English language requirements for the Ivy League and Oxbridge

English language requirements explained for international applicants to Ivy League colleges in the US and Oxbridge in the UK, including recommended tests and minimum scores

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Joy Hunter

Student content curator
February 2 2021
University of Oxford

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Every university in English-speaking countries will have an English language requirement to enrol. This is to ensure that students are as prepared as they can be for success in an academic environment. While the Ivy League institutions and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge (Oxbridge) consistently take the top spots in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, their English language requirements are quite similar to other universities in the US and UK. However, their overall admissions processes can be more rigorous. 

Successful applicants to these universities come from all over the world, and many are not native English speakers. You shouldn’t be put off from applying just because English is not your first language.  

However, if you are hoping to apply to the Ivy League or Oxbridge, it is essential that your language skills are good enough for you to undertake an intensive and challenging academic course that’s taught and examined in English.

Admissions processes for Oxbridge and the Ivy League are more comprehensive and competitive than most universities, often involving extra forms, statements, interviews and specific language requirements. Throughout the admissions processes for these top schools, admissions teams will be assessing your English skills as well as your academic ability. 

If you are a non-native speaker, you will probably be asked to formally prove your English proficiency by taking a test. Depending on the university and what you want to study, different minimum scores will be required for such tests.  

Below is a rundown of the specific language requirements for international students applying to Oxbridge and the Ivy League.

The Ivy League 

The Ivy League is a collective of the most prestigious colleges in the US: Harvard University, Brown University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Columbia, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. Together, these eight schools received more than 300,000 applicants for the Class of 2020, and the average acceptance rate was 7 per cent. 

Like most US universities, the majority of Ivy League institutions require foreign applicants to take an English language test, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). For US universities, you should aim to complete these exams a year before you want to start university, usually in the month of August.

Because of Covid-19, many of the Ivy League schools are now accepting the Duolingo English test and the IELTS Indicator, both of which can be taken from home.  

Ivy League English language tests (undergraduate) 

 

Brown University

Cornell University
(may ask for a test)

Columbia University

Dartmouth College

Harvard University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Yale University (English tests not required but advised)

IELTS Academic

8

7.5

7

7

Not required

7

Accepted – no minimum given

7

IELTS indicator

(2021cycle)

Not Accepted

Accepted

Accepted

Accepted

Not required

Not Accepted

Information not given

Not accepted

TOEFL (in person)

600

No Score Stated

600

600

Not required

600

Accepted – no minimum given

Not accepted

TOEFL iBT & TOEFL Special Home Edition

(2021 cycle)

100

100

100

100

Not required

100

Information not given

100 (25 in each category)

Duolingo English Test (2021 cycle

Over 120 preferred

120

120

120

Not required

120

Information not given

120

PTE Academic

Not accepted

70

Not accepted

Not accepted

Not required

Not accepted

Accepted – no minimum given

70

CAE/CPE

Not accepted

191

Not accepted

Accepted – no minimum given

Not required

Not accepted

Information not given

Not accepted


 Resources

Preparing for the Academic IELTS
Oxbridge and the Ivy League: tips for applications
Tips for acing your Oxford interview
How to craft the perfect application for US universities
Applying through Ucas as an international student
Hoping to apply to a US university as a foreign student?
7 tips for applying to top universities in England and the United States


Oxbridge

The admissions process for all courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge will include an interview, either in person or online. This will consist of a rigorous conversation with experts in your chosen field of study, so it is essential that you are comfortable communicating to an adequate level of academic English.  

While it is not a requirement for you to have completed an English test before you apply to Oxford or Cambridge, if your application is successful you will probably need to complete a proficiency test to a set minimum score as one of the conditions of your offer.

Oxford and Cambridge will accept various types of tests, but Oxford specifically recommends the Academic IELTS. The General IELTS is not accepted at either institution.  

For Oxford, English tests must be completed by 31 July in the year you receive your offer, even if you are applying for deferred entry. 

Exemptions for non-native speakers taking a test for Oxford extend to applicants who have studied either the International Baccalaureate, if it is taught in English, or the Singapore Integrated Programme. You will also be exempt if you have been educated full-time in the medium of English throughout the two most recent years of your studies.

The University of Cambridge does not specify who is exempt from the tests, but has similar requirements to Oxford, and the institution recommends emailing admissions tutors for specific explanations. Cambridge also offers language courses through its language centre and may require you to take a short course there when you arrive, in place of a test.

If you have already completed your English test before applying to Oxford or Cambridge, you can simply include this in your application.  

If you require a student visa to study in the UK, Oxford and Cambridge will affirm your English language ability on your CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) once you have sufficiently proved it to them. Therefore, when submitting your student visa application, you will not be required to provide additional evidence of your English language ability, and the English language test you took for university does not need to be listed on the UK Home Office Secure English Language Test (SELT). 

Oxbridge minimum scores for English language tests (undergraduate) 

Test Name

Minimum scores for computer science, mathematics, and statistics at Oxford

Minimum Scores for all other Oxford courses

Minimum Score for Cambridge Courses

Academic IELTS

7.0
Minimum 6.5 per component

7.5
Minimum 7 per component

7.5 
Minimum 7 per component

IELTS Indicator

Not accepted

Not accepted

Accepted

TOEFL (in person)

No longer accepted

No longer accepted

Accepted 

TOEFL (internet based)

100 
Minimum component scores:
Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24

110
Minimum component scores:
Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24 

110 
Usual minimum of 25 or above per element 

Duolingo test

Not accepted

Not accepted Not accepted

PTE Academic

Not accepted

Not accepted Not accepted

Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE)

185 
Minimum 176 per component

191
Minimum 185 per component

193
Minimum of 185 per component

Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

185
Minimum 176 per component

191
Minimum 185 per component

200
Minimum of 185 per component

English Language GCSE

Grade B or Grade 6 

(IGCSE in either First Language English or English as a Second Language not accepted)

Grade B or Grade 6 

(IGCSE in either First Language English or English as a Second Language not accepted)

High grade may be acceptable

English Language O-Level

Grade B

Grade B

High grade may be acceptable

International Baccalaureate Standard Level (SL)

 

score of 5 in English (as Language A or B)

 

score of 5 in English (as Language A or B)

High grade may be acceptable

European Baccalaureate

 

score of 70 per cent in English

 

score of 70 per cent in English

High grade may be acceptable

 

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