find your perfect postgrad program
Search our Database of 30,000 Courses

English language tests: IELTS, Cambridge ESOL, TOEFL & Pearson PTE Academic

English language requirements for studying in the UK

As a non-native English speaker coming to study at a university in the UK, you legally need to prove by law that you have a B2-level proficiency in spoken and written English. There is a variety of English language tests available for you to take which all examine proficiency in listening, reading, writing and speaking.

As an international student studying a masters in the UK, most UK universities accept IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge English and Pearson PTE Academic exams as proof of English proficiency, however there is a range of other tests which are accepted: see the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) internet page of approved English tests for the full list as well as the recommended scores. It is also really important to check with specific universities for their guidelines and requirements for minimum scores in any of these tests. It might be that your desired university demands a score that is higher than the minimum score set out by the UKVI – particularly if the course you want to do demands a high level of literary (such as a course in English literature). Also, you may find that some universities only accept the results from one or another of the tests rather than from any of them.

It is also important to check the UKVI for specific requirements for students needing a Tier 4 visa which is the visa required for postgraduate study in the UK for international students.


Preparing for your English language test

Here are some top tips to help you to prepare for your English language test and hopefully pass first time!

1. There is a wealth of information and strategy guides available for the IELTS, TEOFL, Cambridge English and Pearson PTE Academic tests, all of which are well-established tests with plenty of published material and help available. The first thing you should do is check the respective websites for more details information about what you need to do.
2. Make sure you do some practice tests – these are available through the companies’ websites – to give you a sound introduction into the format and expectations of the tests.
3. If you decide to get a tutor or pay for a class, make sure to look for a teacher with a DELTA qualification (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
4. When preparing for any language exam, make sure to really put in the work. Enjoy immersing yourself in the language by listening to the radio, watching English TV programs, reading books and talking to people in English – that way you’ll be able to take control of the situation.


IELTS, the International English Language Testing System is the world’s most popular high-stakes English test, jointly owned by the British Council, IDP: IELTS Australia and Cambridge Assessment English. Over 3.5 million tests were taken last year by candidates seeking to prove their proficiency in the English language for work and study abroad. IELTS is accepted by over 10,000 institutions around the world including almost all UK universities. You can use the IELTS Global Recognition System to check which institutions recognise IELTS certificates.

There are two versions of the IELTS test – General Training and Academic. IELTS Academic measures whether your level of English language proficiency is suitable for an academic environment. It reflects aspects of academic language and evaluates whether you’re ready to begin training or studying. IELTS General Training measures English language proficiency in a practical, everyday context. The tasks and tests reflect both workplace and social situations. IELTS is the only major English language test giving you a two-way face to face language speaking assessment which gives candidates the confidence knowing that they are better equipped for real life situations.

IELTS has over 48 fixed test dates a year, and these take place in over 800 different locations around the world. Click here to find your nearest test centre.

Find out more in-depth information about IELTS.

Cambridge English Language Assessment

Cambridge ESOL • Cambridge English: Advanced , also known as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
• Cambridge English: Proficiency , also known as the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

Cambridge English exams are accepted by UK universities and colleges as proof of English language skills. You can also gain valuable UCAS Tariff Points with Cambridge English exams that you can use when applying to UK universities. The UK Border Agency accepts Cambridge English exams for Tier 4 student visas , so you only need to take one exam.

You can take your Cambridge English exam at one of 2,700 centres in over 130 countries. 

Cambridge English exams are accepted by over 13,000 universities, colleges and employers around the world.  To find out if Cambridge English: Advanced or Cambridge English: Proficiency is the right exam for you, visit the  Global Online Recognition Database to see where the exams are used and accepted.

Find out more in-depth information about Cambridge English exams.


The TOEFL® test is possibly the most well-known and widely-recognised English language test internationally. Whilst the test has traditionally been available both on the internet and in a paper-based format, the paper-based test is being phased out beginning mid-2012 to be replaced solely by the internet version, know as the TOEFL iBT. 

TOEFL® offers the greatest range of test centres, and has around 30-40 test dates a year.  

Find out more in-depth information about TOEFL.

Pearson: PTE Academic

Pearson PTE Academic is a computer-based test of English language proficiency for study abroad and immigration. There are over 200 test centres worldwide and the results are usually available within five business days.


Related articles

Tips And Tricks To Crack ROEL In 2022

Top Tips To Getting A Student Visa

6 Tips For International Students To Increase Their Employability In The UK

English Language Study Requirements

Studying In English

International Students In The UK

Tips For Settling In To The UK

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries