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Learning and Teaching Handbook

1.3.3.1: University Minimum Levels for English Language Entry and Accepted English Language Proficiency Tests

1. The University accepts IELTS, TOEFL iBT, Cambridge Proficiency (CPE), Cambridge Advanced (CAE) and the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic as preferred English Language proficiency tests.

However, some applicants may experience difficulties in making the necessary arrangements to take these tests and alternatives may be acceptable in exceptional circumstances. Paragraphs 3i-3o outline alternative acceptable tests and paragraph 4 details tests currently deemed not acceptable as reliable evidence of English language proficiency.

2. The University follows the UKVI requirements in relation to Secure English Language Tests (SELT’s) [1] but, where circumstances allow, we are able to use our own method of English Language assessment for students requiring a Tier 4 student visa. In such situations we would also consider the following alternative assessments, with additional evidence if appropriate, to demonstrate English language ability:

  • Non-SELT IELTS
  • TOEFL iBT
  • Cambridge Proficiency (CPE)
  • Cambridge Advanced (CAE)
  • Pearson Test of English

For each qualification a statement confirming self-assessment will be added to the records of each applicant accepted with that qualification.

A sample of students from UKVI defined high-risk countries presenting University self-assessed English Language qualifications will be subject to a video chat interview delivered by the International Office to help inform the University of the ongoing suitability of the self-assessment. This sample will be of students who have accepted the University’s offer (conditionally or unconditionally).

3. 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, Chemistry, Medicine and Pharmacy at Durham University are listed below. The entry levels for the Foundation Programme, Chemistry, Medicine and Pharmacy are listed in section 1.3.3.3. 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[2]) to meet the academic requirements of the University.

Preferred Tests:

a. IELTS: 6.5 (no component under 6.0)

b. TOEFL iBT (internet based test): 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 [not normally acceptable for students who require a Tier 4 student visa]

f. Cambridge IGCSE English as a Second Language at Grade B or above [not normally acceptable for students who require a Tier 4 student visa]

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. 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.

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

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

m. Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL) at grade C or above in an essay based, humanities or social science subject excluding modern languages[3]

n. Singapore Polytechnic Diploma and Advanced Diplomas at GPA 3.0 or above[4]

o. WAEC and NECO Grade B3 or above from Nigeria and Ghana[5]

4. 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)

5. 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.

6. Many departments/schools require different levels for entry onto particular programmes of study and these levels are indicated in the tables in Sections 1.3.3.3. Section 1.3.3.3 shows, by Faculty and then by department/school, accepted tests and levels for direct entry; Section 1.3.3.4 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.

7. 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.

8. 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] See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-applying-for-uk-visa-approved-english-language-tests.

[2] 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.

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

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

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