English Proficiency

If English is not your native language, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to undertake advanced academic work in an English-speaking institution.

Exemptions for the English proficiency requirement are granted for non-native speakers who have received a bachelor's or more advanced degree either from an accredited U.S. institution or from a university outside the U.S. at which English is the official language of instruction.

English proficiency exam update for Feb. 3, 2020 – December 31, 2024

For international graduate applicants, in response to Chinese testing centers closing for the month of February due to the Novel Coronavirus, the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) has approved the temporary use of the Duolingo English Test in place of the in-person TOEFL and IELTS English proficiency exams. Duolingo English Tests taken between Feb. 3, 2020 and December 31, 2024 will be accepted. Scores are valid for two years from the date the test was taken. Applicants who take the Duolingo English Test will also be required to take UNL’s English Language Test, upon arrival.

The exam costs $49 (USD) and may be taken from any computer that has a camera, audio and reliable internet. The exam portion of the Duolingo English Test contains a series of speaking, reading, writing and listening exercises. Following the exam, there will be an interview portion that will ask you to respond to various prompts in 30 to 90 seconds. The exam will take about 45 minutes to complete and you will need either a passport, driver license, or national or state ID to show the camera. The score results are generally received within a few days of exam completion.

Duolingo English Test access information:

Information on preparing for the exam | Take the exam or practice exam

A verification email will be sent to you a few days after completing the exam containing a link to send your score to UNL.

For additional information, please review the frequently asked questions.


English Proficiency Exams

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
Score of at least 79 (iBT). The University of Nebraska–Lincoln institution code is 6877. Send your TOEFL score report via the TOEFL website.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
An overall band score of the academic test of at least 6.5. The general training exam is not accepted. No institutional code is needed.

Duolingo English Test (accepted Feb. 3, 2020 – December 31, 2024)
Graduate minimum score of 110.

TOEFL, IELTS and Duolingo scores are valid for two years.

Minimums vary by department: refer to your department's academic program page or website for details. Some departments require scores higher than Graduate Studies minimums.


ELT when you arrive

To see whether you are required to sit for the English Language Test (ELT) upon your arrival in Lincoln, check your Letter of Admission or ask Graduate Studies. This ELT requirement is based on TOEFL and IELTS scores, or if you took the Duolingo English Test.

  • TOEFL iBT: writing score below 25 or total below 100
  • IELTS: writing score below 7.0 or total below 7.0

When you Register for the English Language Test, we encourage you to sit for the earliest test date that fits your schedule. (The sooner you complete the exam, the sooner you can finalize your course registration.) Graduate students take only the writing portion of the ELT, which can be completed in one hour.

  • If your ELT score is below 85, you will be placed in ENGL 887, a 3 credit hour course to build English communication skills, emphasizing writing essays and research papers.
  • If your ELT score is 85 or higher, you are exempt from any further English language courses unless required by your program.

Further assistance if needed:  Intensive English Program

The university's Intensive English Program (IEP) welcomes students from all over the world who want to devote themselves full time to learning English — especially those who are seeking admission to a degree program at Nebraska and feel that they are not yet ready for coursework with English as the medium of instruction. The IEP offers instruction at several levels of language proficiency, in three sessions during the academic year (25 hours per week). Students may need more than one session to meet TOEFL requirements for an advanced academic program.