English Language Proficiency

Because graduate students needs to communicate their ideas in multiple ways, GSAS requires that PhD students who are non-native English speakers and who received their undergraduate degree from a non-English speaking institution demonstrate a minimum level of oral English language proficiency. 

Language and communication specialists in the Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning collaborate with GSAS in helping students meet this requirement. Students must demonstrate the required minimum proficiency level in order to work as teaching fellows.

Proficiency Levels

Students are categorized based on their TOEFL iBT speaking score and/or IELTS score noted in the GSAS admissions application:

  • TOEFL iBT speaking score of 26 and above or IELTS 8.5 and above—GSAS oral English language requirement is met.
  • TOEFL iBT speaking score between 23 and 25 or IELTS 7 to 8—students should schedule an oral proficiency interview in their first term of study with language specialists at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Students who have not met the minimum level will be advised on appropriate resources or oral communication skills courses they can take in order to meet the requirement.
  • TOEFL iBT Speaking score of 22 and below or IELTS 6.5 and below—students should schedule an oral proficiency interview in their first term of study with language specialists at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning and will likely need to take an oral communication skills course.

Reevaluation and Timeline for Meeting the Requirement

Students who have not met the requirement may be reevaluated after taking an oral communication skills course or after waiting one year. 

Depending on a student’s incoming proficiency level and other factors, it may take more than one term to meet the requirement. As students plan their academic and research schedules, they should factor in time for oral English language proficiency development, especially considering when they expect to teach. Students should consult their department and/or advisor if they need extra support to improve their speaking skills. 

CONTACT INFO

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

50 Church Street
Suite 308
Cambridge, MA 02138

125 Mt. Auburn Street
3rd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

bokcenter@fas.harvard.edu
617-495-4869

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Office of Student Affairs
Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center
1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 350
Cambridge, MA 02138