English Language Proficiency Requirement

Students at the Cornell Intercultural Center

What you need to know:

  • As an international applicant, you must demonstrate proficiency in the English language by taking a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Langauge Testing System) exam. (See exceptions.)
  • Cornell must receive official TOEFL or IELTS scores before the university can process your application.
  • TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid only if dated within two years of your program's application deadline.
  • Check minimum TOEFL and IELTS score requirements with individual graduate fields.

English Language Proficiency Requirement

All international applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the English language. International students demonstrate proficiency by submitting official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Cornell does not accept PTE Academic scores or any other alternative to TOEFL or IELTS scores.


For applicants in regions where the TOEFL iBT is not available, Cornell will accept scores for the paper-based test (PBT). Although individual graduate fields may require higher scores, Cornell’s official minimum sub-scores for each element of the TOEFL are:

IBT Version:

Writing: 20

Listening: 15

Reading: 20

Speaking: 22

  • Send scores to Cornell University Graduate School, Code # 2098. 
  • The TOEFL score must be dated within two years of your program's application deadline. Photocopies of TOEFL score reports will not be accepted.
  • Take the TOEFL early enough to have the results submitted at the time of your application.  Please note that we cannot confirm receipt of test scores until the student has submitted an online application. Exam dates are posted on the TOEFL web site.
  • If you receive your test results and any sub-score does not meet the requirement, you should make arrangements to retake the test.
  • An application cannot be considered complete until Cornell receives official scores from ETS.   An offer of admissions cannot be made nor can a visa document be issued if an application is incomplete.  If your TOEFL score does not meet the requirement, we cannot issue the document, and you will not be able to enter the country.


The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. Please email for information about how to send your scores.

Graduate field requirements

Questions about your English language proficiency? Contact the graduate field to which you are applying. Administrators in your proposed field will guide you through the application process and will communicate with other offices at Cornell as needed to gather additional information.

If you still have questions after talking to your graduate field, email for more information.


The English language proficiency requirement may be waived if the applicant meets at least one of these criteria:

  •  is a citizen of the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada (except Quebec). Applicants who are citizens of India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, or Singapore, are not exempt from the requirement.

  • studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa.  You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations.