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Language Testing & Support

All graduate students need strong communication skills in order to succeed. Students must be able to effectively communicate their ideas in their graduate coursework, in their research, in presentations to the wider academic community, and when instructing undergraduates.   

English Language Programs (ELP) is a unit of The Graduate School that provides instruction and support for international students and postdocs working to improve their English language proficiency, in partnership with the Department of Linguistics. Services are offered free of charge throughout the academic year, and include:

Visit the English Language Programs website to learn more.

English proficiency requirement for GA/TA funding

The Graduate School (TGS) has established a minimum level of spoken English proficiency that international students must attain in order to become eligible for funding as a graduate or teaching assistant. This is distinct from TOEFL and IELTS standards for admission to TGS programs.  

Students can fulfill TGS’s English proficiency requirement for GA/TA funding through a variety of different test formats. ELP administers English proficiency assessments at Northwestern, and is available for individual consultations with students and departments about language proficiency.

Placement testing

New PhD and MFA students who have not yet fulfilled TGS’s English proficiency requirement are required to participate in English proficiency testing upon their entrance to Northwestern. For most students, this will mean taking the Versant English Test in September before their first quarter begins. Students whose Versant test scores indicate a need for increased language support will be enrolled in the Integrated Academic Skills program. Students and departments will be contacted before each testing period with further details on testing procedures.