Language Proficiency Test

language proficiency tests

Applying for college admissions, scholarships, jobs, or visas, demands providing a language proficiency test as part of the application process.

A language proficiency test is a certified document that verifies that you have been trained or taught in a specific language. In other words, you can read and write effectively in that language. Notably, the English proficiency document is the most common.

What is an English Proficiency Test?

An English Proficiency document determines your fundamental ability to use the English language in performing activities like reading, writing, speaking, and understanding.

Standardized tests like TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) are mediums to test English level. Proficiency levels can vary from high to low or advanced to basic.

English language tests are essential for individuals who need to communicate or work in English-speaking environments, such as students studying abroad, professionals seeking employment internationally, or immigrants settling in English-speaking countries.

Check on these USA scholarships for International students:

Do you need to have an English proficiency test to gain admission?

No, There are a lot of colleges and universities that do not have a strict policy on proving language proficiency. Some schools exempt some countries from providing IELTS and TOEFL when applying for admissions.

Which colleges do not require an English Language proficiency test?

The following colleges don’t demand that international students provide Language proficiency as of 2024:

  • Wingate University
  • Seton Hill University
  • Babson College
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • Boston College
  • Roanoke College
  • Albion College
  • Michigan State University
  • Hendrix College
  • Carolina University
  • Concordia University
  • College of the North Atlantic

Foreign students applying to the schools mentioned above do not submit English proficiency tests such as the IELTS. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that institutional policies are subject to change yearly. Prospective applicants should regularly verify the current requirements of the school. We advise staying informed about updates that may include language proficiency tests every academic year.

Which universities accept the IELTS test?

The universities below require that applicants submit the IELTS test when applying for admission:

  • University of Michigan-Dearborn
  • Harvard University
  • Standford University
  • University of Florida

Where can I get an English language proficiency test to travel abroad?

  1. From your educational institution.
  2. Through Language proficiency exams like IELTS, TOEFL, and Duolingo tests.
  3. By taking other standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and GRE.

You can obtain an English Language proficiency certificate as a student to study abroad by contacting your educational institution. Your institution may issue it to you due to taking English Language exams in the school.

For university or college applicants, this might involve contacting the English Department. The English Department is charged with English proficiency tests for universities and conducts the English Language proficiency exams.

Sample of a University English Proficiency Test Certificate

Sample of University English proficiency test certificate

However, high school graduates may contact the administration office or the academic principal to assist in acquiring such documentation.

Sample of a High School English Proficiency Test

sample of a high school English proficiency test

Alternatively, several online platforms offer internationally recognized standardized language proficiency tests, such as the IELTS, SAT, and Duolingo exams, which also serve as the necessary documentation.

Sample of an SAT certificate

Sample SAT certificate
Sample SAT test score

Is English proficiency the same as Language proficiency?

No, Language proficiency is much broader and not limited to only English. There are several ways to test Language proficiency. For example, someone might have proficiency in French, German, Mandarin, or any other language.

On the other hand, English proficiency is like the subset of Language proficiency. 

Types of English Proficiency Tests

  1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
  2. International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  3. Cambridge English Qualifications
  4. Pearson Test of English (PTE)
  5. Institutional Language Certificates
  6. Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)
  7. Duolingo English Test
  8. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test)
  9. GRE (Graduate Record Examination)
  1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL): It is a test of English fluency for non-native English speakers, primarily for academic purposes, especially at the university level. The TOEFL exam is in three categories: TOEFL iBT, TOEFL CBT and, TOEFL PBT. Some websites offer free resources for foreigners who want to take the TOEFL test. However, the Educational Testing Service administrates the TOEFL test registration on the official TOEFL website.
  2. International English Language Testing System (IELTS): The UK and other English-speaking countries accept IELTS for study, work, and migration purposes. You can take an IELTS test online by visiting the British Council website. Also, the University of Queensland in Australia has a Free IELTS Preparation Course for anyone wishing to take the IELTS exams.
  3. Cambridge English Qualifications: The CEA is a suite of English language qualifications offered by Cambridge English Assessment. Each follows the  Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Holders of this certificate have been assessed for speaking, writing, reading, and listening skills. The Cambridge English website will provide the resources you need to secure your Cambridge English proficiency.
  4. Pearson Test of English (PTE): Assess English language proficiency to study abroad and immigration to Canada, the UK, Australia, and other English-speaking countries. The test is recognized by universities, colleges, and governments across the globe. You can visit the PTE website for more information.
  5. Institutional Language Certificates: Some educational institutions or language schools issue their language proficiency certificates upon completing a program. This certificate attests that the candidate was taught in a specific language and is the most commonly used form of proficiency for study abroad and scholarship applications by English as a Second Language(ESL) students.
  6. Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC): Measures English proficiency in a workplace context, often used by companies and organizations for hiring and promotion decisions.
  7. Duolingo English Test: This test measures reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills and can be done online in the comfort of your home. It’s the most commonly accepted by universities and colleges as an alternative to traditional English proficiency tests like TOEFL or IELTS. It became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person testing options were limited. Duolingo aims to teach endangered languages across the globe. These test exams provide the convenience of having the Duolingo English proficiency test online. Some universities that accept the Duolingo English test are the University of Michigan, the University of Califonia, Guelph University, etc.
  8. SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test): Primarily used for undergraduate college admissions in the United States, the SAT includes sections that assess reading, writing, and language skills, which indirectly measure English proficiency. Scholastic Assessment Tests are useful for those who seek fully funded scholarships. You may visit the official CollegeBoard website to register for SAT exams.
  9. GRE (Graduate Record Examination): Used for admissions to graduate programs worldwide, the GRE includes Verbal Reasoning sections that assess vocabulary usage, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning skills. Having a GRE certificate with good scores increases an applicant’s chances of securing a graduate sponsorship.

These are not the only forms of language proficiency tests for international travel. The other forms that exist are:

  1. Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE): This is a Spanish proficiency test administered by the Instituto Cervantes. Its assessing levels start from A1 to C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
  2. TestDaF (Test Deutsch als Fremdsprache): German language proficiency test for non-native speakers, typically needed for admission to German universities.
  3. DELF (Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française) and DALF (Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française): French proficiency tests offered by the French Ministry of Education, assessing various levels of proficiency.
  4. HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi): Chinese proficiency test used for non-native speakers, organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarters. The HSK is in six levels and costs $35 to $75. The test certificate is equivalent to a diploma and has no expiration.
  5. JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test): Assesses and certifies Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers, consisting of five levels.
  6. STEP Eiken (The Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English): Administered by the Society for Testing English Proficiency (STEP), Eiken is a widely recognized English proficiency test in Japan, evaluating skills from elementary to advanced levels.

Will my English proficiency certificate expire?

No, English Language proficiency tests like the Duolingo test do not expire. They have an indefinite validity period. However, institutional requirements for language proficiency documents vary, with validity criteria set by respective authorities. For example, the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UMDearborn) does not accept English test scores over two years old. Individuals need to verify specific validity requirements with the relevant institutions or authorities and plan accordingly for renewal or retesting for academic, professional, or immigration purposes.


African students from Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa often find that English proficiency tests are waived when applying to colleges such as Seton Hill University, Roanoke College, Paine College, Albion College, etc. These schools are in English-speaking countries like the USA, Canada, or Australia.

However, traveling to work in these countries demands that you provide such a document.

Generally, healthcare practitioners like nurses must provide proof of English, especially when seeking employment in countries like the UK. Providing an IELTS band score of 6 is often a standard requirement.


With permission from Miss Firdaus Adams, we are privileged to showcase her legally acquired English proficiency document from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. 

Additionally, we express our appreciation to Miss Abena Boateng for authorizing the use of her high school proficiency document for demonstration purposes.

Finally, our content writer and SAT tutor Mr. Emmanuel Opoku, also provided his SAT score.

We are sincerely grateful to these individuals for their generosity in allowing us to feature their achievements.

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