English proficiency

If English is not your native language, you will be required to demonstrate your ability to undertake advanced academic work in an English-speaking institution.

English language proficiency tests such as the TOEFL, the IELTS, and the university's English Language Test (ELT) help us assess your readiness.

Exemptions for the English proficiency requirement are granted for non-native speakers who have received a bachelor's or more advanced degree either from an accredited U.S. institution or from a university outside the U.S. at which English is the official language of instruction.

Part 1: TOEFL or IELTS when you apply for admission

Demonstrate your English proficiency by providing your TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Scores must meet minimum requirements for both Graduate Studies and the student's intended academic department.

  1. Required by Graduate Studies:
    • 79 on TOEFL iBT
    • 550 on TOEFL PBT
    • 6.5 on IELTS
  2. Required by your academic department:  Minimums vary by department; refer to your department's program summary or website for details.  Some departments require scores higher than Graduate Studies minimums.

TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for two years, so if your scores are more than two years old you may be required to retake the test.

Send your official TOEFL scores to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by going to the TOEFL website and following the instructions for score reporting. The institution code for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is 6877.

Part 2: English Language Test (ELT) after you're admitted

You may be required to take the English Language Test upon your arrival in Lincoln.

Graduate students take only the writing portion of the ELT, which can be completed in one hour. You may see other students taking the full ELT at the same time.

Who takes the ELT

Check your Certificate of Admission from the Office of Graduate Studies to confirm whether you are required to sit for the English Language Test.

In general, the writing subscore of your TOEFL or IELTS score determines whether you will take the ELT.

  • ELT required:
    • TOEFL iBT: writing score below 25 or total below 100
    • IELTS: writing score below 7.0 or total below 7.0
  • ELT not required:
    • TOEFL iBT: writing score of 25 or higher and total 100 or higher
    • IELTS: writing score of 7.0 or higher and total 7.0 or higher

When to take the ELT

Test dates and times are listed in the registration form. We encourage you to sit for the earliest test date that fits your arrival schedule. The sooner you complete the exam, the sooner you can finalize your course registration for the semester.

How ELT scores are used

Your ELT score determines whether you will be placed in ENGL 887.  ENGL 887 is a 3 credit hour course to build English communication skills, with an emphasis on writing essays and research papers.
  • ELT score below 85:  Enroll in ENGL 887.
  • ELT score of 85 or higher:  You are exempt from any further English language courses unless required by your program.


Further assistance if needed:  Intensive English Program

The university's Intensive English Program (IEP) welcomes students from all over the world who want to devote themselves full time to learning English. Applications are encouraged from those who are seeking regular academic admission to Nebraska and feel that they are not yet ready to enroll in coursework with English as the medium of instruction.

The IEP offers three sessions during the academic year (25 hours per week) to students and their family members over 18 who hold high school or college diplomas.

The program offers instruction at several levels of language proficiency. Students who place below the IEP's Advanced level (below TOEFL 500 or IELTS 6.0) may need more than one session to be prepared for academic work. In addition, students who need TOEFL scores above 550 may need more than one session to meet their TOEFL requirements.