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English Language Proficiency

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Because graduate students need to communicate their ideas in multiple ways, Harvard Griffin 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 Harvard Griffin 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 Academic speaking score noted in the Harvard Griffin GSAS admissions application. 

  • TOEFL iBT speaking score of 26 and above or IELTS 8 and above—Harvard Griffin GSAS oral English language requirement is met.
  • TOEFL iBT speaking score between 23 and 25 or IELTS 7 to 7.5—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.

Whether you have met the English language requirement or still need to develop your oral English proficiency, you may schedule a consultation to discuss your English communication skills and get connected to available resources

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. 

For more information about understanding English language proficiency and incoming language test scores, please see this guide for departments and this guide for students created by our colleagues at the Bok Center.

Contact Info

For questions related to the Harvard Griffin GSAS policy for current students: 

Office of Academic Programs
Shelby Johnson
Associate Director of Academic Programs

For questions related to English language assessments and support:

The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning 

For questions for prospective students on the English Language admissions requirement:

Office of Admissions


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