International language certificates

All non-native English speaking applicants are supposed to take an English Placement Test before they register to prove the required English language level.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)


TOEFL is an English certificate which aims at academic use and is widely used around the world. The only test form currently offered is an internet-based test (iBT) which can be taken in numerous test centres worldwide and takes about 4 hours.

The grade of the test is equally combined out of the following four parts. Each part is graded with up to 30 points which adds up to a maximum score of 120 points

  • Reading comprehension
  • Listening comprehension
  • Speaking
  • Written expression

During the entire test, you are just interacting with a computer. In the first two parts, you read and hear texts about various topics and answer multiple-choice questions about the content later. In the speaking part, your spoken answer is recorded, sent to an online scoring network and evaluated by three to six raters later. The written part is evaluated by this online scoring network as well.

Cambridge English Examinations (CAE)

Cambridge English Language Assessment (formerly the University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations) is a non-profit organisation offering English language certificates for different language levels. The First Certificate in English (FCE) as about the same level as the common scores for the TOEFL test (B1-B2) and is, if passed, graded from A-C. It is comparable to IELTS 5.5-6.5. The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) is oriented at the quite high C1-C2 levels (IELTS 6.5–8.0) and is required at many British universities.

The Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) is the most advanced exam ranked at C2 level which is well above the maximum scale of the TOEFL test and equals an 8 and above in the IELTS test. In contrast to the other certificates, the test consists of five parts:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Use of English (Grammar use etc.)
  • Listening
  • Speaking

The Cambridge Certificates are mainly used within the UK but they are also accepted in many universities outside of the UK. However, they are not as popular as TOEFL and IELTS certificates. In contrast to many other certificates, the Cambridge certificates do not expire.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

IELTS offers an academic version of their test, especially suited to students and academics. Like TOEFL, IELTS is widely recognised in all English-speaking countries as well as for many English-taught programmes around the world. Besides that, IELTS is also accepted as language proof for certain working permits as well as for immigration.

At the IELTS the following four parts are tested:

  • listening (40 minutes)
  • reading (60 minutes)
  • writing (60 minutes)
  • speaking (11-14 minutes)

This adds up to a test duration of about 3 hours. Tests can be taken in over 500 test centres worldwide and on the contrast to TOEFL, the speaking part is conducted face-to-face with a certified examiner.

The total grade for the IELTS test ranges from 1-9. Common scores required needed to be admitted for English programmes range from 5.5 to 6.5. Currently, the IELTS is valid for two years. IELTS guarantees an evaluation of the test within 13 days. The results can be then viewed online and are mailed from the national office on the same day.

PTE (Pearson Test of English)

PTE Academic assesses listening, reading, speaking and writing all via computer in a single 3 hour test session.

To complete a PTE Academic test, you will need to attend a secure Pearson test centre. You will use a computer and headset to listen to, read and respond to questions.
During the three-hour test session there will be three main parts to the test: speaking and writing (together), listening and reading. There are twenty different question formats, ranging from multiple choice through to essay writing and interpreting information.

PTE Academic assesses real-life, academic content, so you will hear excerpts from lectures and view graphs and charts. You will hear a range of accents in the test, from British and American to non-native speakers, so you will be exposed to the type of accents you will encounter in everyday life.

Other Certifications

Besides the above-mentioned certificates, the following certificates are also quite popular. They are not designed for academic use but might still be accepted in some universities. Business-related certificates such as the BEC might even be required for some MBA programs.

Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)
Business English Certificate (BEC)