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The Non-Native English Speaker’s Easy Guide to Proving English Proficiency


Are you a non-native English speaker applying to university? English proficiency exam options don’t have to be overwhelming and complicated.

Our mission at the University of the People is to make higher education accessible to as many people around the world as possible. That also means accepting students whose first language isn’t English, providing they demonstrate English proficiency to the required level. You can read the four options for proving English proficiency in this guide here.

If you did not study in a high school or university in which the language of instruction was English, you can pass a recognized international English test prior to starting your studies at UoPeople or you can simply complete UoPeople’s English Composition 1 course before you can enroll in other courses!

Here is a short summary which will help you, we hope, to determine the best way to qualify for studies at UoPeople. kindly notice that UoPeople will only accept certificates taken within the last five (5) years.

Take the English Composition 1 course as an English proficiency

Your first option for proof of English proficiency is to complete the English Composition 1 course offered by UoPeople before proceeding to regular studies.

Minimum score for the University of the People: The minimum passing grade is C for English Composition 1.

Frequency: The course can be completed during any term at the University of the People. See the terms dates at our academic calendar.

Location: Like all of our exams, you can take it online.

Additional information: The English Composition 1 course requires a proctor to supervise the exam. (Students must identify a proctor during online registration. Click here to find out who can and cannot be your proctor (under “Proctor Requirements”).

Cost: $100 for assessment fees.

Preparation materials: Click here for preparation materials.

Take one of the Exams Accepted as Proof of English Proficiency

The following are English proficiency exams accepted by UoPeople, according to the requirements of our accreditation body, with descriptions to help you decide which one suits you.

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)

The TOEFL exam is one of the most popular English proficiency exams, accepted by over 9,000 universities, colleges and agencies across more than 130 countries. There are two options for the test: The TOEFL iBT test is administered via the Internet, and the TOEFL PBT test is administered in a paper-delivered format, offered only in areas where testing via the Internet is not available. Most of the questions are multiple-choice and the test takes around 4 hours.

Minimum score for the University of the People: For the paper-based test,  the minimum score required by UoPeople is a 500 for acceptance to our undergraduate degree programs, and a minimum of 530  for our MBA program. For the internet-based test, a minimum score of 61 is required for our undergraduate degree programs, and a minimum of 71 for the MBA program. You can take the test as many times as you’d like, but there is a waiting period of 12 days between attempts.

Frequency:  The paper-based exam is offered four times per year, and the internet-based exam is offered more than 50 times per year.

Location: You can take the TOEFL exam in many countries across the world at ETS-authorized test centers. Click here to find out where.

Cost: The TOEFL PBT fees are $170, and the TOEFL iBT fees are around 180-240$ depending on the test location.

Preparation materials: Click here for preparation materials for the TOEFL exams.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

Managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP: IELTS Australia, and accepted by over 10,000 academic institutions worldwide, IELTS helps you prove English proficiency for academic studies, migration, and work. There are two types of IELTS suitable for study but at UoPeople.

Minimum score for the University of the People: Overall band score of 6.0 is required for undergraduate admissions and 6.5 for graduate admissions. There is no requirement for component scores. UoPeople accepts only the IELTS Academic.

Frequency: There are 48 scheduled test dates every year. You can decide yourself when you take the test again or how often – there’s no limit. However, the speaking and writing parts of the test might be available 7 days apart from one another, depending on the test center, so plan accordingly.

Location: You can take the IELTS test in 1,100 locations across 140 countries. Click here to find the closest place to you.

Cost: Cost may vary depending on currency conversion rates, but expect to pay around US$300-400.

Preparation materials: Click here for preparation materials.

Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic Test

The Pearson Test of English is an English proficiency exam for non-visa purposes. It provides proof of English proficiency in 6 levels, which are recognized by 15 countries across the globe.

Minimum score for the University of the People: An overall score of 44 is required for undergraduate and 50 for graduate applicants. Level 3, 4 or 5 of PTE – General test is acceptable for admissions.

Frequency: At the time of writing this article, recent tests have been offered in December 2016, May 2017 and June 2017. Click here for information on upcoming tests.

Location: You can take the test from hundreds of locations across 50 countries. Click here to find your nearest location.

Cost: Around $200-$300 depending on location.  Click here to find test fees in your area.

Preparation materials: Click here for preparation materials.

Eiken English Proficiency Exam

EIKEN application forms and procedures are currently offered in Japanese only. The test is backed by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). The EIKEN grades are given in two stages. The first stage is a paper-and-pencil test that evaluates reading, listening, and writing ability. The second stage is a speaking test in the format of a face-to-face interview. An examinee must pass both stages in order to receive certification.

Minimum score for the University of the People: The final Eiken certificate with Pre-1 grade or higher is acceptable for admissions into both undergraduate and graduate programs. There is no additional requirement for the stages performance.

Frequency: The test is offered in the summer, fall and winter. The second stage test dates are approximately one month after the first stage test dates. You can find upcoming dates here. You can take the second stage up to one year after the first stage (three testing sessions).

Location: There are approximately 400 official EIKEN test centers in 230 Japanese cities and in Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and London. Click here and scroll down to “Locations” for more information.

Cost: Last time we checked it was 6,900 yen (62$). Click here and scroll down to “Fees” for more information.

Preparation materials: Click here for preparation materials. You can also download recent Eiken tests here.

ACT Compass English Proficiency Exam

More than 1.8 million university and college graduates take the ACT exam every year in their quest to get accepted by higher education institutions in the United States. The organization behind the test also serves millions of government agencies, businesses and job seekers across the world.

Minimum score for the University of the People: Level 3 for both an undergraduate program and the MBA program.

Frequency: 5-7 times a year, usually around: September, October, December, April, June, and in some cases in February and July as well. Find upcoming test dates here.

Location: You can take the test in the US and in international centers. Click here to find your nearest test center.

Cost: The ACT costs $58.50. Testing outside of the U.S., Canada, or U.S. territories requires an additional fee of $51.00. If you are a high school student, testing in the US, US territories, or Puerto Rico, and can’t afford the registration fee for the ACT you might be eligible for a fee waiver. Click here to read more.

Preparation materials: See here.

Cambridge English: First FCE – (CEFR)

The CEFR exam is a framework of 6 English levels created by the Council of Europe (A1-C2).
You get your score on the Cambridge English Scale for each of the four skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and use of English. Exams can be taken paper-based or computer-based.

Minimum score for the University of the People: The minimum grade required for Cambridge FCE is Grade “C” or CEFR B2 Level as reported on the final certificate. No specific requirement for individual skill modules.

Frequency: You take the Reading and Use of English, Writing and Listening papers on the same day which is offered 1-2 times a month depending on your location. Your center will arrange the date for your Speaking test. Which will be taken up to several days before or after the other papers.

Location: There are over 2,800 centers in 130 countries around the world. To find an authorized in your country center click here.

Cost: Fees are set by test centers. Expect to pay around €160 euros.

Preparation Materials: See here.