I consider myself to have two native languages, including English; however, I'm not confident whether admission committees would consider this to be the case. One of the PhD programs of my interest requires all candidates whose native language is not English, including those who have obtained their Bachelor's degree in the U.S., to submit their TOEFL score. This requirement is stricter than that of other programs, and if I'm not considered to be a native English speaker, I would have to take a TOEFL for this program only.

I'm 22 years old, and I have lived in the U.S. for the last six years. Until the age of 15, I had lived in an Asian country, where English-speaking population is small. However, since my parents spoke both their native language and English, I have been bilingual since my early childhood. I went to a public elementary school in my home country, and I graduated from a middle school, a high school and a college in the U.S., in some of which I skipped grades.

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    You've got a strong case for being exempt from having to take the TOEFL, but it's ultimately a decision that would come from the institution that you're applying to- there's really no useful way in which we can answer your question. I've vote to close on that basis. Sep 1, 2017 at 17:10
  • Would it be a strong hardship for you to take the TOEFL? Just growing up in a bilingual environment might not qualify you as a "native speaker" - if you had either grown up in a primarily English school system or if English was almost exclusively spoken at home, I think you'd have a better argument. In any case, you are unlikely to have difficulty passing as fluent/expert speaker.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 1, 2017 at 17:21
  • @BrianBorchers see my answer below. Personal anecdotes (from me or others) might be helpful
    – neuranna
    Sep 1, 2017 at 17:25
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    @BryanKrause taking the TOEFL is fairly costly and it takes some time to prepare for it even if you're fluent (just like for any test). So "just taking it" is an option, but an expensive one
    – neuranna
    Sep 1, 2017 at 17:27
  • @neuranna I am aware, partly why I asked; $200 is quite a hardship for some people, not at all for others. I might be underestimating the prep necessary, though.
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 1, 2017 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


You should contact the department directly, preferably by phone. I had a similar issue when applying for PhD, and the graduate admissions person was able to help me waive this requirement since he "could confirm that I am fluent by speaking to me on the phone". It all depends on the people you run into. But most of them are reasonable, so hopefully it will work out!

  • 5
    If you need a visa to study, be aware that even if the University waves their language requirements, the border agency might not. Sep 1, 2017 at 17:37

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