We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Learning and Teaching Handbook University Minimum Levels for English Language Entry and Accepted English Language Proficiency Tests

1. The University accepts IELTS, TOEFL iBT, Cambridge Proficiency (CPE) and Cambridge Advanced (CAE) as preferred English Language proficiency tests. These are also Secure English Language Tests (SELTS) accepted by the UK Border Agency. However, some applicants may experience difficulties in making the necessary arrangements to take these tests and alternatives may be acceptable in exceptional circumstances. Paragraphs 2 (i)-(p) outline alternative acceptable tests and paragraph 3 details tests currently deemed not acceptable as reliable evidence of English language proficiency.

2. The minimum[1] entry levels for non-native speakers of English or students who require a Tier 4 visa to study and/or who come from non-majority English Speaking countries (please see 1.3.1 paragraph 3 for a list of these countries) onto any programme of study except the Foundation Programme[2] at Durham University are listed below. All qualifications must normally be taken within two years of the start of the academic programme (except where an extension applies, please see footnote below for details[3]) to meet the academic requirements of the University.

Preferred Tests:

a. IELTS: 6.5 (no component under 6.0)

b. TOEFL iBT: 92 (no component under 23)

c. Cambridge Proficiency (CPE): Grade C

d. Cambridge Advanced (CAE): Grade A

e. Cambridge IGCSE First Language English at Grade C or above

f. Cambridge IGCSE English as a Second Language (syllabus 0511 only) at Grade B or above (with individual component grades of Reading (minimum Grade D or above), Writing (minimum Grade D or above), Oral (Speaking minimum Grade C or above) and Listening (minimum Grade A))

g. GCSE English Language at grade C or above

h. Pearson Test of English (overall score 62 (with no score less than 56 in each component)

Alternative accepted tests when those listed in a.-h. above are unavailable to the applicant (if the applicant requires a Tier 4 visa to study, advice on the suitability of these alternatives must be sought from the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office):

i. Certificate of Attainment (Edexcel)

j. Certificate of Attainment (Edexcel)

k. GCE A-levels (AQA, CIE, Edexcel, CCEA, OCR, WJEC) at grade C or above in an essay based, humanities or social science subject from the following list: History, Philosophy, Government and Politics, English Literature, Geography, Religious Studies, Economics, Business Studies, Law and Sociology. Modern or Classical Languages are not acceptable in meeting this requirement.

l. International Baccalaureate with a minimum of grade 5 in Standard Level English

m. NEAB (JMB) Test in English (Overseas)

n. Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL) at grade C or above in an essay based, humanities or social science subject excluding modern languages[4]

o. Singapore Polytechnic Diploma and Advanced Diplomas at GPA 3.0 or above[5]

p. WAEC and NECO Grade B3 or above from Nigeria and Ghana[6]

3. The University does not recognise the following tests as acceptable proof of English language ability:

a. Test in English for International Students (TEIS)

b. TOEFL ITP (Institutional Testing Programme)

c. TOEFL Pbt (Paper based test)

d. Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)

4. For further advice on any other tests not named in the lists above, please contact the English Language Centre for advice. Please note that applicants accepted on the basis of any test not named above will require a concession. 

5. Many departments/schools require different levels for entry onto particular programmes of study and these levels are indicated in the tables in Sections Section shows, by Faculty and then by department/school, accepted tests and levels for direct entry; Section shows required length of Pre-Sessional study for applicants who are non-native speakers of English and who do not meet the required level for direct entry. 

6. Irrespective of the test taken, all applicants must provide documentary evidence of attainment at the appropriate level or above prior to the confirmation of their offer. 

7. For further details of required levels for entry and for enquiries into the acceptability of alternative tests for direct entry, please contact the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office.


[1] Some Departments may require specific entry requirements that are different from the standard. Please see section for details.

[2] Please see the section for details of the requirements for the Foundation Programme.

[3] or two years and six months where students who have been awarded an appropriately graded GCSE English Language or IGCSE English as a First Language and have then immediately continued to study appropriate level 3 qualifications (such as A Levels in any academic subjects, the IB, French Baccalaureate International Option, etc.) where the medium of instruction is entirely or predominately in English. This extension will not be applied to students who have completed iGCSE English as a Second Language. 

[4] Subject to restrictions within the Tier 4 visa regulations, contact Student Recruitment & Admissions for advice.

[5] Subject to restrictions within the Tier 4 visa regulations, contact Student Recruitment & Admissions for advice.

[6] Not acceptable as evidence of English Language competence for students who require a Tier 4 visa to study at the University.