Can I study in the USA without IELTS?

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Nov 8, 2023
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Getting a good score in the IELTS test (at least 5.5, though it depends on each college’s own requirements) will allow you to study at most universities in the USA.

However, IELTS is not the be all and end all of English Language Assessment Tests for studying in the US. The long story, short: Yes, you can study in USA without IELTS.

There are plenty of alternative tests, which we’ll go into in more detail below. If you’re interested, we’ve written a pretty comprehensive guide on entrance exams to study abroad, as well as the last guide you’ll ever need to ace your English language assessment test. Both are articles you should check out when you’re done with this one!

Now, let’s get into some more detail on studying in the USA without IELTS, how you can do it, and which universities are happy to accept other English language certificates.

Also Read: Study abroad without IELTS

In case you missed it… what is IELTS?

You probably already know, but just in case... IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System.

And it’s exactly what it says it is - a test of your English level! It’s the most well known, and arguably the most universally respected assessment, accepted by pretty much all universities and employers around the world. Here’s a quick guide to IELTS scores

While it’s accepted by US colleges and immigration authorities, it is still possible to study in the USA without IELTS in 2023.

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Can I study in USA without IELTS?

Yes, it is possible to study in USA without IELTS or other standardised English language proficiency tests. Some universities and colleges in the USA may offer alternative options for demonstrating English language proficiency.

Also Read: Is it possible to study in UK without IELTS?

Here are some ways you can meet USA study visa requirements without IELTS

1. TOEFL Waiver

Instead of IELTS, some universities may accept the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score as an alternative. If you have already taken the TOEFL and obtained a satisfactory score, you can submit that score in place of IELTS.

2. SAT/ACT scores

Some institutions may consider your SAT or ACT scores as evidence of English proficiency. While these tests are primarily used for college admissions, they may fulfil the English language requirement at certain universities.

3. English-taught programs

Many universities in the USA offer English-taught degree programs. If you have completed your previous education in English or attended an English-medium school, some institutions may exempt you from providing English language test scores.

4. English language schools

Some universities have their own English language schools or language centres. You can enrol in an English language program at the university before starting your academic degree to improve your language skills and meet the language requirements.

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How to study in the USA without IELTS?

To study in USA without IELTS, you have to meet both federal study visa requirements for immigration purposes, and university admissions requirements. That’s normal for studying anywhere overseas.

Here’s what’s important to know though: there is no federal requirement for people studying in the USA to have IELTS.

This means that your required English language certification is decided by your university (or college, since we’re talking about the USA here).

So that’s the first step. When considering any college, simply check which English language assessment they need, and who might be exempt from having to provide any English certificate at all.

For example, there are also plenty of schools which will allow you to study without IELTS (or an equivalent assessment) if you've studied at an English language medium school, and there are many which employ a Conditional Admissions Programme (CAP).

A CAP is a university-specific initiative which allows eligible international students to enrol on the condition that they will attend that college’s own English language programme, or another Intensive English Language Programme (IELP).

Eligibility criteria for studying without IELTS

Some educational institutions and countries offer exemptions from the IELTS requirement based on certain conditions. Here are some common scenarios where you might be eligible for USA study visa requirements without IELTS:

1. English medium education

If you have previously completed your education in English-medium institutions or have a degree in an English-speaking country, some institutions may waive the IELTS requirement.

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2. English proficiency certificate

Some universities may accept alternative English language proficiency certificates like TOEFL, PTE Academic, Cambridge English exams (e.g., CAE, CPE), or other nationally recognized language tests.

3. Interview or skype assessment

In some cases, universities may conduct an interview or a Skype assessment to evaluate your English language proficiency instead of requiring IELTS scores.

4. Work experience

Certain institutions may waive the IELTS requirement if you have significant work experience in an English-speaking country or an English-speaking work environment.

5. Bridging or pre-sessional courses

Some universities offer pre-sessional English courses that allow you to improve your language skills before starting your main academic program. Successfully completing such a course may exempt you from the IELTS requirement.

6. English as a first language

If English is your first language or if you are a national of a country where English is an official language, you can without IELTS study in USA.

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English language assessments to study in the USA

So we know that IELTS is accepted by most universities in the USA, but here is a list of alternative English Language Assessment which may be accepted to allow you to study in the USA.

But remember to always check with your university first, as the entry requirements for international students change from one university to the next:

USA study visa without IELTS

When applying for a USA study visa without ielts, you will need to prepare several documents to support your application. These documents generally include:

  • Valid passport
  • Form DS-160
  • SEVIS I-20 form
  • Acceptance letter
  • Application fee payment receipt
  • Passport-size photographs
  • Financial documents
  • Academic transcripts and certificates
  • English language proficiency test results
  • Proof of intent to return
  • Optional: Standardised test scores

Achieve your highest IELTS score!

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10 universities in USA offering admission without IELTS

We’d love to list every single college in the US at which you could without IELTS study in USA, but there are nearly 4,000 colleges across the country, and English language assessment requirements can change from year to year, and from degree to degree!

However, here are 10 colleges we really like that can accept students without IELTS. We’ve also listed the alternative English language proficiency assessments accepted at each college.

However it’s worth noting that some have a list of their own exemptions from any English language assessments at all, so check their own websites out too!

S No.UniversityAlternate for IELTS
1American University, Washington DCTOEFL, PTE, Duolingo English Test
2State University of New YorkConditional (IELP), ACT, SAT
3University of Illinois at ChicagoTOEFL, PTE
4University of Central FloridaTOEFL
5University of New OrleansConditional (IELP), TOEFL, Duolingo English Test
6University of ColoradoTOEFL, Duolingo English Test
7UMASS, BostonTOEFL, SAT, ACT, Duolingo English Test
8The University of UtahTOEFL, Duolingo English Test, ACT, SAT
9University of Dayton, OhioConditional (IELP), TOEFL, iTEP, PTE, SAT, ACT, Duolingo English Test
10Auburn University, AlabamaTOEFL, Conditional (IELP)

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It’s more than possible to study in USA without IELTS certificate, it just depends on the university’s own requirements. Almost 100% of the time, some demonstration of English proficiency is needed, which makes sense, since you’ll be studying in English! 

So now that you know more about your options for studying in the USA, maybe it’s time to start preparing for life there in the future? We’ve written a handy article on the 10 highest paying part-time jobs for international students in the USA, in case you need to work while you study!

Watch our IELTS Lessons Playlist on YouTube. Our expert instructor covers all modules: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. Click here.

Frequently asked questions

Is IELTS compulsory for the USA?

The IELTS is not universally compulsory for all universities and colleges in the USA. Some institutions may accept alternative English language proficiency tests, while others might offer exemptions based on certain criteria or if the applicant's native language is English.

Is IELTS required for a USA student visa?

While IELTS is a commonly accepted English language proficiency test, the visa requirements may differ, and some students might be eligible for a visa without submitting IELTS scores if they meet other language proficiency criteria.

Can international students study in USA without IELTS?

Yes, some universities and colleges in the USA offer admission to international students without requiring IELTS scores.

What are the USA Study Visa Without IELTS requirements for Indian students in 2023?

Indian students can explore options such as TOEFL or other English language proficiency tests to fulfill the language requirements or consider institutions that offer exemptions based on specific criteria like prior education in English-medium schools or certain language qualifications.

Can I get a student visa without IELTS?

Yes, it is possible to obtain a student visa for the USA without IELTS.

What are the 5 cheapest universities in the USA for international students without IELTS?

Some of the institutions known for offering comparatively lower tuition fees to international students include Arkansas State University, California State University, Long Beach, South Dakota State University, University of Central Missouri, and University of Idaho.

Achieve your highest IELTS score!

Signup for your free IELTS masterclass with Edvoy. 

Learn from the best of the best teacher with over 17 years of experience. 

Sign up now!

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