English Proficiency Requirement

If you are an international student and your native language is not English and your TOEFL score is below 600 on the paper-based test, or 100 on the internet-based test, you are subject to this requirement.

The English Proficiency Requirement ensures that speakers whose first language is not English know English well enough to

  • study without being hindered by language problems,
  • understand class lecture and discussions, and
  • participate successfully in class discussions. 

All international students with a TOEFL iBT score of less than 100 (600 paper-based) are required to take the English Proficiency Evaluation (EPE) prior to their first registration. Some graduate departments require all students to take the exam, regardless of TOEFL score. If you took the IELTS instead of the TOEFL, contact the Admissions Office for information about acceptable score ranges. Students are not allowed to register until this evaluation has been taken. The University charges students' accounts $120 for the EPE.

The components of the requirement are:

  • the completion of an on-campus English Proficiency Evaluation (EPE) before initial registration for classes at the University
  • all students are required to satisfactorily complete any course(s) specified as a result of the evaluation
  • undergraduate students are required to complete their English as a Second Language (ESL) courses before registering for Rhetoric and are required to enroll in classes each semester until they are completed.  Completion of English as a Second Language courses is a requirement for graduation.
  • graduate students are required to register for at least one English as a Second Language course during their first semester.  Students who fail to do so will not be allowed to register for the following session.

How to Fulfill the English Proficiency Requirement

Complete the English Proficiency Evaluation (EPE) before your first registration for classes at the University.  An appointment will be made by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for you to take the EPE. In some rare situations, a student will not be required to check in at ISSS.  If this is the case, make arrangements to take the EPE with the ESL Programs Office by sending an e-mail to esl-program@uiowa.edu. Be sure to include in your message that you are not required to check in at ISSS.  

The EPE takes two hours and comprises an oral interview (15 minutes), a writing sample (30 minutes), a multiple-choice reading test (45 minutes), and a listening and note-taking test (30 minutes). Based on the results of the evaluation, you may

  • be allowed to take a full academic course load excluding ESL courses;
  • be required to enroll in one or more of the following ESL courses:
    • ESL:4130 Academic Listening Skills (3 semester hours)
    • ESL:4100 Academic Oral Skills (3 semester hours)
    • ESL:4160 Grammar (3 semester hours)
    • ESL:4190 Academic Writing for Undergraduate Students (3 semester hours)
    • ESL:4200 Academic Reading Skills (3 semester hours)
    • ESL:6000 Writing Skills for Graduate Students (3 semester hours); or
  • be required to enroll in the Iowa Intensive English Program (IIEP) until your language proficiency reaches an appropriate level. (IIEP courses are non-credit-bearing, and participants pay IIEP tuition and fees.)

If the EPE indicates that coursework is necessary, the courses are required for graduation. For more information on ESL credit courses, including course policies and descriptions, see ESL Credit Courses

Questions about the English Proficiency Requirement should be directed to the Office of Admissions at 1-800-553-IOWA or 319-335-1549.