Many universities require that your native language be English or you will have to submit proof of language proficiency.

Usually if you lie and say English is your native language while all other evidence shows otherwise (e.g. country of birth, country of citizenship, university degree language, etc.), universities will likely suspect that you are lying.

However, suppose my native language is not English but I can read, write, listen, speak as fluently as a native speaker. If I satisfy one or more conditions below, do universities have any reason to suspect that English is not my native language?

  1. I am a citizen of a country where English is the official language (though I may not be born / living there)

  2. I graduated from a university where English is the official language

  • 8
    If I remember correctly in the US satisfying criterion 2 alone is likely sufficient to waive all language requirement.
    – Drecate
    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:33
  • 1
    @Drecate: Not always—see my answer below.
    – aeismail
    Nov 7, 2017 at 3:57
  • 5
    You are not native, but... Unfortunately whatever comes after the but is pretty irrelevant for proving the language skills. You are not native, thus you need to prove your English as any non native. Often after having had an education in English (e.g. written a Masters or PhD thesis in English) they will waive the language test, but I have met several people that was required to get the IELTS after having written several sceintific papers and a PhD thesis. Nov 7, 2017 at 10:33
  • 4
    If your language skills are really good enough, you shouldn't have trouble with the language test. Nov 7, 2017 at 14:34
  • 1
    My university specified that if you didn't meet 1 or 2 you needed to submit results of the TOEFL. Meeting 1 or 2 was considered to be proficient in English.
    – Kathy
    Nov 7, 2017 at 19:52

2 Answers 2


Actually, there are no universal requirements for waiving testing. For instance, at MIT, you establish eligibility for a language waiver by attending primary and secondary schools that have English as the language of instruction or by attending an American university for your undergraduate education. At Yale, you must have attended an English-language university for at least three years to establish eligibility. Ohio State only grants exemptions for students graduating from universities in Australia, Belize, the British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Québec), England, Guyana, Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, Scotland, the United States and Wales.

So this unfortunately becomes an example of "every school is different, and you need to check the rules for each school."

  • 7
    Completely unrelated: it’s curious (to me) that, rather than simply including “United Kingdom” in its list, Ohio State lists out the constituent countries (but omits “Northern Ireland”, presumably deeming it to be included within “Ireland”—which could cause upset in some parts).
    – eggyal
    Nov 7, 2017 at 10:15
  • 43
    @eggyal: Or possibly they've heard people talking with a Northern Irish accent, and couldn't understand what they were saying ;-)
    – psmears
    Nov 7, 2017 at 10:57
  • 8
    @DRF I'd wager a significant proportion of British people, let alone Americans, can't understand Glasgow, Geordie or Scouse either. And I found Yorkshire completely opaque when I first moved there as an undergraduate, despite being a native English speaker (albeit not a British one). Accents are hard.
    – terdon
    Nov 7, 2017 at 12:41
  • 6
    A South African friend of mine from grad school went to an English-language university; our university apparently had a list of countries, like Ohio State does, which did not include South Africa. (And it probably shouldn't - there are some universities where the language of instruction is Afrikaans.) He says that he walked in, told the person overseeing that he was there to take the test, and that he was immediately told he didn't have to. Nov 7, 2017 at 14:22
  • 9
    @gerrit: Except that, in a list of countries, “Ireland” is probably taken to mean the republic thereof rather than the island.
    – eggyal
    Nov 7, 2017 at 19:54

I knew someone who studied at an Irish university where the language of instruction was Gaelic. There must be at least a few Irish people who do not speak English at all.

Designation by country is silly. Some European universities use English, sometimes mostly and sometimes as one of three acceptable languages.

  • 1
    According to Wikipedia, there are only about 80000 people with Irish as first language, and there seems to be no indication that there are any adult Irish speakers who are not fluent in English at all.
    – Arno
    Aug 2, 2021 at 21:00

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