English Language Proficiency Requirement

Students at the Cornell Intercultural Center

What you need to know:

  • As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam. (See exceptions.)
  • Cornell must receive official TOEFL or IELTS scores before the university can process your application.
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid only if dated within two years of your program's application deadline.
  • Check minimum TOEFL and IELTS score requirements with individual graduate fields. Some fields' minimum score requirements are higher than the Graduate School's,


English Language Proficiency Requirement

All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. International students demonstrate proficiency by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Cornell does not accept PTE Academic scores or any other alternatives. An application cannot be considered complete until Cornell receives official scores from ETS or IELTS.  An offer of admission will not be made, nor will a visa document be issued if an application is incomplete. If your TOEFL or IELTS scores do not meet the requirement, we cannot issue a visa document, and you will not be able to enter the country.


For applicants living in regions where the TOEFL iBT is not available, Cornell will accept scores for the paper-based test (PBT). Although individual graduate fields may require higher scores, The Graduate School's official minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL iBT are:

Speaking: 22

Reading: 20

Listening: 15

Writing: 20

  • Send scores to Cornell University Graduate School, Code # 2098. 
  • The TOEFL score must be dated within two years of your program's application deadline. Photocopies of TOEFL score reports will not be accepted.
  • Take the TOEFL early enough to have the results submitted at the time of your application. Exam dates are posted on the TOEFL web site. Please note that we cannot confirm receipt of test scores until an applicant has submitted an online application. 
  • If you receive your test results and any sub-score does not meet the requirement, you should make arrangements to retake the test.



The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS.

  • When you register for the exam, you may select up to five institutions to which you would like to have your Test Report Form (TRF) mailed. You may also submit a request to your test center to have additional TRFs sent to institutions not originally listed on your registration form.
  • Have IELTS send your Test Report Form (either by postal mail, or electronically) to Cornell University -- Graduate Admissions. Please do not e-mail a scanned copy, or mail a photocopy of your TRF.

Graduate field requirements

Questions about your English language proficiency? Contact the graduate field to which you are applying. Administrators in your proposed field will guide you through the application process and will communicate with other offices at Cornell as needed to gather additional information.

If you still have questions after talking to your graduate field, email for more information.


The English language proficiency requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:

  •  is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, or a citizen of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, etc. are not exempt from the requirement.

  • at the time you enroll at Cornell, you will have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. Even if English was the language of instruction at your school, if you did not study in one of these countries you are not exempt from the requirement. You must submit a transcript that shows you attended college in one of the approved locations, and that your academic program was at least two years in length.