applying to U.S. universities

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test that measures the English skills of non-native speakers. The Internet-based test consists of reading, writing, speaking, and listening sections, while the less common paper-based test covers only reading, writing, and listening. Most U.S. universities will expect you to take the TOEFL if you are a non-native speaker residing in a country where English is not the primary language. Even if you attend an English-language high school, many universities still expect you to take the TOEFL.

If you dread adding another standardized test to your schedule, keep in mind that many U.S. universities will waive the TOEFL requirement if you do well on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT or the English section of the ACT. The definition of “doing well” varies school to school (think 600+ for the SAT portion and 27+ for the ACT), so be sure to check the international admission page for any university or college you’re considering.

In addition to the TOEFL, the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is a similar test you’ll most likely see required by British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand institutions. However, many U.S. universities will also accept the IELTS. If you’re planning to apply to schools in these countries as well as the U.S., the IELTS may be a more practical choice over the TOEFL, as you could take and submit one test rather than two.


Written by Emily Toffelmire
Emily Toffelmire is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Emily worked as an admissions officer at University of Southern California as well as a college counselor at high schools in the US and Thailand.