David Recine

Figuring Out a US University’s English Language Testing Requirements

Rachel recently posted about engineering programs that don’t accept the IELTS. In her post, she points out a case where the IELTS website says a university accepts their exam, but the university itself does not say that. Rachel then correctly reminds students to trust a university’s admissions website over any external source.

To know what English exam you must take to get in, the first place you should look is a university’s admissions web page. But sometimes a school’s admissions page is not the final place you should check. Testing standards can change, and when they do, admissions web pages may not be updated immediately. And of course, there are always times when a full list of exam requirements simply isn’t on the website—or is really hard to find.

If you either can’t find the testing requirements, can’t understand them, or wonder if an alternate exam will be accepted, there are additional steps you can take to double check the information. (And remember, sometimes alternate proof of your English ability—such as records or past English study or other exams—really can be accepted. It never hurts to ask!)

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Step 1: Send an email

First off, sending a message over the web is better because often the answer to your question is online—just not on the part of the website where you looked. When the answer you’re looking for can be found in a hyperlink, it’s much easier to send the hyperlink in an email. Describing where you should go on the site to get the correct information takes a lot more time, for both you and whomever you talk to.

Another reason that email is the best first step is that it’s more polite than calling or visiting. If you call or visit asking to know if a school’s website is really giving you the correct information, you can come off as pushy. This can make people less willing to help you, and more likely to just refer you back to the website. University staff may also feel pressured to give you an answer right away if you ask them about their current English exam requirements in “real time.” Emailing gives people more time to properly research your questions and give you the best possible answers.


Step 2: Call or visit

With any luck, an actual phone call or visit to campus won’t be necessary. But universities are big, complicated places. Sometimes, with all the different departments and school officials, information can be “lost,” only available through some hidden person or office.  If you are having lots of trouble figuring out exactly what exams and scores a school will accept, you should call or visit the admissions office, explain the problem, and politely ask for help. Make sure the person you speak to understands that you really weren’t able to get an answer by web or email. With enough persistence, you’ll be able to get a direct line to whoever can answer your question.



  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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