I haven't read up on IELTS/TOEFL, and I don't want to waste time on that if I don't have to. As far as I know, they are testing your fluency in English.


Is a significant amount of north american/first world universities really that stubborn as to require their applicants to take IELTS/TOEFL without any substitutes to demonstrate fluency in English?

Well if you graduate bachelor's or master's from an English speaking country like Canada, the US or the UK, I'm guessing there wouldn't be need to take IELTS/TOEFL if you haven't already, but what about graduating bachelor's or master's from a country whose primary language isn't English?

My case:

I was born and raised in a first world Asian country but then later on moved to a third world country (where my parents were born and raised) where I got my bachelor's and master's.

It's sad but despite the above, I'm monolingual. I even got to a foreigners class for the (third world country) language classes in my university even though I wasn't a foreigner.

The school where I got my bachelor's and master's says its medium of instruction is English. My thesis in master's was written in English. All my papers and exams in bachelor's and master's were in English.

Given all that, do I still have to take IELTS/TOEFL?

Actually, doesn't a subject GRE or the regular GRE assume fluency in English? I'm planning to take the math GRE.

Regular GRE

Do a significant amount of north american or first world universities require applicants to take the regular GRE even if they are going to take the subject GRE?

I don't know about the rationale behind taking the regular GRE. It seems that you take such if your intended study doesn't have a subject GRE such as political science or economics?

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    I did my exams, did very well. Once I joined my school, I was told (by my colleagues) that these exams are required for admission purposes only. In other words, if you do really bad, your advisor can somehow override them if your application is very strong (i.e., multiple publications etc). Keep in mind that scoring high in ielt/toefl can help you in securing a TA position. – The Guy Jun 7 '16 at 9:45
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    I regards to GRE, I took only the general as the subject one wasn't a requirement for most places I applied (it was "recommended"). Managed to get in a couple of places. If I wanted to stay in my current university, the general would have been waived. As mentioned before, if you do bad in the general, it can be overlooked provided you have a strong enough app. – Lucif3r Jun 7 '16 at 11:57
  • @JohnWayne360 "If I wanted to stay in my current university, the general would have been waived" What is meant by this? "if you do bad in the general, it can be overlooked" But would anyone care about NOT taking the GRE if I somehow had a high grade in the subject GRE in Math? It's because of the verbal component I'm guessing? – Jack Bauer Jun 8 '16 at 21:20
  • @JackBauer "If I wanted to stay in my current university, the general would have been waived" - this means that if I attended grad school at the same university in which I got my bachelor's, I wouldn't have had to submit ANY GRE scores. They would have been waived. As for anyone caring whether or not you actually took the general GRE, the admissions dept. which is different from the math dept. will care. To them, it's a requirement that needs to be met. BUT, if you do well on the subject GRE, the graduate committee will overlook your poor performance on the general. – Lucif3r Jun 8 '16 at 21:59
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    I don't know what you mean by "first world universities". The GRE is basically only used by universities in North America; are you suggesting that only North American universities are "first world universities"? – ff524 Jun 9 '16 at 6:58

If I were you, I'd write a letter to the admissions' departments at universities you're interested in to figure out what they'll want you to do.

I'm in a similar situation (graduated middle school, high school, and college in a non-English speaking country, but grew up in the United States until age 13), and I've already sent emails explaining my situation to universities that interest me. So far I've received a range of answers from I have to do TOEFL to I need to show evidence of living in America to they trust me and I don't need to show anything.

In regards to GRE's it differs from each university and country. In mathematics, you only need to do the GRE's (both regular and math subject), if you're planning to apply to the United States. If you don't want to do the GRE's, check out universities in Canada or Europe which don't require them.

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  • Thanks Noy Soffer :) You wrote "you only need to do the GRE's" How do you know I don't have to do the TOEFL? Why do I still have to do the regular GRE? – Jack Bauer Jun 8 '16 at 21:18
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    It's a requirement for everyone in the United States, even people who graduated in America have to do the regular GRE. In regards to the TOEFL, it differs for each university in situations like yours. Just contact the admissions department and explain your situation to see what they'll say about doing the TOEFL or if just transcripts stating you studied in English is enough. – NSA Jun 9 '16 at 6:52
  • Good luck with graduate school! :) – NSA Jun 17 '16 at 14:59
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    "I've received a range of answers from I have to do TOEFL to I need to show evidence of living in America to they trust me and I don't need to show anything" I had a laugh at how wide this range of replies was! I also wonder (tongue in cheek) if sending this single statement to those in the first two categories would be enough to tip them over to the last category. – Dave L Renfro Jun 17 '16 at 18:12

The "language proficiency" is likely to be a requirement for a study visa to be granted. Even if University agrees to make an exemption, the Home Office (or similar immigration office) most likely will not.

So, you still need to pass an IELTS or TOEFL exam.

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  • because of the immigration office(s) of the united states and not the university(ies)? – Jack Bauer Jun 17 '16 at 10:33
  • There may be other ways to prove English proficiency to get a visa. But many universities are not going to admit you if you haven't taken the IELTS or TOEFL, or if you don't get high enough scores to get a U.S. visa. Because we want students who will actually be able to come. – Peter Shor Jun 18 '16 at 0:47

Test exemption is a program-determined issue. You should explore the website for a program of interest to see if you are eligible for a test waiver. Many institutions do not require the TOEFL/IELT if your undergraduate program was in English. Check with each program!

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