What English Language Proficiency Tests University Admissions Accept?

February 5, 2018

If you are an international student and English is not your first language, then one of the core documents that you need to submit when applying to a university or a college, where English is the medium of teaching, is proof of English language proficiency.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.netThere are many types of English language proficiency tests that are accepted by universities and colleges worldwide. Some countries accept one test more than the others like USA for example, accepts TOFEL as the main English test for admission whilst in Europe, IELTS is more popular. Universities & colleges in Canada for example accepts both and some other tests as well.

Most of these tests have to be taken within the last two years before applying to a university or college otherwise, they must be taken again.

I list below some of the most widely accepted English language proficiency tests. You need to check which one is accepted by your target university or by universities in your target country of education.

TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language

  • Required by most USA universities but accepted in many other countries as well.
  • There are four modules in the test: Listening – Reading – Writing – Speaking.
  • There are three types of TOEFL tests:
    • Paper-based (PBT): Total score is 677 (No speaking test and is being phased-out)
    • Computer-based (CBT): Total score is 300 (Speaking test not included)
    • Internet-based (IBT): Total score is 120 (Most widely used)
  • Valid for 2 years

 IELTS: International English Language Testing System

  • Accepted in more countries than any other English language tests including TOEFL.
  • There are 2 versions: Academic and General. For education, the academic is only required.
  • There are four modules in the test: Listening – Reading – Writing – Speaking.
  • The score ranges between 1 and 9 for each band. Overall score is 9. Universities/colleges may demand an overall score or a minimum score in each band normally between 6 & 7
  • No expiry date but Universities/colleges accept the last 2 years scores.

PTE: Pearson Test of English:

  • Accepted by many universities in UK, Canada, Australia, and USA.
  • There are four modules in the test: Listening – Reading – Writing – Speaking.
  • Computer-based test.
  • The range for the overall score is 10-90.
  • Valid for 2 years.

MELAB: Michigan English Language Assessment Battery. A standardized intermediate to advance level of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) examination.

  • Can be used to apply to universities in USA, Canada, and UK.
  • There are four components in the test: Listening – Reading – Writing – Speaking (optional).
  • Final MELAB score range 0-99.
  • Valid for 2 years.

Cambridge English / Cambridge ESOL: Advanced (CAE), First (FCE), Preliminary (PET), Key (KET), Proficiency (CPE).

  • Recognized in 130 countries.
  • There are five sections in the exam: Reading – Writing – Use of English – Listening – Speaking.
  • No expiry date but universities/colleges usually accept certificates within the last 2 years.


If you have any feedback or comment, I would love to hear from you.


  • Reply Riaz Shah December 26, 2015 at 00:26

    Hey Mona,
    Wow I didn’t know that there’s so many English tests – here in Malaysia there is only Muet, Ielts and Tofel according to difficulty and recognitions. Tofel is very recognized here and not many people would want to take it compared to Ielst.

    But if you have IELST here in Malaysia, you can work just about anywhere as its just as good too. But I’ve always been curious, why is Tofel harder than IESLT though? Is it for people who are wanting to take literature in English or anything like that?

    • Reply Mona December 26, 2015 at 06:37

      Hi Riaz. Thank you for your comments. Really appreciated. I did both myself long time ago, TOEFL like really long time ago before I went to college. However, I can’t say which one is more difficult than the other, it’s a matter of preference really. I guess it all depends on how well you prepared for the test. There are many online practices or both tests. There are also English centers that help students to prepare for either TOEFL or IELTS. The choice between TOEFL and IELTS has nothing to do with the subject, never came across this before as an academic adviser, it’s a university’s requirement. Hope I answered your questions however if you have any other question, please let me know. Thank you.

  • Reply Jimmy December 26, 2015 at 00:31

    Thank you for bringing this to light. Very enlightening and informative piece of information. Your site has very good content written in plain English. I like the way organized your content. very engaging the attractive. Hope to read more of your content.

    Keep up the good work and I wish you success!

    • Reply Mona December 26, 2015 at 06:15

      Thank you Jimmy for your wonderful comment. I’m now motivated more to share some more information that I gained from my experience as an academic adviser to help all students who are searching for information about higher education to find what they want and be ready for university. Much appreciated

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