Do You Need to Take a Language Test for Postgraduate Study? |
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Posted on 18 Mar '21

COVID-19 temporarily closed some testing centres and made it more complicated to get a language certificate for postgraduate study abroad. As test centres are starting to reopen, make sure to check online in case of any changes. But do you actually need one? This blog explains whether an IELTS, TOEFL or similar is necessary for your course.

Do You Need to Take a Language Test for Postgraduate Study?

One of the biggest concerns for many prospective international postgraduates is whether they’ll need to take a language test when applying for a Masters or a PhD. This quick blog will help explain whether you need to prove your language proficiency. We’ll focus on the requirements for English-language postgraduate programmes in the UK and across the world.

Postgraduates who don’t need to take a language test

There are a few instances in which you won’t need to take an English language test during the postgraduate application process.

The first (and probably the most obvious!) is if you’re a native English speaker. Most UK universities classify this as people from the following countries:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada (exceptions may apply if you studied in French-speaking Quebec)
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • UK
  • USA

If you’re from one of these countries, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to take a language test unless you were educated abroad and in a different language. If you’re in any doubt, always confirm with your prospective university.

What if you're not a native English speaker?

If you aren’t a native English speaker, but completed an English-taught Bachelors or Masters in one of the above countries, you probably won’t need to supply proof of your English proficiency.

However, if you didn’t receive this qualification in a certain timeframe (usually within two to five years of your new programme’s start date), your prospective university may ask for some evidence that you’ve continued to use English on a day-to-day basis or arrange a phone interview to check your language skills.

Of course, English language requirements differ widely from country to country and university to university. The above guidance relates primarily to British universities and institutions in other anglophone countries sometimes have both broader and narrower definitions of a native English speaker.

Existing English language qualifications

In certain cases, universities will accept English language qualifications gained during secondary education, if you’ve achieved a certain grade. Examples include:

  • French Baccalauréat l'Option Internationale, English
  • German Abitur, English
  • Indian Standard X / Standard XII, English Language (ISC and CBSE exam boards only)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Standard or Higher Level English
  • Nigerian WAEC West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE), English

If you’ve studied one of these (or a similar national qualification) in your home country, you should always confirm with your prospective university that it’s an acceptable proof of English language proficiency.

Postgraduates who do need to take a language test

If you’re not a native speaker and haven’t previously studied at university-level in English, it’s likely that you’ll need to take an English language test as part of the application process.

There are several different kinds of English language test that are widely accepted at universities around the world. The main types are:

For more information, take a look at our guides to English language requirements at Masters level and PhD level.

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Last Updated: 18 March 2021