English as a Second Language Tests and Admission

First let me say from a personal standpoint that I admire anyone who is able to communicate at a high level in more than one language.  Mastering a second language is certainly a huge achievement.  My wife speaks three languages very well and each time she rapidly transitions from one language to another it makes my head spin.  And she types all three languages well even on an English keyboard with no foreign language characters.  She’s my hero.

Half the time when I try to speak a bit of Korean I end up speaking broken Spanish, and when I try to speak Spanish broken Korean comes out.  I am convinced that my Latin American apartment neighbors think I am crazy because half the time when I try to say hello, Korean comes out instead of Spanish.

Mastery of English is very important to the Admissions Committee at SIPA due to the rigorous and fast paced nature of our curriculum.  I thought I would provide a bit of insight into how the Admissions Committee views English test reports submitted by applicants that do not speak English as a native language.

SIPA will accept three tests that measure the ability to communicate in English:  TOEFL, IELTS, and a test administered at Columbia University called the English Certification Test (this test must be taken on our campus).  Scores can be divided into three categories.

  • Category 1: We cannot offer admission based on the score regardless of how impressive the rest of an application may be.
  • Category 2: We can offer provisional admission (only for the fall cycle).  Candidates offered provisional admission must enroll in a mandatory, three week, intensive English course hosted at SIPA in the summer.
  • Category 3: We can offer unconditional admission.

For categories 2 and 3, applicants must of course not only score at high level on the English exam, but must also put together a compelling application in all other regards.

We do have minimum scores for admission and they are:

  • TOEFL iBT: 100
  • TOEFL Computer: 250
  • TOEFL Paper: 600
  • IELTS: 7
  • ECT: 7A

We can offer admission to candidates that achieve these scores, the offer will be provisional however if the scores fall within the following range:

  • TOEFL iBT: 100 – 109
  • TOEFL Computer: 250 – 267
  • TOEFL Paper: 600 – 633
  • IELTS: 7 -7.5
  • ECT: 7A – 8A

And finally, we can offer unconditional admission to candidates that achieve the following scores:

  • TOEFL iBT: 110 and above
  • TOEFL Computer: 270 and above
  • TOEFL Paper: 637 and above
  • IELTS: 8 and above
  • ECT: 8B or above

In all cases scores must be less than two years old.  We do not require official test reports to consider candidates for admission.  Candidates can self report test scores on the application Web site all the way up to the Admission Deadline.  Therefore, if you take a test at a late date, as long as you can log in to the application site prior to the deadline to submit the scores achieved, the scores will be accepted for consideration.  Only candidates that are offered admission will then later be asked to submit official test scores for the permanent academic record.

We do recommend that you list our code when taking the TOEFL.  Our TOEFL test code is 2161.