Archive for English language testing

We just made proving English proficiency so much easier

I’m often asked if there are separate admissions deadlines for our international students. The answer, simply put, is no. All deadlines are open to all students, regardless of their nationality. The same goes for our application materials. For example, no one has to submit extra paperwork in order to qualify for our general fellowships (just meet the predetermined deadline). However, international students do have to prove their language proficiency before they apply to SIPA.

Until today, international students only had two options: take the TOEFL or IELTS exam. Depending on where they lived those exams weren’t always the easiest to arrange; sporadic exam dates and minimal locations were frequent complaints. I’m happy to share that our office has approved a third English-language proficiency exam, known as the PTE Academic.

We added it to the list of approved exams because the PTE exam is offered in more locations than the TOEFL and IELTS.  PTE also offers students flexible test sessions, a flexible re-take policy, and results are typically available within 5 working days versus 10-15 days turnaround for the TOEFL. Lastly, it’s also accepted at a number of academic institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, UK, Canada and the US — making it easier for you to share scores with several institutions.

So while you’re making arrangements to take your English-language proficiency exam, keep in mind there’s now a third option. (We’ll update our website to reflect this change, but please forgive us if we miss a page!)

For your reference, here are the minimum and preferred score requirements for all three exams. The minimum score is what’s required in order to apply to SIPA. While the preferred score means you won’t be required to enroll in a special English language course once admitted to SIPA. If you have questions, just check the blog’s archives for more information on these requirements.

  • TOEFL Minimum: 100 & TOEFL Preferred: 110
    • School code is 2161 (there is no department code)
  • IELTS Minimum: 7.0 & IELTS Preferred: 7.5
    • Select Columbia SIPA from the list of schools
  • PTE Minimum: 68 & PTE Preferred: 76
[Image courtesy of Pearson]

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.

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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