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Durham University

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, TOEFL iBT Home Edition, Cambridge Proficiency (CPE), Cambridge Advanced (CAE), Password English Language Test (including the online Password test offered through the University) 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 2i-2o outline alternative acceptable tests and paragraph 3 details tests currently deemed not acceptable as reliable evidence of English language proficiency.

2. The minimum University entry levels for non-native speakers of English or applicants who come from non-majority English Speaking countries (please see 1.3.1 paragraph 3 for a list of these countries) onto most programmes of study are listed below.

However, a number of Academic Departments/ Schools do have higher or alternative English language entry requirements for both Undergraduate and Postgraduate level programmes. Where English language entry requirements for direct entry differ to those set out below, the requirements are listed in the tables in Section 1.3.3.3. Section 1.3.3.3 shows, by Faculty and then by Academic 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.

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[1]) to meet the academic requirements of the University. Qualifications submitted during the 2019/2020 application cycle for 2020 entry may be taken within 2 years and 6 months of the start date.

In exceptional circumstances, we will also consider IELTS certificates taken up to 4 years before the start of the academic programme, if additional evidence showing ongoing development of English language across all four skills can be provided.

Preferred Tests:

a. IELTS: 6.5 (no component under 6.0)

b. TOEFL iBT (internet based test) and TOEFL iBT Home Edition: 92 (no component under 23)

c. Cambridge Proficiency (CPE): Grade C

d. Cambridge Scale (CAE or CPE): 176 (minimum of 169 per component)

e. Cambridge O'level English Language (1119-Malaysia; 1120-Brunei; 1125 or 1126-Mauritius; 1128-Singapore and 1123-all other countries) at grade C or above.

f. Cambridge, Pearson or Oxford AQA iGCSE First Language English at Grade C or above

g. Cambridge, Pearson or Oxford AQA iGCSE English as a Second Language at Grade B or above

h. GCSE English Language at grade C or above

i. Password English Language Test: 6.5 (no component under 6.0)

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

k. Trinity ISE Language Tests - Level III or above (with a pass in both modules)

Alternative accepted tests when those listed in a.-h. above are unavailable to the applicant

l. GCE A-levels (AQA, CAIE, 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 Language, English Literature, Geography, Religious Studies, Economics, Business Studies, Law and Sociology. Modern or Classical Languages are not acceptable in meeting this requirement.

m. International Baccalaureate with a minimum of grade 5 in Standard Level English or a minimum of grade 5 if taken at Higher Level.

n. Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL) at grade C or above in an essay based, humanities or social science subject from the following list: History, Philosophy, Government and Politics, English Language, English Literature, Geography, Religious Studies, Economics, Business Studies, Law and Sociology. Modern or Classical Languages are not acceptable in meeting this requirement.

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

p. Norweigan Vitnemål fra den Videregående Skole at Grade 4 or above for English

q. WAEC and NECO Grade B3 or above from Nigeria and Ghana

r. Advanced Placement (AP) in English Language and Composition or English Literature and Composition at a grade of 4 or above

s. Bellerbys’ International Foundation Programme AES module at a minimum score of 65%

t. Cambridge Pre-U Global Perspectives and Independent Research (UK only) (9777) at P2/M3 or higher

u. The Canadian High School Diploma (Canadian nationals) Grade 12 English at 65%, accompanied by evidence that the course was taught and assessed in English (non-nationals)

v. European Baccalaureate English Language 1 and 2 accepted with pass mark 60% and English Language 3 accepted with pass mark 80%

w. Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) English Language grade 4

x. Indian Standard XII 80% in English at first attempt (ISC, CBSE, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Goa, Kerala Boards only)

y. Malaysian SPM English component Grade C (administered by UCLES only – UCLES 1119)

z. South African National Senior School Certificate pass at 5+ (candidates who have chosen English as their home language only)

aa. O Level English (Zimbabwe) at grade C or above.

ab. USA High School Graduation Diploma Grade B (or 80 – 89%) in English

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. 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.

6. 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.

English Language Requirements for applicants who require a Tier 4 Student Visa

7. As well as meeting University and Academic Department entry requirements, applicants requiring a Tier 4 visa must also fulfil UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) English language requirements as follows:

  • Applicants must evidence via a SELT (Secure English Language Test) which lists scores in all 4 language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) that they are at CEFR level B1, if they are not studying at degree level (this includes English language Pre-Sessional programmes;
  • Applicants must evidence that they are at CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) level B2 if they are studying at degree level or higher. Full details of how this can be evidenced are available here: https://www.gov.uk/tier-4-general-visa/knowledge-of-english

Please note that the CEFR level is determined by the lowest individual score component of the test rather than the CEFR level stated on the certificate. For example, although the CEFR score stated on an IELTS test certificate may be B2, if there is also an individual component score of 5.0 this would actually mean that the CEFR level for visa purposes would be B1. Please contact Student Recruitment & Admissions for advice on a case by case basis.

8. The University follows the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements in relation to Secure English Language Tests (SELTs) [5] but, where circumstances allow, we are able to use our own method of English Language assessment for students requiring a Tier 4 student visa. For each qualification a statement confirming that the University has used its own method of English language 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 conditional or unconditional offer of a place.

9. For applicants who require a Tier 4 Visa for any course below degree level (this includes English language Pre-Sessional courses) the University are not permitted to accept any English language evidence other than a Secure English Language Test (SELT) from this list that has also been taken at a test centre on this list.

For advice on the suitability of English language evidence for entry to Pre-Sessional courses, please contact the Recruitment and Admissions Office.


[1] or two years and six months where students who have been awarded an appropriately graded Cambridge O'level English Language, 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.

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