English Tests for Studying Abroad
In order to presuppose a certain English level of their international applicants, most universities in English-speaking countries require a standardized English test as admission criterion. The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is the most common of English tests and is accepted as proof of English proficiency by the majority of universities abroad. The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is also accepted by most English-speaking universities and a common test to determine the English skills of international applicants. The Cambridge Certificate is very popular in Europe and companies appreciate this test. However, it is rarely accepted as proof of English proficiency by universities in English-speaking countries. A number of universities abroad nowadays accept the DAAD Assessment of Language Skills for German Applicants, which, as the name implies, can be submitted by German-speaking applicants.
We have compiled detailed information on the most common English tests here:
English Tests – TOEFL
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the most common standardized test to determine the English level of non-native speakers of English and is accepted by most universities in English-speaking countries as adequate proof of English proficiency.
One good thing about the TOEFL: You can not fail it. However, please be aware that most universities require a minimum score in order to be admitted for academic studies. You should inquire about the minimum score needed for academic studies at your dream university in advance.
Presently, the TOEFL is internet based (iBT) and needs to be taken at an official ETS test center.
The TOEFL evaluates these four language skills:
1. Reading Comprehension
2. Listening Comprehension
4. Written Expression
If you consider yourself rather fluent in written and spoken English you will hardly have problems taking the TOEFL. However, the test format is probably very different from tests and exams you are used to from your school or university.
Tips for Taking the TOEFL
- Familiarize yourself with the structure of the TOEFL and with the way the questions are posed in the test.
- Read the tasks carefully and pay attention to details (e.g. Which pairs of words do not go along?, etc.)
- For the speaking part of the test, you will be asked a question regarding a specific topic, then you will have 15 seconds to prepare your answer and 45 seconds to speak about the given topic. Even test-takers with great English skills might struggle with this part of the TOEFL and you should therefore practice this situation in advance.
- The time given to complete the fourth part of the TOEFL, written expression, is relatively short. Therefore, you should be able to type your ideas relatively fast without too many breaks for thinking about what to write. When practicing for this part of the test, we recommend disabling the automatic spellchecker in your writing program. This way you will improve your English spelling when writing on your computer.
- The TOEFL is based on American English. You should call back to mind the most important differences between British English and American English before taking the test.
- The level of difficulty of the tasks and questions during the TOEFL adapt according to your abilities. Consequently, giving several incorrect answers in the same part of the test, the following questions will be easier. If you answer all questions correctly, the level of difficulty will increase automatically.
IMPORTANT: Please apply in time in order to take your TOEFL! This test can be taken at specific test dates only and is conducted at one of the official ETS test centers. Therefore, you might face long waiting times for a suitable test appointment. We recommend applying for a test date at least three months in advance – maybe even earlier if you wish to take the TOEFL at a specific test center.
You can apply for the TOEFL either online, via phone or postal mail, or visit your preferred test center in person. The required test fee (please check for current test fees in time) is payable via credit card or PayPal.
Useful links for your TOEFL application:
English Tests – IELTS
The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is widely accepted by the majority of universities in Australia, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, and is nowadays recognized by more and more universities in the USA as well. Compared to the TOEFL, American English as well as British English is accepted when taking the IELTS. Since the test was developed and established in Great Britain and Australia, the texts and questions are however written in British English.
There are two versions of the IELTS: IELTS Academic, relevant for students who are planning to attend an institution of higher learning in an English-speaking country, and IELTS General Training, for people who seek to work and to immigrate to an English-speaking country permanently. Both IELTS versions consist of the same four test parts (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking), however IELTS Academic focuses on academic language and academic situations, whereas IELTS General Training assesses everyday language.
Tips for Taking the IELTS
- As for any standardized test, you should get acquainted with the structure of the IELTS as well as with the way questions are formulated.
- During the listening part of the IELTS, please focus on the questions posed in the corresponding text only. A lot of times the order of the questions corresponds to the order in which the information is given in the text.
- Remember that you are not asked about common knowledge in this test, but that the IELTS aims at assessing your English language skills.
- For several tasks throughout the test you will be asked to reproduce the exact wording of the source text, for others you will be asked to explain the content of the text in your own phrasing. Please note the exact formulation of the respective question.
IMPORTANT: Depending on the test center the speaking part can take place up to seven days prior or after the actual English test. Please take this into consideration when choosing your IELTS test center.
You can apply for the IELTS either in person at the respective test center or via postal mail. You will need the following data:
- IELTS Application Form
- Valid Passport Copy
- IELTS Fee (Cash when you apply in person; for applications via postal mail please contact your test center to inquire about adequate payment methods)
Useful links for your IELTS application:
English Tests – Cambridge English Certificate
The Cambridge English Certificate is commonly used for immigration applications – for Canada or Australia for instance – as well as for job applications in English speaking countries. As the name implies, this English test is more popular within the Commonwealth than in the USA. However, we recommend inquiring about English tests that are accepted as proof of English proficiency at your university of choice before deciding for a specific test format.
The Cambridge English Certificate is offered for four target groups:
1. Young Learners
2. General English and for Schools
3. Academic and Professional English
4. Business English
Furthermore, there is a variety of subcategories for these four target groups and you should be able to assess which level you will be able to accomplish. This is a disadvantage compared to the TOEFL, which corresponds to the level of English skills of the test-taker. We recommend to inform yourself thoroughly about which level of the Cambridge English Certificate is needed in order to apply at your dream university abroad, and to research whether you possess the required English skills to pass the respective level of the Cambridge English Certificate.
Cambridge English Certificate Application
You can apply for taking the Cambridge English Certificate test at one of the various test centers. However, please note that not all tests can be taken in every test center. Inform yourself which test center near you offers which Cambridge test. Fees for the Cambridge English Certificate vary depending on test categories and test centers.
You can find tips on taking the Cambridge English Certificate as well as sample tasks and questions on the respective sites of the different test categories.
Useful links for your Cambridge English Certificate application:
English Tests – DuoLingo Test
Both Vancouver Island University in Canada and UNCW currently accept the DuoLingo test.
The DuoLingo test is an online test that gives you the result after 48 hours and is currently an inexpensive test at 49 USD.
Procedure of the test: First, it is briefly explained in 5 minutes how the test is structured and what is expected of the participants. The actual test, or the main part, then takes another 45 minutes and tests reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
The test requirements (e.g. microphone) can be found again in detail on the homepage.
The FAQs also summarize the most important questions, e.g. also the link to a practice test.
There are a few other English tests that might be accepted by universities abroad as proof of English proficiency (TOEIC, TESOL, TEFL, CELTA). Should you be interested in taking one of these English tests, please ask your university of choice whether it is accepted for international admission first.
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