English Proficiency

All UWM Graduate School applicants are required to demonstrate a suitable level of proficiency in the English language to gain admission in one of three categories*:

  1. Full admission with English proficiency.
  2. Dual admission with English deficiency.
  3. Conditional admission.

* Programs are not obligated to accept students in dual and/or conditional admission status. Full admission with English proficiency is required for online programs.

Full Admission with English Proficiency

The English proficiency requirement can be fulfilled by presenting one of the following:

  1. A baccalaureate or higher degree awarded by UWM or another accredited institution where English is the language of instruction—as determined by the Center for International Education (CIE). Applicants whose native language is not English also must also have done both of the following:
    1. Attended this institution for at least one year.
    2. Received the degree within the previous two years of the application date OR lived and worked in the U.S. continuously since receiving the degree.
  2. Official TOEFL** (Test of English as a Foreign Language) results with a minimum required score of 79 on the Internet-based TOEFL (IBT) and a minimum recommended sub-score of 18 in each skill).
  3. Official IELTS** (International English Language Testing System) results with a minimum required score of 6.5, with a minimum recommended sub-score of 6.0 in each skill.
  4. Official CAE** (Cambridge English: Advanced, aka Certificate of Advanced English) or CPE** (Cambridge English: Proficiency, aka Certificate of Proficiency in English) results with a minimum required level of C1 and a minimum recommended score of 170 on any given language skill test.
  5. Official scores from another test deemed by UWM to be reliably equivalent to a C1 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR). Procedures for determining CEFR equivalents are outlined in Appendix A.

** Test must have been taken within the previous two years of the application date. Some programs may require a higher minimum overall score on the test and/or on specific sub-scores.

Dual Admission with English Deficiency

Qualifications for Dual Admission

Applicants who do not meet any of the requirements in the previous section may be recommended for dual admission in academic coursework and English as a Second Language (ESL) coursework by presenting one of the following:

  1. Official TOEFL*** (Test of English as a Foreign Language) results with a minimum score of 68 on the Internet-based TOEFL (IBT). Sub-scores will be used for diagnostics to direct students to the appropriate ESL course.
  2. Official IELTS*** (International English Language Testing System) results with a minimum score of 6.0. Sub-scores will be used for diagnostics to direct students to the appropriate ESL course.
  3. Official CAE*** (Cambridge Advanced English) results with a minimum level of B2. Language skill test scores will be used for diagnostics to direct students to the appropriate ESL course.
  4. Official scores from another test deemed by UWM to be reliably equivalent to a B2 level in the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR).

*** Test must have been taken within the previous two years of the application date. Some programs may not accept students in dual admission status. Some academic courses may not be suitable for dually admitted students before they reach full proficiency. Students need to talk with their graduate advisor and/or the course instructors before enrolling in their academic courses.

Enrollment Requirements and Restrictions for Dual Admission

Graduate students in dual admission status must simultaneously enroll in their academic program and in English as a Second Language (ESL), subject to the following restrictions:

  1. ESL instruction will be required each semester until the English requirement is removed. Specific ESL courses (420 and/or 435) will be assigned based on areas of need identified by test sub-scores.
  2. If the English requirement is not removed within 3 enrolled semesters, the student will be dismissed.
  3. The maximum academic course load is 6 graduate credits each semester until the English requirement is removed.

Requirements to Gain Full Admission

Subsequent to dual admission, the student may demonstrate progress in English proficiency by presenting one of the following:

  1. A new official TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE score that meets the English Proficiency requirement for full admission for the program of the student.
  2. A CEFR level of C1 (or higher level if required for a specific degree program) through assessment of a portfolio that includes the following:
    1. A grade of B or better in ESL 420 and passing the impromptu writing sample.
    2. A grade of B or better in ESL 435 and passing a speaking test.

    The portfolio will be assessed by a normed ESL portfolio committee.

Upon demonstration of proficiency, the Graduate School will remove the English deficiency, and the student will gain full admission in the semester immediately following submission of the requisite scores or achievement of a passing portfolio. If proficiency is attained through submission of qualifying official test scores before the student arrives at UWM, the student’s proficiency status will be changed to allow unrestricted enrollment.

Conditional Admission

Qualifications for Conditional Admission

International applicants with exceptional academic credentials who do not meet the English requirements for full or dual admission may be recommended for conditional admission under either of two circumstances.

  1. The applicant has not submitted official TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE test scores due to Financial hardship orl ack of access to a testing facility. For these applicants, it is highly recommended that programs invite the candidate to a telephone or web-based interview, ask the candidate to submit available evidence of prior English language preparation, and/or ask the applicant’s references to comment on his/her language skills.
  2. The applicant’s TOEFL, IELTS, or CAE test scores are below the minimum for dual admission.

In either case, the program must submit a justification for recommending conditional admission, which confirms their confidence that the student will be able to satisfy academic and English proficiency requirements within the established time limits for each. If the student is being recommended for admission without official TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE test scores, the program also must justify why such scores cannot be submitted prior to offering admission.

Enrollment Requirements and Restrictions for Conditional Admission

Graduate students in conditional admission status::

  1. Must enroll in a full-time ESL program, and achieve at least a CEFR B2 level within two semesters; otherwise, the admission offer will be rescinded.
  2. Cannot take academic courses.
  3. Cannot be appointed in any Graduate Assistant position.

Students Conditionally Admitted Without Test Scores

  1. At least 5 weeks before the start of a semester, ESL must be notified of students who are being admitted without test scores.
  2. During the week before classes begin, these students must complete a placement assessment that comprises the following three items:
    1. The Institutional TOEFL or other standardized test performed by ESL.
    2. An impromptu writing sample.
    3. A speaking test.

    The writing sample and speaking test will be conducted and scored by ESL staff. The ESL programs office has the right to refuse to conduct this assessment when there is a lack of resources to support larger numbers of students. In such cases students will be placed in ESL courses based solely on the institutional TOEFL (or other standardized test) score and sub-scores.

    Institutional TOEFL is approved by ETS for UWM’s internal diagnostic use. The exam results are comparable to regular TOEFL, but they are not considered official.

  3. Based on their placement assessment results, students will have one of three possible outcomes:
    1. Qualify for full admission based on meeting all of the following:
      • Minimum Institutional TOEFL score of 550.
      • Minimum Reading and Listening sub-scores of 53.
      • Minimum Writing sub-score of 56.
      • Minimum CEFR level of C1 on the writing sample and the speaking test.
    2. Qualify for dual admission status based on meeting all of the following:
      • Institutional TOEFL score between 523 and 549.
      • Reading and Listening sub-scores of 51 or 52.
      • Writing sub-score of 54 or 55.
      • Minimum CEFR level of B2 on the writing sample and the speaking test.
    3. Enter the full-time Intensive English Program (IEP) based on one the following:
      • Institutional TOEFL score below 523.
      • Reading and Listening subscores below 51.
      • Writing subscore below 54.
      • CEFR level below B2 on the writing sample or the speaking test.

    Students who are conditionally admitted without test scores and who fail to complete the placement assessment must complete at least one semester in the full-time Intensive English Program.

Conditionally Admitted Students with Low Test Scores

Students whose test scores are below the minimum for dual admission must enter the full-time Intensive English Program of ESL for at least one semester.

Requirements to Gain Dual Admission

Subsequent to conditional admission, the student may be changed to dual admission by one of the following:

  • Presenting a new official TOEFL, IELTS, CAE, or CPE score that meets the English Proficiency requirement for dual admission for the program of the student.
  • Achieving a CEFR level of B2 through portfolio assessment after completion of at least one semester in the UWM Intensive English Program.

    Attainment of a B2 level will be demonstrated through a portfolio that includes all of the following:

    • Institutional TOEFL score of at least 523
    • An impromptu writing sample
    • Speaking test

    The portfolio will be assessed by a normed ESL portfolio committee.

Based on submission of a qualifying official test score, or portfolio assessment after completion of IEP, the Graduate School will change the student to dual admission status for the immediately following semester.