently 17% of the enrollment at Harvard Law School, with 20 countries represented. The JD program at Columbia Law School is about 12% international students, although there are an additional 200 foreign lawyers pursuing LLM degrees at Columbia. Duke University Law School reports that 10% of the members of its most recent entering JD class are foreign students.

Financial Issues for International Students at Law Schools

International students who wish to study at law schools in the United States must demonstrate an ability to pay for their legal education in order to be eligible for student visas. Citizens of other countries cannot receive federal student loans, but individual law schools sometimes offer private loans if the student can secure a U.S. cosigner. International students may qualify for need-based or merit-based aid, but policies vary by institution. At Cornell Law School, for example, foreign citizens may only apply for merit-based grants and may not receive need-based aid. Columbia Law School provides some need-based grant packages, but these always include a substantial loan component.