English proficiency requirements
Non-native English speakers must demonstrate English proficiency in areas of reading, writing, and listening to gain admission to a graduate program. They may do so in one of five ways:
Satisfactory scores on the standardized tests like the TOEFL, IELTS-Academic, or PTE may demonstrate varying levels of English proficiency. Depending on your level, AEC coursework may be required for admission to KU. See the following table for further details.
Scores must be sent to KU by the testing agency and must be less than two years old at the time that Graduate Admissions processes the application.
Special circumstances due to COVID-19
Because in-person English testing might be challenging for some applicants during the COVID-19 pandemic, the online Duolingo English Test may temporarily be considered as a form of alternative documentation of English proficiency, as determined by KU’s Applied English Center, the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty, and the vice provost of graduate studies. Students who take the Duolingo exam must obtain a minimum score of 115 on the exam, and will be required to test with the Applied English Center (AEC) before enrollment. Students should work with their program’s department to submit their Duolingo score to Graduate Admissions for consideration.
Applicants are highly encouraged to take the practice test, as the Duolingo test is somewhat different from other English proficiency exams. Test takers should ask that their results be made visible on KU’s Duolingo dashboard.
If you have satisfactorily completed all assigned coursework from the Applied English Center (AEC), the university will consider you fully proficient. You will not be required to continue any further English-language testing or coursework. See the following table for further details.
If you have earned a baccalaureate degree (or higher) in residence from an accredited university or from a foreign university which conducts all instruction in English and which maintains substantially equivalent bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree requirements, then you will be considered fully proficient and will not be required to complete AEC testing or coursework. Degrees earned online may not be used to verify English proficiency.
If you are employed as an officer in the U.S. military with documentation of selection or promotion to the rank of Major or higher (or the equivalent U.S. Navy or Coast Guard rank), then you will be considered fully proficient and will not be required to complete AEC testing.
In exceptional cases, a department, with written support from the appropriate school or college, may petition the vice provost for graduate studies to consider alternative documentation of English proficiency. In consultation with the Executive Council of Graduate Faculty and the director of the AEC, the vice provost for Graduate Studies will determine whether the alternative documentation demonstrates English proficiency at the level expected for regular admission to graduate study at KU. See the following table for more details about proficiency levels and their requirements.
Proficiency Bands and Score Requirements
|Documentation Type||Full Proficiency||Admission Proficiency||Provisional Proficiency|
All part scores at least 57, TWE 5.0
All part scores at least 53
All part scores 51-52
Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores at least 23
Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores at least 20
Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores 18-19
Minimum overall score 6.5, at least 6.0 in Listening, Reading, and Writing
Minimum overall score 6.0 with no part score below 5.5
Minimum overall score 5.5 with no part score below 5.0
Minimum overall score 58 with no part score below 53 in Listening, Reading, and Writing
Minimum overall score 55 with no part score below 50
Minimum overall score 45 with no part score below 40
Completion of all AEC coursework and designation as "Proficiency Obtained"
AEC Testing Required?
Applied English Center Testing
The Applied English Center (AEC) maintains a testing process for non-native speakers of English. This process serves to confirm each student's level of English proficiency and determines whether English courses will be included as a requirement of the student’s graduate studies. In order to graduate, students who are required to complete AEC courses must meet KU’s Full Proficiency standard, as demonstrated by their performance in AEC coursework and/or testing.
- Students who are admitted in the Full Proficiency band are not required to complete AEC testing.
- All other non-native speakers of English who gain admission to campus-based programs are required to complete AEC testing prior to enrollment.
- Provisional admission is not available to applicants who are applying to online-only programs and are not native English speakers.
Review the full English Proficiency Requirements for Admission to Graduate Study
GTA and GRA eligibility
Graduate teaching and research assistant positions are governed by distinct policies and have English proficiency requirements separate from graduate admission. Additional information on eligibility for graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants may be found in the GTA/GRA/GA Eligibility Guidelines.
The Board of Regents policy on spoken English competency for graduate teaching assistants requires that non-native speakers of English demonstrate English proficiency by obtaining a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK or TSE, a 22 on the speaking portion of the iBT, or an 8 on the IELTS (see the following table for details). It also requires that the student be interviewed by three institutional representatives to determine sufficient English proficiency. More information may be found in the Kansas Board of Regents Policy on Spoken English Language Competency of Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants.
|Type of Assistantship||TOEFL Exam||IELTS Exam||KU SPEAK Exam|
|GTA||Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores at least 20, Speaking 22||Minimum overall score 6.0 with no part score below 5.5, Speaking 8||50|
|GRA or GA||Reading, Listening, and Writing part scores at least 20||Minimum overall score 6.0 with no part score below 5.5||English proficiency sufficient for GRA offer|