What are the language requirements to study in the UK? 

Updated on: Aug 3, 2023

Learn about the ‘whats' and 'whys' of one of the most basic study-abroad requirements – language tests.

In this article:

What is the language requirement to study in the UK?

International students need to prove that they can read, write, speak and understand English before moving to an English-speaking country to study. Universities use specific standard tests to access the English language skills of prospective students to satisfy the language requirement

Why is there a language requirement to study in the UK?

The UK has English language requirements because it is an English-speaking nation. You need primary English language skills to communicate with the people around you. More importantly, you need those language skills to complete your education successfully. 

What are the widely accepted language tests in the UK?


The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a standard language assessment test. The test has four sections (reading, writing, listening, speaking) and gives an overall score out of 9. 


Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) will also test the four necessary language skills in three hours. Your scores will be out of 100. 

PTE Academic

The Pearson Test of English Academic is a computer-based language assessment test. It tests the four language skills in 3 hours, usually tackling two skills in a single question. The overall score is given out of 90. 


Duolingo is a fairly new English language proficiency test. You can take the test online anywhere anytime. The duration of the test is one hour, and the overall score is out of 160. It is accepted by over 2000 universities worldwide.

Which language test should you take?

Many universities widely accept all the language tests mentioned above. We would advise you to shortlist your final universities first; then you can check and complete the accepted language test. 

If you want to complete your language test, but you are still uncertain about your university choices, IELTS is a safe bet. Most universities in the UK accept IELTS scores

Suggested reading: 

Can you qualify without completing language tests?

Yes. Though most universities require you to submit your language test score, there are a few exceptions. To know more about this read, Is it possible to study in the UK without IELTS?

What do you do if you do not meet the required language test score?

It is always better to have a plan B just in case you do not meet the required language test scores. Here are a few things that you can do.

  • Retake the test. If you have time, you can repeat the test and submit your application with your new test scores.
  • If it is too late, try talking to the university. Some universities accept applications without language test scores. If everything goes well, you will receive a conditional offer. You can then retake the test and submit your new scores.
  • Consider doing a foundation course. Most foundation courses have low language skill requirements if any. By choosing a foundation course, you can go abroad and take the time to prepare for your degree.