When applying for Master in an European country, English certificates such as CAE, CPE, TOEFL, IELTS are required. Is there a limit about the "age" of the certificate?

I got CPE 5 or 6 years ago. Is it acceptable or a more recent is needed? The programs which I have seen, do not clear that out.

  • 1
    "applying for Master" sounds like applying for a Master course, whereas in your title, you ask about "apply for Master thesis". Please clarify which one you mean. Also, what you indicate is most probably not a general requirement. Knowing the country's language instead of English is usually completely sufficient, too. Oct 30, 2015 at 22:50

4 Answers 4


Yes there is an expiration limit on these language tests.

I believe most tests are valid for 2 years. I know for instance that the TOEFL test has a 2 year expiration date. Unfortunately, I do not have any experience with the CPE test, but I have personally never heard of any standardized test being valid for more than 5 years.

I would suggest you retake the test. That being said, you should contact the program you are applying to directly to get the most information about what tests are/are not accepted and for how long they are valid after taking them.

  • In fact, the CPE does not expire at all - I've added source to my answer about that - but of course universities may view this differently. But then, CAE which is one level below CPE is good enough for most universities, so they should be ok with a slightly older CPE. Oct 31, 2015 at 13:47
  • Yes, the direct contact would be the most reliable answer to this. Thanks
    – NickyR
    Oct 31, 2015 at 14:49

I have taken the CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English) which is one level below the CPE and I was told at the time that the CAE and CPE do not expire at all.

But check with the program you are applying to, because they may view this differently.

This is what Cambridge English Language Assessment has to say about the shelf life of their certificates, including CAE, CPE and IELTS (emphasis mine):

Shelf life of certificates

We are sometimes asked how long the Cambridge ESOL certificates last, or whether a candidate who took an exam some years ago needs to retake the exam.

The simple answer is that the certificates do not expire. They show that on a particular date the holder demonstrated that they had attained the specified level of language skills. For most candidates, the certificate is the result of a specific preparation course and serves as a mark of achievement in completing the course successfully.

It is clear, however, that language skills can diminish over time – a phenomenon often referred to as ‘language attrition’. In deciding whether to rely on a certificate obtained some years ago, educational institutions and employers need to take into account a number of factors, most importantly whether the holder has kept up his or her use of the language and whether the level of the certificate is significantly higher than that required for the job or course in question.

There are therefore no hard-and-fast guidelines for the period since obtaining a Cambridge ESOL certificate after which additional evidence of current language ability may be required by employers or institutions.

The Test Report Form provided by IELTS is not a certificate since it is not focussed on a particular level of language ability; for this reason, the normal shelf life for an IELTS Test Report Form is two years (see under Results in the IELTS Handbook).

My conclusion: CAE and CPE do not expire. IELTS doesn't really expire either but there is a 2 year recommendation.

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    Thanks! Still, the best is to ask directly whether they accept it or not to confirm that.
    – NickyR
    Oct 31, 2015 at 14:50

There is an English language requirement for university entry, so there will be an 'expiry date' for English language proficiency certificates obtained for acceptance into university. This is because a fairly old certificate (more than 1.5 or 2 years) would not reflect your current language ability - it can be possible that your level of proficiency may have decreased to levels lower than the certificate states during that period. So, to answer your question, yes! - a new English language test certificate would be needed. Please check with the university beforehand to see which certificates they accept and choose from that range.


Specifically for IELTS, there is a two-year recommended retake period, but no formal requirement to retake. Universities may impose their own restrictions. Personal experience: when I applied for PhD, they took my three-years-old IELTS results.

  • So it depends. Maybe they accept it maybe not.
    – NickyR
    Oct 31, 2015 at 18:50

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