US and UK graduate schools waive English proficiency tests for admission

SOURCE: Photo by JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP
Sweating over taking an English proficiency test like TOEFL or IELTS for grad school? There may be alternatives due to the pandemic. Photo by JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP

By U2B Staff 

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A growing number of universities in the US and UK are waiving language requirements for graduate school admission, along with GMAT and GRE scores.

Due to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, graduate schools like Rochester Institute of Technology’s Saunders College of Business and St Mary’s University in the US are temporarily going test-optional for language requirements when it comes to standardised testing like TOEFL and IELTS. 

Test centres for entrance tests like TOEFL, SAT, GMAT and GRE have been closed, and at-home tests are now being offered – monitored through online proctoring software. 

However, given that this puts some applicants at a disadvantage because of reasons such as an unstable Internet connection, lack of a personal computer or travelling restrictions, universities will now accept alternatives instead of language test scores to level the playing field.

If you’ve already taken an English proficiency test, fear not as your efforts won’t be wasted – universities will still accept your scores. But if you haven’t yet, you can look for alternatives.

A number of graduate schools in the US have also announced that they will accept Duolingo English Test scores instead of standardised English proficiency test scores.

The Duolingo English Test – offered under the Duolingo umbrella, a popular language-learning website and app – differs from tests like the TOEFL and IELTS as it’s a more convenient and affordable option. 

Test-takers only need to pay $49 for the test compared to $200 for other certifications. It also utilises the latest technology like Artificial Intelligence and can be taken anywhere at any time. 

A number of universities were already accepting Duolingo English test scores even before the pandemic,  including business schools such as NYU Stern School of Business, Cornell University‘s Johnson School of Management, University of Pittsburgh‘s Katz Graduate School of Business, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign‘s College of Business.


Jeff Tousignant, head of marketing for the Duolingo English Test, said, “More and more schools recognised the need for an improved English proficiency test, and this was affirmed by the widespread test cancellations caused by COVID-19.”

“We’re constantly working to use technology to improve language learning and language testing, and there is a lot of room to grow in that space.

“We believe that everyone deserves access to high-quality education, and that AI can help us do it at scale. We’re proud to serve as a model for how technology can be used to make education and testing more accessible and affordable.”

In the UK, universities are also relaxing admission requirements and waiving the need for applicants to take English proficiency tests in these unprecedented times. 

Instead, they will consider accepting other evidence of English proficiency. According to the London School of Economics and Political Science, they will consider waiving the English language condition if applicants can meet certain requirements such as having TOEFL MyBest scores that meet this year’s or last year’s requirements, or can show evidence on their CV of three years working experience in an English-speaking environment.

The university also advised prospective applicants, “Please remember that you should still continue to prepare for studying in English. You are expected to spend time reading, listening to and watching material in English online, to practice your conversational English as often as you can, and to take advantage of the opportunities to improve your written English offered by LSE’s Language Centre and Eden Centre once you arrive.”