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Language Proficiency Exam (TOEFL or IELTS)

Language Proficiency Requirements

Proficiency in written and oral English is required for enrollment in an academic program. This proof can be obtained by submitted scores from one of the following exams:   

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)  
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)  
  • Duolingo (not all programs accept this test, check with department of interest)

Applicants to the Graduate School, regardless of citizenship, must either meet our waiver criteria (below) or submit proof of English language proficiency . The online application will not require you to submit a language score if you meet the criteria for an exemption :  

  • You (will) have an equivalent degree from an English- language university in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, or the United Kingdom.  

This policy applies to all graduate programs; the score level required for admission varies by program.  

Please note:  

  • U.S. citizenship does not automatically exempt you from taking a language test if your first language is not English.  
  • International students transferring from unfinished degree programs of other universities in the United States should present a language test score.   
  • If you have received (or will receive) an undergraduate degree from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction, and if you have studied in residence at that institution for at least three years, you are exempt from the English Language Test requirement and are not required to submit a language test score.  
  • No exemptions are made based on an advanced degree (e.g., M.A./M.S. or Ph.D.) from any institution.  

Minimum Acceptable Score 

  • The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) is 88. Some departments list minimum recommendations or requirements on their departmental websites and may require a higher level of proficiency . Please contact your program of interest to confirm.  
  • For IELTS, the minimum acceptable score will vary by program. In many cases, a score of at least 7.0 is desirable.   
  • Many  departments will accept Duolingo language test scores. Please contact your program of interest to confirm.  

English Language Instruction

Students wishing to focus on improving their English language use for the context of the U.S. academic setting may take classes and participate in programming at the Vanderbilt English Language Center to support their academic success. The ELC’s courses include Academic Writing, Academic Speaking, Pronunciation, and International Teaching Assistant Communication. Throughout the academic year, academic workshops and one-to-one consultations for speaking and writing are also available through the ELC.

Entering students may be required to take language support courses concurrently with their academic courses at the ELC. The ELC is located at 1208 18th Avenue South. For information about the ELC’s programming, see the “English Language Center” section in the Life at Vanderbilt chapter of this catalog or visit