Application Advice Archive

A guide to English language requirements to study in London


International students who want to study at a university in the UK will need to prove their level of English. This applies to all students whose first language is not English. There are a number of options for students to meet the English language requirements, including;

  • You are a national of a majority English-speaking country
  • You have a degree-level qualification taught in a majority English-speaking country
  • You have completed a degree in the UK
  • You have completed your university’s method of assessment or used one of the Home Office’s approved secure English language tests

Visit the UKCISA website for more information about each of these options.

If you need to complete an English language test, the most popular option for international students looking to study in the UK is IELTS. IELTS is scored in bands from 0 to 9 and tests students in four skills: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Students receive a score for each skill, as well as an overall score.

What are the English language requirements in the UK?

In order to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, the UK Visa & Immigration department (UKVI) requires students to speak English at an intermediate level. In terms of IELTS scores, this means students need to score 5.5 in all four of the skills.

However, universities usually set their own English language requirements which are higher than the minimum set by UKVI. Degree courses at bachelor, master and PhD level will normally require students to speak English at an upper intermediate level, with IELTS score requirements of between 6.0 and 7.0.

If you are applying for an international foundation programme, the English language requirements are usually lower than for degree courses. Universities will ask for between 5.5 and 6.0, depending on the subject area.

What test should I take?

Since 6th April 2015, the list of UKVI approved English language tests includes only IELTS and ‘Integrated skills in English (ISE)’.

IELTS: This test can be taken at UKVI approved test centres worldwide and is accepted by all UK universities. There are also test centres in the UK for applicants who are already here.

ISE: This test can be taken at UKVI approved test centres in the UK only. Therefore, only international students who are already in the UK can take this test. The test is not currently accepted by all universities in the UK, please check with the university you want to apply to.

When should I take the test?

English language test centres are often fully booked for several weeks in advance, especially during the busy summer months. Book your test early to avoid disappointment.

It is also a good idea to book your test for several months before the start of your academic course. This will give you enough time to book another test should you not reach the English language level required by your university in your first test.

Note, many universities in London will accept your course application even if you have not yet taken an English language test. If your application is successful, you will receive a ‘conditional offer’, with one of the conditions being that you pass an appropriate English language test.

What next?

  1. Use the course search to find the right course for you and to see the English language requirements for the course
  2. Contact the university with any questions you have about the course or the entry requirements
  3. Read about the Tier 4 student visa requirements to make sure you will be able to successfully apply for your visa to study in London



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