If you're planning to apply to university later this year, either for Fall 2015 or for next year, we recommend getting your English language requirement (IELTS or TOEFL) out of the way. It will be one less thing to think about as you prepare for the SAT, study for final exams, or begin the application process.
Do I Really Have to Prove I Speak English?
You might be thinking "I don't have to take an exam to prove I speak English because I went to an English speaking school." Unfortunately, almost all universities in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia will still require you to prove you speak English. Here are the requirements from the University of Chicago that show typical requirements to NOT have to take the TOEFL or IELTS:
The English language requirement may be waived if the applicant is a native of or studied in full-time status for at least one academic year within the last five years in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or English medium universities in Canada or South Africa. Students who studied in English in other countries, for example, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc., are not exempt from the English language requirement.
From the last sentence, we can see that the United Arab Emirates will fall into the same category as Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. If you went to school in Dubai and don't have a passport from the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa, you'll have to take the TOEFL or IELTS.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport
So what score do you need? Well, that varies by university and by program. Some require only a 70 or above. However, the following requirements from the University of Chicago are pretty typical:
Applicants whose total score on the four-part TOEFL falls below 90 (or IELTS falls below 7) will not normally be admitted unless other demonstrable evidence of proficiency in English is available. Individual departments may set higher standards for these scores, and applicants should consult the specific program web sites for details.
Some universities like Georgia Tech now even require online interviews for non-native English speakers!
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport: The Exception
There is one exception to the requirement we just mentioned: a high score on the SAT Reading section. Many universities will not require you to take the TOEFL or IELTS even if you went to school in the UAE and don't have a "Western" passport IF you earned a high score on the SAT Reading section. Here are the example requirements from Cornell University:
The TOEFL and/or IELTS requirement for international applicants is waived for students achieving a score of at least 670 on the Critical Reading section of the SAT exam.
The score you need varies based on university (usually 620 and above) so be sure to read EVERYTHING on the International Applicants section of the website of EACH university to which you are applying. If you meet the university's requirements, they will automatically waive the requirement for you so you don't need to email them.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Don't Have a "Western" Passport: Applying to the UK
If you went to school in the UAE and don't have a "Western" passport but you are applying to the UK, you must take the IELTS. You have to meet the requirements of the university and course you are applying to AND the UK Government to qualify for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. If you're applying to both UK and US universities, make the process easier for yourself and take the IELTS Academic module because it will meet everyone's requirements.
I Went to School in the UAE and I Do Have a "Western" Passport
If you went to high school in Dubai and have a passport from the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa (even if you never lived there), you can qualify for a "TOEFL Waiver." It is also some times called an English language requirement waiver or a TOEFL/IELTS waiver but TOEFL waiver is the most common term. Here's how to get one from your universities.
How to Apply for a TOEFL or IELTS Waiver
1. Apply to the university via its website or through the Common Application. The university will not be apply to access your file to provide the credit until they have actually received the application. You can only apply for a TOEFL Waiver to universities in the US (and international universities in Dubai).
2. Wait for a confirmation email from the university. It may take 2-3 days after the deadline has passed for you to receive this email. It will include information for sending other parts of your application and provide an email address to apply for a TOEFL waiver (if this info is not included on the university website). If you don't get an email from the Admissions Department within a week of submitting your application, go to the next step.
3. Send an email to the Admissions Department requesting a TOEFL waiver.Here's a sample that you can cut, paste, and change:
Subject: TOEFL Waiver
I recently submitted my application to (university name) for Fall 2015. Here is my information to help you find my application:
- First and last names as they appear on the application
- Email address used on your application
- Date of birth
- Application number (if received in confirmation email)
I would like to request a TOEFL waiver because I am a native English speaker and hold a passport from (country), which meets the requirements shown on the university website. I have attached my passport copy as proof.
Please email me once my TOEFL waiver has been granted.
4. Wait for about 2 weeks for a response from the university. If no one replies, check the online application system for the university, call the admissions office, or email the admissions office again.
Congratulations...now you can start preparing for the SAT!
Questions? Comments? Concerns?
Leave it in the comments!