Evidence of English Language Proficiency

Graduate program applicants who speak a language other than English as their first language and/or who earned their bachelor’s degrees from an institution outside the U.S. will be asked to submit evidence of English Language Proficiency.

How to Submit Proficiency Test Scores

In most cases, that evidence will consist of a recently earned test score. If you have taken the TOEFL, IELTS, or another standardized proficiency test, you will report that in the Test Scores section of the MSU graduate application. You must also contact the provider of the test and order an official score report, which will be sent from the test provider to Michigan State University.

Read the MSU Graduate School policy and instructions here:

English Language Competency | The Graduate School (msu.edu)

How to Request a Waiver

In many cases, applicants will be eligible for a waiver and will not be required to submit recent standardized test scores. As of Fall 2021, your waiver request will begin as a step in the MSU graduate application. You should ALSO contact us directly at maflt@cal.msu.edu to discuss your situation and your possible eligibility for a waiver.

Depending on the type of waiver you are requesting, you may be asked to submit:

  • Copies of prior English proficiency test scores (even if they have expired);
  • Transcripts from any and all previous institutions, including those of any graduate-level courses or degree programs completed;
  • Official documentation from your non-U.S. institution as evidence that your institution or program was conducted in English; and/or
  • A writing sample in English based on the prompt that we provide demonstrating sufficient competence in academic writing.

Automatic Waivers

Automatic waivers are granted by the Office of Admissions if:

  • you have previously earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an institution where English is the medium of instruction, and
  • you earned the majority of your credits while residing in an English-speaking country.

Non-Automatic Waivers

In other cases, the graduate program may request a waiver on your behalf. The documentation needed in order to justify this request to us and for us to justify the waiver to the Office of Admissions will vary depending on your situation. Relevant situations include:

  • You have (or will soon have) a degree from an institution or program in which the language of instruction is English, but the courses were taken exclusively online or in a country where English is a foreign language.
  • You have taken standardized tests of English language proficiency in the past, but your scores are out of date or slightly below MSU’s score requirements.
  • You would like to make a special request to substitute a writing sample and interview for English language proficiency scores. Usually this is acceptable when you have lived and worked in an English-speaking country for at least two years.

Demonstrate Proficiency without a Test Score

Submit a Writing Sample

To verify your reading and writing proficiency, submit a writing sample. Download the instructions and submit your essay by uploading it to your application file. You can also submit it via email to: maflt@cal.msu.edu. If you have a comparable paper that you have already written, you may submit it for consideration.

Schedule an Interview

To demonstrate your speaking and listening proficiency, schedule a meeting with the Program Director. You can follow instructions on Dr. Lanier’s page. The meeting will typically take place via Zoom. You can also use this opportunity to ask questions about the program and your application.


Further questions?