I want to apply for (top) US PhD programs until this December for being potentially admitted in September 2019.

This personal information is relevant to my question:

  • Bachelors in non English-speaking country (Sept 2013-June 2016)
  • TOEFL exams (Sept 2015 - Overall score: 106)
  • Masters in UK (Sept 2016 - August 2017)
  • Working in UK (Oct 2017 - present)

Do I have to sit again for TOEFL to apply for US Phd programs this year even though I sat successfully for TOEFL in September 2015 and even though since September 2016 I am living, studying and working in UK?

P.S. If yes then this does not make any sense....haha....

  • 2
    It depends on how long the scores are valid for. Aug 9, 2018 at 20:03
  • 2
    English language certifications are an extortionate business. They cost a lot, last a short time, and they require a lot of "studying to the test" to pass. Don't expect it to make sense. Aug 10, 2018 at 1:11
  • 1
    Ask them? I know of a guy who was asked to take it after he made his PhD in the UK and passed the interview. Sometimes is bureaucratically mandatory. Aug 10, 2018 at 8:41
  • I still find the entire TOEFL thing extremely peculiar, I have never had to take a similar test in my entire professional/academic life shrug.
    – Bas Jansen
    Aug 10, 2018 at 13:33
  • Related meta thread. Seriously, I don't know why these meta threads aren't linked automatically. Sep 19, 2018 at 12:24

3 Answers 3


TOEFL is only good for 2 years, your current 106 has already expired in 2017 September.

When you apply, ask the admission office what are the criteria for a TOEFL waiver. Ask if a 106 in 2015 (not a bad score itself) and a Master degree in UK can fulfill that requirement.


In general this policy is set per-University and sometimes per degree program, so its impossible to give a one-size-fits-all yes/no answer to your question. However, in general every program should explicitly specify on their website about materials required (such as a TOEFL score), including information about who (and how) you can be either exempt from providing a TOEFL score or whether or not your current score can be accepted.

However, if you are specifically referring to the TOEFL iBT, the ETS states that they are only valid for 2 years:

TOEFL scores are valid for 2 years after the test date and there is no limit to the number of times you can take the test, but you cannot take it more than once in a 12-day period.

As for officially stated policies of a University, as an example from the University of Michigan's College of Engineering international graduate student's requirements (2018):

Exceptions to the English proficiency tests include only lifetime residents of Australia, Canada (other than Quebec), New Zealand, United Kingdom or the United States (other than Puerto Rico). Students who have recently and successfully completed at least 4 years of rigorous academic studies in one of the countries listed might also be exempted if SAT critical reading scores are in the mid-600 range.

Applicants that meet the above criteria and wish to request an exemption from the English proficiency requirement must present SAT scores and send a written request containing full name...


Test scores are valid for two years from the date an application is received. Expired scores will not be accepted.

So for this specific program, you would need a more up-to-date TOEFL score according to official published policy, as your scores are more than 2 years old. You would also not meet the requirement of "at least 4 years of rigorous study" in the UK, so you would also be less likely to be given a waiver from this requirement.

You will basically need to check these requirements for every program you wish to apply to, as some programs have more or less stringent requirements.

Ultimately I could foresee you having 3 options:

1) Don't apply to programs that won't accept your existing score.

2) Email the the program, specifying your specific situation, and ask if your existing information would be acceptable.

3) Take the TOEFL again. It certainly won't be the only part of the process that doesn't seem like it makes any sense! Most programs require the GRE, too - even though it has a reading/writing component in English, most programs will probably still require a fresh TOEFL score.

A fourth option of "apply anyway and see what happens" is less advisable, as you'll probably be spending 75$+ per application only to have your materials thrown out and no money returned if they decide not to accept your out of date materials. I wouldn't suggest it.


This may well depend on a stipulation made by the program / institution that you are applying to in terms of how recent the results are - they may say within the last 3 months or 6 months or they may not - you need to check with them.

  • And they may also waive the requirement for TOEFL entirely, given that the asker has already obtained a degree in and worked in an English-speaking country. Aug 10, 2018 at 11:29

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