What English Language Tests Do You Need?

If you want to study at a UK university, and English is not your first language, you will need to take an English language test to prove that your English is of a sufficiently high standard. You will also need to meet the requirements of the UK Border Agency if you require a student visa (a Tier 4 visa).

  • UK universities and the UK Border Agency have different standards, with the universities looking for a much higher ability in English. This is so you are able to make the most of your learning experience at university.
  • Most universities offer comprehensive English language classes and exams to prepare students for UK university study. There are a number of English language tests available, with some more widely accepted than others.

English language tests required for a visa

  • Before granting you a visa, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) looks for a basic standard of English. There are several tests and a full list of the minimum acceptable grades for each of them can be found here.
  • Read more about entry and employment regulations for international students.
  • As of 18 February 2014, ETS, one of the largest language testing companies, has been directed by the Home Office to suspend TOEIC and TOEFL testing in the UK for students already in the UK who plan to use their scores as part of their visa application. At this time, students already in the UK who are planning to apply for a visa may not use a TOEIC or TOEFL test to provide evidence of English proficiency.
  • There is no change for students applying for a visa and testing outside of the UK. TOEFL and TOEIC tests taken outside the UK may still be used for visa application.

English language tests required for UK university study

  • The standard of English required by UK universities is higher than that required by the UKBA.
  • For students whose first language is not English, it is vital that their standard of English (reading, writing, speaking and listening) is high enough for successful completion of a degree.
  • Degree-level study is demanding and you must have both the language and academic skills to be able to cope.

UK universities offer English language courses as preparation before you start your university course, and they are ongoing during your studies. The universities want you to succeed and will offer you lots of help to do so.

  • Different universities require different test scores and even within institutions, these are often higher for courses such as medicine and law.
  • If you have been accepted for a particular course of study, the university will state what exam passes are needed before you start.
  • If you are still to apply to a UK university, their International or Admissions Office will be able to tell you what English language qualifications you are likely to need.
  • Universities will state their minimum English language entrance requirement in a variety of different tests – IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Cambridge English: Advanced (also known as the Certificate in Advanced English/CAE, or Cambridge ESOL).
  • Profiles of UK universities can be found here, including information for international students (click on the International tab).