Many international students choose to study in the USA to complete their higher education. One of the major hurdles to overcome for admission to a good American university is the TOEFL examination or the IELTS examination. Both of these standardized tests determine students’ English level by assessing their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. A satisfactory score on these tests is critically needed for the minimum entry requirement for admission into most universities in the US.
As the education system differs across geographical boundaries, many international students come from non-English speaking backgrounds and have little training in the language and do not possess the level of proficiency in English to qualify for these tests. As TOEFL/IELTS score is a mandatory requirement, many of these students find it tough to gain admission to an American university. So the moot question that international students struggle with is whether an IELTS/TOEFL score is necessary for admission to any university in the US.
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Related reads: International Student Guide to USA
Can I Study in USA Without IELTS or TOEFL?
You may study in the USA without holding an IELTS or TOEFL score but in such cases, the universities you're applying to may have alternative criteria that would serve as proof of your English language proficiency. It may be required that you possess a set percentage in English (subject) in your higher secondary examination or hold a different English proficiency exam score. You may also be considered if the medium of instruction in your last education was English and you completed your studies in a country having English as the main language. You may also obtain an English language test waiver if you fit the below-mentioned criteria:
- Intensive English Programme: Many institutions offer an Intensive English Programme or IEP to international students who do not hold proficiency in English or haven't appeared for any English language proficiency test before applying for admission. This programme helps students enhance and brush up on their language skills before they begin their university courses.
- ACT or SAT English Scores: Students may also obtain an English language test score waiver provided they've obtained good scores in the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing part in SAT or ACT's English part.
- Formal Evaluation: Some institutions in the USA may carry out interviews in order to evaluate or judge the level of expertise students hold in the English language.
- Other English Proficiency Tests: Students can also be offered admission if they hold the scores of English proficiency tests such as the Duolingo English Test (DET) or Pearson Test of English (Academic)
Exemption from IELTS or TOEFL in the USA
If there is a problem there are solutions too for those asking if IELTS is needed for the USA or in that case even for TOEFL. Check out the possible ways for being exempted from submitting an IELTS or TOEFL score for US university admissions as international students:
- There are several universities in the USA that have relaxed the minimum English language requirement and such test scores are not compulsory so that eligible international students may enrol.
- In addition, there are some universities that allow students to enrol even without good TOEFL/IELTS results on the condition; they attended secondary school or/and graduate school with English as their medium of instruction, or if they completed a few years of studies in an English-speaking country.
- Further, some US universities also grant admission to non-English speaking international students 'conditionally' i.e. only if they undertake the Intensive English Language Program (IELP) which is a university preparatory program that trains international students and equips them with essential English skills.
- In some cases, students may have to appear for examinations or interviews set by the institution which will determine if they're fit for a particular course of admission or not.
Check: Cost of Studying in the US
US Universities Exempting IELTS or TOEFL
Some of these universities that can help students get admission without requiring an IELTS or TOEFL score are below:
Exemptions are possible at Rice University if a student has received a degree from a university or college in which English is the official language of communication, TOEFL and IELTS are not necessary. Waiver of such examinations may be requested by the admitting department if the department deems the student has sufficient English communication skills to be successful in their program. International first-year students can complete a minimum of two years of full-time study in an English language curriculum before the submission of the application.
Other accepted tests: Duolingo
California State University
CSU is a public university in California and may exempt international students to submit TOEFL/IELTS scores if they have attended secondary school or/and graduate school with English as their medium of instruction. Further, there are also a few countries whose students have waived the minimum English requirement.
Other accepted tests: Duolingo and PTE
Drexel University is a private research university with campuses in Philadelphia and California. The University has two conditional admission programs i.e. University Preparation Summer Program (UPREP) and Bridge Program for international students who don't meet the language requirement.
Other accepted tests: Duolingo and PTE
State University of New York
The State University of New York is a public university system in Albany, New York. The admission to international students is conditional i.e. the students must undertake the Intensive English Language Program (IELP).
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public research university based in Iowa City, Iowa. The University grants admission to international students who do not meet the English proficiency requirement but are eligible otherwise. So unless they submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, students will have to undergo an on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation (EPE).
Other accepted tests: Duolingo
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas is a public research university located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Although TOEFL/IELTS scores are not needed for international students, those who meet all the requirements except for the English parameters will be offered conditional admission and will have to undertake the Intensive English Language Program (IELP).
University of Dayton
The University of Dayton is a private Roman Catholic National research university based in Dayton, Ohio. The admission of eligible international students in the university is conditional; those who do not meet the university's language requirements are required to undertake the Intensive English Language Program (IELP).
Other accepted tests: ITEP (International Test of English Proficiency), PTE (Pearson Test of English Academic), DET (Duolingo English Test)
University of Delaware
The University of Delaware is a public university located in Delaware. The university grants admission to international students who are eligible except for English proficiency but such admissions is limited to only some graduate programs. Otherwise, the university follows Conditional Admission based on achieving English Proficiency (ELI-CAP).
Other accepted tests: Cambridge English Assessment, DET, EIKEN
University of New Orleans (UNO)
The University of New Orleans is a research-intensive public urban university located in New Orleans, Louisiana, US. The University conditionally admits international students pending successful completion of the UNO Intensive English Language Program (IELP).
Other accepted tests: Duolingo
TOEFL and IELTS are important not only for admissions to US universities but also for getting a US Student Visa. It is, therefore recommended that aspiring students take these language tests as it will help to get a student visa.
A private institution in Midland, Michigan, Northwood University was established in 1959. International students who wish to pursue their education at the university are required to prove English proficiency. The proficiency exam requirement can be waivered if the student can prove that he/she has successfully completed the high school or baccalaureate degree in English at a foreign institution or American school. The waiver can also be given to those graduate applicants who completed their undergraduate coursework completely in English.
Other accepted tests: EIKEN, IB, Cambridge English Tests, ELS, PTE Academic, GTEC, ACT/SAT
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Study in USA without IELTS and TOEFL FAQs
Q. Can I Study in the USA without IELTS or TOEFL?
A. Yes, you can study in the USA without an IELTS or TOEFL score. But in order to be considered for admission you will have to show your English language proficiency through other language proficiency test scores such as Duolingo or PTE Academic. You may also be considered if you possess a set percentage in English (subject) in your higher secondary examination. You may also get admission to US universities if the medium of instruction in your last education was English and you completed your studies in a country having English as the main language. Students may also get themselves enrolled into an Intensive English Programme or IEP which would allow them to improve their language skills.
Q. What is an Intensive English Programme?
A. An Intensive English Programme is a language-specialised programme which has been designed for those hailing from non-native English-speaking nations. One can also pursue this if one is weak in English or wishes to enhance his/her reading, writing, and speaking skills. It also helps one improve his/her grammar. At the end of this programme, students will be able to communicate well in English and the same will enable them to attend their subject classes which are taught in English. In the USA, those enrolled on this programme usually need to complete an 18-hour of coursework every week. This is an F-1 student visa requirement.