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May 17, 2014

TOEFL To Be Accepted for UK Student Visas Under Certain Conditions

Update: TOEFL will be accepted in the UK under certain conditions. See Using TOEFL® Scores to Apply to U.K. Universities.  Except for this paragraph and the title, the rest of this post has not been updated. 

If you have been preparing to take the TOEFL and plan to apply to graduate programs in the UK and will need a Tier 4 Student Visa (The student visa required for longterm stay), you should stop studying TOEFL and start studying IELTS.  

For my interview with a TOEFL and IELTS test prep expert, please see here.  

According to the UK’s Guidance on applying for a UK visa: approved English language tests:
“Expiry of Educational Testing Services' (ETS) licence to carry out secure English language tests: impact on student visa applicants.
The Government wants to ensure that this change does not have an impact on genuine international students who took an ETS test in good faith before the licence expired.
UK Visas and Immigration are accepting visa applications which rely on an ETS certificate issued before the expiry of the licence was made public on 17 April. These applications will be considered subject to our normal checks. Applications will be accepted until new Immigration Rules come into effect and transitional provisions have come to an end.”

ETS reported it this way:
“Following the broadcast of a BBC Panorama program in February 2014 which highlighted an organized criminal element seeking to circumvent the U.K.'s visa-granting process, ETS has made the decision not to extend our Secure English-language Testing (SELT) license with the Home Office. As a result, TOEIC® and TOEFL iBT® testing will no longer be offered for U.K. visa-granting purposes.”

If you have taken TOEFL on or before April 17, 2014, you can still use your TOEFL score as part of the UK student visa process.  If you TOEFL test was after April 17, 2014, you need to take a new test.

The London School of Economics posted a long explanation of the issue on their site.  Since this is all very new most schools have yet to handle the issue, but the University of Cambridge (the school behind TOEFL’s rival test, IELTS) has:
“The Home Office has suspended accepting ETS tests as evidence of English language ability. This includes the Princeton TOEFL test (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and as a result the University of Cambridge will no longer be accepting TOEFL test scores as sufficient to meet the language entry requirements for Graduate study.”

Unless the Home Office and ETS come to some sort of agreement, if you want to attend a graduate program in the UK and you need to prove your English ability based on a standardized test, forget about TOEFL and take IELTS.  Even if the schools would be happy to take the TOEFL test, it is meaningless to do so because you can’t use it for a student visa.  I am assuming, the rest of the UK will follow Cambridge’s lead.

I will update this story as it develops.

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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