English proficiency requirements

Non-native English speakers must demonstrate English proficiency to gain admission to a graduate program. They may do so in one of the following 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.

TOEFL scores should be sent by ETS to KU institution code 6871. IELTS should be sent to KU via the e-delivery service.

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.

Students who haven't taken one of the listed tests may complete coursework through the Applied English Center (AEC) to demonstrate English proficiency.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

These requirements apply to students admitted for spring 2022 and after.

Proficiency Bands and Score Requirements

Documentation TypeFull ProficiencyAdmission Proficiency


Total score of 80 with no part score below 20

Total score of 55 with no part score below 13


Total score of 6.5 with no part score below 6.0

Total score of 5.5 with no part score below 5.0

PTE Academic

Total score of 60 with no part score below 55

Total score of 42 with no part score below 35

AEC Coursework

Completion of all AEC coursework and designation as "Proficiency Obtained"

Eligibility to begin Level 3 or higher

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.


GTA and GRA eligibility

Graduate teaching and research assistant positions are governed by distinct policies and have English proficiency requirements separate from graduate admission. Contact your program for more information about specific eligibility requirements. 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.