English Language Competency (2024)

All international applicants and applicants whose first language is not English must be able to be proficient in English as a condition forregular admission to Michigan State University. Such applicants will be required to demonstrate their proficiency by meeting certainminimum standards.


The English competency tests (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE A, etc.) are designed to give graduate program admissions committees some information to judge potential for success. A reasonable level of English competency (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) are important skills for student success in the nationally- competitive MSU graduate education environment. It is our collective responsibility to ensure, as best we can, the potential for success, by using these standard test scores, which are backed up with considerable research on reliability, in the admissions process.

Applicants should have all test scores sent from the testing agency directly to Michigan State University Most testing authoritiesare able to send scores electronically. In the rare case that a physical copy must be sent, it should be sent to; Office of Admissions; Hannah Administration Building; 426 Auditorium Road, Room 250; East Lansing, Michigan 48824-2604.

Provisional admission status will continue until university minimum language proficiency requirements for English (regular admission proficiency) are attained. Provisionally admitted students are required to take the MSU English Language Test (MSUELT) upon arrival at MSU. The results of the MSU English Language Test determine whether students will:

  • Enroll in full-time academic courses.
  • Enroll in full-time English Language courses through the English Language Center.
  • Enroll in a combination of both academic courses and English Language courses.

You may not enroll in full-time academic courses until you meet the university's minimum language proficiency requirement for English. Enrollment in English Language Center courses is NOT negotiable. Any questions regarding the university's minimum language proficiency requirements for English can be answered by the English Language Center; elc@msu.edu; 517-353-0800; https://elc.msu.edu/

English language tests for international students
Due to cancellations of many international English languageproficiencytests, MSU will be temporarily accepting the following tests for international students applying through Fall 2024: Duolingo English Test, theTOEFL iBT Special Home Editionand theIELTS Indicatortests. See scores below.

In addition, MSU will be expanding the ability for students to receive provisional admission. If a provisionally admitted student is able to take a test that meets our regular admission standards prior to enrollment, we will update their admission status to regular.

List of English Speaking Countries

English Speaking Countries In most cases, candidates who are citizens from the following countries need NOT be held for proof of English Language Proficiency (ELP). Language of instruction at institution attended must be English.

However, residence in one of the countries or attending school there does not necessarily presume English fluency—a student from China may be living in the U.K. Please be careful to look for a place of birth as well as current country of residence/citizenship.

  • Anguilla
  • Antigua
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Canada (except Quebec)
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica
  • The Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Liberia
  • Montserrat
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • St. Kitts & Nevis
  • St. Lucia
  • St. Vincent
  • Trinidad
  • Tobago
  • Turks & Caicos Islands
  • United Kingdom- England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland
  • U.S. Virgin Islands

KLOMPARENS, 2009; WIDDERS, 2013, 2017; LEAHY, 2020; JEITCHKO, 2024

Regular Admission

Provisional Admission

Proficiency is determined by ONE of the tests below:You must demonstrate proficiency as follows:Students with acceptable academic credentials may be admitted to some academic programs on a provisional basis. If admitted provisionally, the deficiency must be corrected within two consecutive semesters. Provisional status is granted if:
Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Educational Testing Service Princeton, NJ 08541 USA https://www.ets.org/toefl.html MSU Code: 1465Internet-based test (iBT): no subscore below 19 for reading, listening, and speaking; no writing subscore below 22; with a minimum average score of 80.**Internet-based test (iBT): average score is at least 70.
Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB) Testing and Certification Division The English Language Institute Ann Arbor, MI 48109 USA https://lsa.umich.edu/eliMinimum average score of 83, no subscore below 80.**
MELAB speaking test is required (minimum score of 3).
Average score is between 72 and 83.
MSU English Language Test (MSUELT) English Language Center Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48824-1035 USA https://elc.msu.edu/Minimum average score of 80 to 85, no subscore below 80;
OR Minimum average score of 85, no subscore below 78.**
Average score is at least 72.
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
Minimum average score of 6.5. No subscore below 6.0.Average score is 6.
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE A) https://www.pearsonpte.com/Minimum Overall Score of 53; no subscore below 51 for reading, listening, and speaking; no writing subscore below 59.Average Overall score is at least 48.
Duolingo English Test https://englishtest.duolingo.com/110 or higher

95 to 105

Michigan State University Certificate of English Language Proficiency (CELP)https://elc.msu.edu/tests/celc-celp-in-greece/score of 65 with no subscore below 15 (17 for writing section)

score of 60

** Some graduate departments require higher English Language Proficiency scores than the University minimum. Please contact the department for further information.

Procedure to Request a Waiver for English Language Competency

October 2021

This procedure needs to be completed by the department, not the applicant.

The English competency tests (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE A, etc.) are designed to give graduate program admissions committees some information to judge potential for success.A reasonable level of English competency (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) are important skills for student success in the nationally- competitive MSU graduate education environment.It is our collective responsibility to ensure, as best we can, the potential for success, by using these standard test scores, which are backed up with considerable research on reliability, in the admissions process.

The policy of requiring English language test scores, and the minimum University scores for each kind of test (TOEFL, IELTS, PTE A, etc.) acceptable to MSU are established by the University Committee on Graduate Studies. The policy and scores are in the Academic Programs catalog:https://reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.aspx?Section=111#s336. Many programs establish score minimums higher than the MSU standard. The MSU English Language Center provides the necessary expertise for interpretation of the scores and is the Grad School’s partner for this activity.

There is a process forautomaticwaivers and fornon-automaticwaivers of the requirement of test scores for applicants “whose first language is not English”.

AUTOMATIC waivers by the Office of Admissions:

  • Bachelor’s degree earned in the U.S. (or other English-speaking country). If a copy of the (old) English language competency scores is available, please send to Admissions. The BA or BS program should be a regular 4-year degree the majority of credits earned in the U.S. (or other English-speaking country), not 100% online, not an “experiential” degree that is based on credit for life experiences and/or not earned at a branch campus in a non-English-speaking country.

  • Bachelor’s degree earned at MSU, the majority of credits earned while on our campus.

  • Master’s degree earned at an AAU institution (seehttps://www.aau.edu/who-we-are/our-members) on a U.S. campus. Helpful if English language competency scores are included (even if old) for the student’s admission into the master’s program

Process to Request NON-AUTOMATIC waivers:

To request a non-automatic waiver of these requirements, a graduate program administrator (academic program coordinator, coordinator, director) must submitthis form.The form contains a link to preview the information required.Upon submission, the form will automatically route in the following order for approval: Graduate Program Director, College Assistant/Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School.

Upon final approval, the Office of Admissions will be automatically notified and they will waive the requirement for the applicant. Email updates will be sent with every change in status to the form submitter, the Graduate Program Director, and any others they identify at the end of the form. The GAAD will also be notified of the final outcome. Please contact approvals@grd.msu.edu with questions.

You can find the Power Automate approvals you have received here: https://grad.msu.edu/flow

Programs are expected to monitor student progress carefully if they receive an English language proficiency requirement waiver! We have a collective responsibility to help students succeed.

Process Map

View a map of this process here.

Required Information

Below is the information you will need to complete thenon-automatic waiver form. Please gather this information beforehand to prepare to complete the request.

Applicant’s Information

  • Name & last 4 Digits of Applicant's Application ID
  • Matriculation Semester and Year
  • College & degree program
  • Provisional or regular admission

Primary reason justifying your waiver request.

The applicant has passing test scores that are expired.
  • Test scores & expiration date
  • What evidence do you have that the applicant has maintained or improved their English abilities since taking the English language proficiency test?

The applicant has valid test scores that are just short of passing.
  • Test scores & expiration date.
  • What additional evidence do you have that suggests the applicant's English abilities are sufficient to grant a waiver?
  • What form(s) of support will be provided to the applicant to increase their English language proficiency, and who will provide this support?

The applicant has or is in the process of getting a master's degree within the U.S. at a non-AAU university.
  • Master’s degree university & graduation date
  • A single PDF that contains the applicant's (official or unofficial) master's degree transcript.
  • Applicant's test scores that were used to gain admission to their master's degree university, if known
  • Additional evidence of the applicant's English abilities

The applicant has or is in the process of getting a degree from a university outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction is English.
  • Name(s) of Instructional Institution(s)
  • A single PDF that contains:
    • The applicant's (official or unofficial) transcript from that degree
    • An official document (in English) from the institution(s) certifying that the language of instruction was entirely English.
  • Any previous English test scores
  • Evidence of applicant’s oral English language communication skills
    • This is needed to verify that (i) the applicant’s accent is not too strong to prevent the applicant from effectively communicating with American English speakers and (ii) the applicant can understand speakers with an American English accent.
    • This evidence can be in the form of the Slate video essay (which only addresses point (i) above), a link to a recorded interview with the applicant, or a description of an interview the program has conducted with the applicant, preferably not by a prospective faculty research advisor.
  • Any other evidence of English proficiency.

Another reason
  • Please describe why the applicant does not meet the requirements and why they should get a waiver of the English language proficiency requirement.
  • Has the applicant taken an English language proficiency test?
    • Yes:What is the expiration date for the applicant's test scores?
    • Yes:What were the applicant's test scores?
    • No:Why did the applicant not take an English language proficiency test?
  • Has someone in the admissions process besides the prospective advisor interviewed the applicant and determined their spoken English is proficient?
    • Briefly describe who conducted the interview and in what format, or explain why an interview was not needed.
  • Do you have a writing sample from the applicant?
    • Please upload the writing sample(s) as a single file.
  • Please provide any other evidence of English proficiency.

Other Information

  • Any additional comments
  • Email for Graduate Program Director (GPD)
  • By default, the form submitter and GPD will receive notifications whenever the status of the request changes. Enter the emails for anyone else who needs intermediate updates along the way (e.g., program assistant), except the student.
English Language Competency (2024)


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