English Proficiency Certification for Admission and Visa Purposes
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires universities admitting international students to verify that each nonnative English speaking student has sufficient English language proficiency to succeed in the academic program. Therefore, admitting departments must present proof of this level of proficiency for each nonnative English speaking student before visa eligibility documents can be processed by the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS).
The standard way to ensure the appropriate level of English language proficiency is 1) to require applicants to complete an objective, standardized English language assessment, and 2) to require an appropriate minimum score in order for applicants to be considered for admission. The test most frequently taken by WashU applicants is the TOEFL iBT.
When Applicants Should Take the TOEFL
Educational Testing Service (ETS, which administers the TOEFL) will not report scores that are more than two years old from the administration of the test. For an applicant’s TOEFL score to be valid for the purpose of English proficiency verification, the applicant needs to plan on taking the test within two years before requesting that the score be reported to the University.
About the TOEFL iBT and Appropriate Minimum Scores
TOEFL iBT tests listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and includes sections which integrate these skills (e.g., asking test-takers to speak in response to a passage they hear or read). Selected scores on the TOEFL iBt compare with the other versions of the TOEFL as follows:
|TOEFL iBT (total score)||Computer-based TOEFL (total score)||Paper-based TOEFL (total score)|
|Source: Educational Testing Service (2005), TOEFL Internet-based Test Score Comparison Tables, p. 6|
In addition to the composite score, the TOEFL iBT score report includes sub-scores for four skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Each sub-score ranges from 0-30.
For WashU, the OISS requires that departments establish a minimum composite score of at least 90 in order for applicants to be considered for admission. For programs whose students will need to serve as teaching assistants, do extensive reading and writing, or otherwise meet a particularly high standard of English communication skills, departments may find that a more appropriate minimum composite score is 100.
About IELTS Academic and Appropriate Minimum Scores
In addition to the TOEFL, WashU accepts the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic. The IELTS Academic tests listening, speaking, reading, and writing. One distinctive feature of the IELTS is that speaking skills are assessed in a ten- to fifteen-minute face-to-face interview. Further information about the IELTS is available in its guide for educational institutions. To learn more about how the IELTS compares to the TOEFL iBT, see ETS’s Frequently Asked Questions About Comparing TOEFL Scores to Other Test Scores.
The overall IELTS score ranges from 0-9. The score report also includes component scores of 0-9 for four skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
For WashU, the OISS requires that departments establish a minimum score of 6.5 on the IELTS Academic in order for applicants to be considered for admission. For programs whose students will need to serve as teaching assistants, do extensive reading and writing, or otherwise meet a particularly high standard of English communication skills, departments may find that a more appropriate minimum score is 7 on the IELTS Academic.
Tests that will be TEMPORARILY accepted for students admitted for the academic years 2020-2023.
The university strongly prefers that applicants submit TOEFL iBt or IELTS tests to demonstrate English language proficiency. If the applicant is unable to take the TOEFL iBt or IELTS, they may document their efforts to take the tests and request the following tests as exceptions. These requests may be accepted as a last resort.
- Duolingo English Test – minimum score of 115
- TOEFL iTP Plus for China (for students in Mainland China who are unable to take the standard TOEFL iBT test due to testing suspensions) – 600 minimum score with Vericant video
- TOEFL iBT Home Edition – 90 minimum score
In addition, students submitting scores from the above temporarily accepted test must also complete testing upon arrival within the school to determine if they need additional English courses. If additional courses are needed, the schools must submit documentation to OISS along with the specific action plan created for the student.
Waiving the English Proficiency Test Requirement
The English proficiency test requirement is waived for citizens of Australia, Cameroon, Commonwealth Caribbean nations, Ghana, India, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Singapore, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It may also be waived for students who have completed three or more years of study in an English-medium academic program at a university in any of the above countries, Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa, or the United States.