5.8 English Language Proficiency Requirement

English is the primary language of instruction and communication at the University of Alberta (except for the Faculté Saint-Jean); proficiency in English is a prerequisite for graduate admission. All applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency prior to admission either by:

  • Possession of a degree or its academic equivalent from an institution recognized by the University of Alberta, in which the language of instruction is English; or
  • A satisfactory score on an approved English language proficiency examination as described below.

(FGSR Council, 1992/03/20)

Notwithstanding the above, departments and the Faculty of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) reserve the right to require a further demonstration of English language proficiency.

(FGSR Council, 2004/11/10)

English Language Institutions

GPS has compiled a list of international postsecondary institutions at which the language requirement is English. GPS continues to solicit the assistance of department colleagues familiar with international postsecondary institutions in expanding this list. When a department colleague recommends that an institution name be added to this list, GPS requests from a registrar or other senior official at the proposed institution confirmation that their baccalaureate program is delivered in English, that assignments by students are written in English, and that graduates can be assumed to possess superior English language skills. Once this confirmation is received, the institution is added to the list. Institutions may be removed from the list if their students experience English language difficulties at the University of Alberta.

English Language Proficiency Examinations

GPS has found that there are considerable difficulties when a student begins a graduate program and is subsequently found to be lacking in English language skills. GPS strictly follows the policy that an English language proficiency test must be satisfactorily completed before admission will be granted. The requirement is not waived to students temporarily in Canada. Although the satisfactory completion of an English language proficiency test cannot guarantee adequate language skills, this is the minimum level of competence that the GPS Council decided shall be acceptable.

All applicants who are required to write the English language examination are advised to do so at an early date. A satisfactory score is required before GPS will issue an official admission letter.

In cases where a student cannot take the test in time to meet a certain admission date, it is preferable to delay the admission by one term than to deal with a student who cannot survive in a program because of inadequate English language skills.

GPS recognizes four English language proficiency examinations--the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); the Michigan English Language Assessment Battery (MELAB); the International English Language Testing System (IELTS); and the Canadian Academic English Language (CAEL) Assessment.

(FGSR Council 2001/05/11)

The minimum scores acceptable for admission are below. Individual departments may require higher minimum scores.

Effective for Fall 2020 admission (to appear in the 2020-2021 Calendar):

  • TOEFL: a minimum overall score of 90 (internet-based), with a minimum score of 21 on each of the individual skill areas;
  • MELAB*: a minimum overall score of 85, with a minimum band score of 80, and a minimum score of 3 on the speaking component (*MELAB no longer used after July 1, 2020);
  • IELTS: an overall band score of 6.5, with a score of at least 5.5** on each test band (Academic) (**6.0 for Fall 2021 admissions);
  • CAEL: a minimum overall score of 70, and a minimum score of 60 on each subtest; and
  • Pearson (PTE Academic): a minimum overall score of 61, and add a minimum band score of 60.

For admissions prior to Fall 2020:

  • TOEFL: a score of 550 (paper-based), 213 (computer-based), or a total score of 88 (internet-based) with a score of at least 20 on each of the individual skill areas (internet-based).
  • MELAB: a score of 85
  • IELTS: an overall band score of 6.5, with a score of at least 5.5 on each test band (Academic) (FGSR Council, 1998/05/22; 2018/10/17)
  • CAEL: a score of 60 with at least 60 on each subtest
  • Pearson: a score of 59

Applicants should arrange for their English language test results to be sent directly to the department

Verifying Scores

TOEFL scores less than two years old can be verified by calling the TOEFL office at 1-800-257-9547. IELTS scores less than two years old should be verified by departments. Departments will need to contact the Registrar's office (International Admissions) in order to have permission to verify scores.

Examination scores more than two years old cannot be verified; therefore the applicant normally would be required to re-take the test.

Testing Centres

TOEFL: The paper-based and internet-based TOEFL tests are available at more than 4,300 test centres in 136 countries. Applicants in Edmonton may contact: Faculty of Extension, English Language Program or Sylvan Learning Centre, Tel: (780) 415-4164. For further information on the TOEFL English language exam, contact:

TOEFL® Services
Educational Testing Service
P.O. Box 6151
Princeton, NJ 08541-6151, USA
Phone: 1-609-771-7100 or 1-877-863-3546
Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Eastern Time (New York)

IELTS: IELTS has over 500 test centres in 120 countries. Applicants in Edmonton may contact:

Grant McEwan College - Edmonton
IELTS Administrator
Alberta College Campus
Room 113, 10050 MacDonald Drive
Edmonton, Alberta
T5J 2B7
Tel: 1-780-633-3770
Fax: 1-780-497-4167
Email: ielts@macewan.ca

For further information on the IELTS, visit www.ielts.org

CAEL: The CAEL Assessment can be taken on fixed testing dates at several locations across Canada and China. For further information on the CAEL, contact:

CAEL Assessment Office
110 2925 Virtual Way
Vancouver, BC V5M 4X5
Tel: 1-855-520-2235
Email: info@cael.ca

Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic: The PTE Academic is available in 180 locations in 22 territories including China, India, the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Canada. For further information on the PTE Academic, contact:

Pearson Test of English
80 Strand
London WC2R 0RL
Tel: 44-845-543-0243
Fax: 44-20-7010-6611
Email: pte-acustomersupportamericas@pearson.com

Alternate Option for Meeting the English Language Requirement - EAP 550

In March 1996 the FGSR Council approved a proposal for an intensive English language course entitled Preparing for Graduate Studies (EAP 550) offered through the Faculty of Education.

The EAP 550 course offers an alternate method of satisfying the existing English language admission requirement, recognizing that a number of individual departments have set higher minimums. This course does not affect existing GPS policies on admission requirements.
The Extension English language option (EAP 550) can only be recommended for an applicant:

  • who in every way except English language competency meets the department and GPS minimum admission requirements
  • who has achieved the following minimum scores on the following English language examinations: TOEFL score of 530 (paper-based), or a total score of 76 with a score of at least 18 on each of the individual skills areas (internet-based); MELAB score of 83, IELTS overall band score of 6.0 with at least a score of at least 5 on each test band, CAEL score of 50 overall and 50 on each subtest; or has successfully completed and passed EAP 140 through the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta.
  • who has funding available to cover the cost of the EAP 550 course

If this English language option is chosen, the department will advise the student to contact the Faculty of Extension, English Language Program, to register in EAP 550.

The department may consider the following options in utilizing EAP 550 to satisfy the English language requirement for an application for admission:

  • the applicant will successfully complete EAP 550 with a result of CR before applying to a graduate program, and submit the official transcript from the Faculty of Extension along with an application for graduate admission, OR
  • recommend to GPS that the applicant be conditionally admitted to a graduate program subject to the successful completion of EAP 550 prior to the start date of the graduate program.

EAP 550 results will be valid for two years after the completion of the course.

In no case will the applicant be registered in GPS until the EAP 550 course has been successfully completed. The course would normally be taken in the summer prior to Fall/Winter.

(FGSR Council, 1996/03/14; editorial updates, 2004/01/20)

This course may be particularly attractive to those departments with present or potential contacts in countries that wish to sponsor students to study abroad and are willing to pay for an English language upgrading component.

Departments can obtain more information and application forms from the Faculty of Extension English Language Program.