I am applying to doctoral programs and I have a worry about the application.

Since I found that my TOEFL score does not meet the minimal requirement set by a school that I am applying to, I am wondering if it is likely for me to be screened out before my whole application is reviewed by the professors?

  • That depends on the school process. If they do initial scan to reject as much applications as possible , then your application chance to pass is very low.
    – seteropere
    Oct 29, 2014 at 6:01
  • Is it wise for me not to pay the application fee then? I won't take your words for it; just want to know more opinions from various persons. Thanks.
    – Yes
    Oct 29, 2014 at 6:02
  • 1
    I would say it is very likely. However, each institution, department, and faculty member has different policies. Maybe you should name what you are interested in. Oct 29, 2014 at 17:46
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: Okay. Is it likely that a department sets its own "secret" minimum requirement that does not show on its website?
    – Yes
    Oct 29, 2014 at 23:04
  • 3
    @Kurt No. Departments are generally not trying to mislead applicants with secret requirements.
    – StrongBad
    Nov 3, 2014 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


I do not know about US schools, but for my UK university the IELTS requirements are non-negotiable. Most of the time we see this right away. Sometimes we screw up and read and evaluate the entire application before noticing. In all cases the student is not offered a place. Other UK universities, especially ones that struggle to fill their spots, sometimes will argue with the administration that an exception should be made. From my understanding, they almost always lose.

  • Note that this is associated with visa issues, so the university has no room to make an exception.
    – Ian
    Nov 3, 2014 at 18:55
  • 1
    @Ian I don't think it is a visa issue since we set an IELTS minimum on EU students.
    – StrongBad
    Nov 3, 2014 at 19:01
  • In most cases in the US, the TOEFL or IELTS minimum is set by the university for foreign graduate students and is non-negotiable. In some cases, a department may have a higher requirement, but I think it's highly unlikely to succeed. Nov 3, 2014 at 19:22

I think it is depends on the program. For instance I have applied to the program where my TOEFL score was below the required minimum, but I still got a interview with this university and I had a feeling that I probably would get in. I did not wait for an offer because a better graduate school admitted me the next day.


Depends on many factors.

Who is the decision Maker?

If the decision-maker is a Professor who at the same time is the head of the research group where you ought to work, then its up to him. And I see some space for tolerance there, given that all the other parameters are OK.

You fitting exactly to the needs

On top of that, if all the other parameters (minimal admission requirements) are already met, and you have even more than the Head of the Research Group expects, then he/she might be willing to take a risk and make a trade-off, especially if you fill completely to what he needs in the group.

University Administration :(

On the other hand if the admission is handled by an administrative office of the University, then they will not care much about your scientific background, and will most probably dismiss the application.

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