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We’re sure that your dreams of an academic future are lofty, and many of you want these plans to include studying abroad in the USA, home of some of the world’s best research and technical universities. However, in order to enroll in an US MBA program or prestigious University, you need to pass several examinations, such as the TOEFL and the GRE.

Alternatively, if you meet certain conditions, you could even waiver the TOEFL exam.

If you’re interested in learning more about these topics and wish to train for the TOEFL exam, read on!

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A Brief Introduction to the TOEFL and GRE Language Exams

The TOEFL (which stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test designed to assess the English language skills of non-native speakers as required for higher education, mainly in the USA. It is recognized by more than 5,200 schools worldwide and has been a reference in English proficiency assessment since 1964. Nowadays, it is administered almost exclusively via computer and is known as the TOEFL iBT (for Internet-Based Test).

You can take a look at our article on the required TOEFL score for enrolling in an MBA program in the USA.

The GRE (for Graduation Record Examination) is another standardized test required for admission to all graduate programs in the United States. It was introduced by Carnegie University in 1936, and today is a requirement not only for foreign students but all students wishing to apply for graduate and post-graduate studies, including US citizens.

In other words, plan on taking the GRE no matter where you apply, but also plan on taking a language proficiency exam such as the TOEFL if you are a non-native English speaker applying to these US universities.

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TOEFL Waiver: Is It Possible to Waive the TOEFL Exam?

If you’re applying to a university in the U.S., you might be desperately wishing that it were possible to skip some of the steps and paperwork required in applying. Well… we might just be able to grant you that wish! Or, more precisely, certain universities might be able to “waive” the TOEFL exam for you.

What this means is that if you demonstrate a high enough ability in English, your school will not require you to have a TOEFL score for your application, even if they usually require TOEFL scores from international candidates.

That way, you’ll be able to save yourself the time and money required to take the TOEFL exam. But don’t store away your TOEFL study materials just yet — make sure you’re 100% certain that you qualify for the waiver and that you will receive it from your school, so that you don’t end up with an incomplete application or even a rejection if it turns out you do need a TOEFL score after all.

However, in case you do need to take the TOEFL, there’s a bright side to it as well: you could try and ask for a TOEFL exam scholarship!

Who Can Waive the TOEFL Test and Other Language Exams?

If you’re looking into exemptions for the TOEFL test at U.S. universities, undoubtedly one of your first questions will be, “do I qualify to waive the TOEFL test”? Well, the best place to get that answer is at the university you’re applying to.

Although we wish we could give you a simple answer, universities have different rules for their waiver criteria, and some universities don’t offer TOEFL waivers at all. However, the universities that do offer the option to waive your TOEFL score normally just require sufficient proof of English proficiency. Here are some examples of what this could look like

Primary language of communication and schooling

Some universities allow students who have grown up and attended school in an English-speaking environment to waive the TOEFL test requirement – the University of Chicago is one such example. You will need to provide adequate proof of this so that the school can determine whether or not you fulfil this requirement. This can be documentation about your family members and their background, records from your school, etc.

High SAT or ACT scores

In some universities, you can waive the TOEFL requirement if you have a certain score on SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing or the English, Reading and Writing sections of ACT exam.

Minimum number of years studying in an English-speaking country

Another way for universities to determine if your English is proficient without a TOEFL test score is if you have proof that you studied for a certain amount of time in an English-speaking country. The minimum amount of time required may vary from university to university, but will usually be no shorter than one year, and often several years.

A college degree from an English-speaking country or Institution

If you already have an undergraduate degree from the U.S. or another English-speaking country you may not need to take the TOEFL test to apply to a graduate program — Iowa State University allows this exception, for example.

How Can You Provide Evidence and Waive the TOEFL Exam?

The evidence you need in order to waive your TOEFL exam will depend highly on the conditions required to waive the exam. However, they will usually be in the form of school records, transcripts, or diplomas, scores from other exams such as the SAT or ACT, documentation of your parents’ or guardians’ cultural and linguistic background, and similar official documents.

If schools have strict English proficiency requirements and have any doubt about your English ability, it’s easier for them to just ask you to provide a TOEFL Test score, so make sure you gather appropriate evidence that you qualify to waive the TOEFL!

Also make sure you apply to waive your TOEFL well in advance, as this process can often take a long time. You also want to make sure you leave enough time to take the TOEFL test just in case you don’t qualify to waive it.

If a university offers the option to waive the TOEFL test, it will provide a template for sending in your request. You may also have to send in a letter to provide further information, where you can make your case. Make sure you spend time on this, as requests are often approved or rejected on a case by case basis and are therefore carefully evaluated by the admissions office.*

Apply to Us Universities With the TOEFL and GRE Exams

Many of the United States’ most prestigious universities are open to international students, but these candidates will still need to pass their GRE and, depending on their past education in English or lack thereof, will need a certain score on the TOEFL as well.

Note that GRE results are valid for 5 years from the day you take the test, while the TOEFL score is valid for only 2 years, so be attentive to application deadlines to avoid unpleasant surprises or having to take the tests again! Above all, be sure to find out how long your scores will take to be reported so you don’t miss out on sending your score and on your US university dream because of a deadline.

There are more than 200 graduate schools in the US that accept TOEFL and GRE as part of their application process. Each school has their own admission policy so be sure to verify before you apply so you know what your target score will be for the TOEFL.

Here are some examples of schools and their individual TOEFL requirements:

Name of Institute Minimum overall TOEFL score
Massachusetts Institute of Technology90 (100 recommended)
Harvard UniversityVaries depending on program/department
Princeton University100
Columbia University105
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)No minimum requirements — students with low scores may be asked to enroll in an English as a Second Language course
Stanford University89-100 (depending on department)
Yale University100
University of Chicago90-104, depending on department
University of Pennsylvania100
Northwestern University90
Duke University90
John Hopkins University100
Dartmouth Universityabove 100 recommended
Brown University100
University of Notre Dame84-94 in most departments
Vanderbilt University88
Cornell University100
Washington University (St. Louis) 90
University of California, Los Angeles 87

Please make sure to check the official websites of the school you’re applying to for the most up to date information on their TOEFL requirements — they may change over time, over vary by department.

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Recommendations for Your Application to US Universities

Note that even if you are a non-native English speaker but you received your undergraduate degree from an accredited university in an English-speaking country, you may be exempt from providing TOEFL results. As a general rule, you must provide proof of your proficiency in English, and while most schools accept results from a variety of tests, they all accept TOEFL, which is one of the world’s most widely accepted. Some even accept TOEFL results only! In the end, your best bet is to sit the TOEFL exam.

Looking at the table above, you’ll see that requirements may vary a bit, but in general, the TOEFL score requirements are quite high (the absolute highest score you can get on the TOEFL is 120), so there’s no wonder these are such prestigious programs with strict selection policies!

Reach the Highest TOEFL Score With GlobalExam’s Help

One way to boost your reported TOEFL score is through ETS Global’s MyBest Scores service. ETS Global is the official administrator of the TOEFL and in case you have to take the TOEFL more than once, they will report only the highest score on each section, resulting in a higher overall score. This can be a great way to report only your best score if, for instance, you take the test multiple times but do poorly on only one section one time… or several times!

Of course, a good TOEFL score can only be earned with proper preparation. Taking a comprehensive preparation program with GlobalExam will make it entirely possible to earn a few extra points to reach the threshold of your university’s admission department.

With the Exam Mode, get full-scale exercises that match the TOEFL format exactly, personalized revision schedules and statistics so you can control your revision at your own pace, and of course, several free mock TOEFL exams so you’ll have an idea of what the TOEFL test feels like before you take it.

What else can GlobalExam offer you?

Once you start preparing for the TOEFL and practice using mock TOEFL exams, and you find that your results on the exam fall within 10 points of these threshold scores, you can rest assured that your target score is within reach with a comprehensive TOEFL preparation program from GlobalExam.

Now that you have a clear picture of what the TOEFL exam entails, you’ll be able to apply test-taking strategies, manage your time effectively, and focus on your weaker areas so you can get a good score the first time. Let your American university journey start with GlobalExam!