We try to keep our application requirements and policies clear, but there are always gray areas, some of which we discover only after launching a new policy.  There’s nothing new about our requirement for an English language assessment as part of the application of non-native speakers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some murky edges to it.  The policy, in the wording of our application instructions, is:

If your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree or graduate degree lasting two or more years) where English was the language of instruction, you are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the Pearson Test of English (PTE). A score of 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT), 7 on the IELTS, or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at The Fletcher School.

Seems straightforward enough, but we continue to hear from people whose profiles make the policy seem less than clear.  The first gray-area group includes those who study in their home countries, but English is the language of instruction  When it comes to applicants (such as many from India) whose entire education was in English, there’s nothing to be gained by submitting a score report.  The score is likely to be very high, but won’t provide any new information, and you can save a little money (and paper) when you don’t have a score report sent to us.  On the flip side are those (such as many from Turkey), who have been taught in English only at the university level.  Some of those applicants will still score relatively low on the verbal portion of the GRE or GMAT.  In that case, they would certainly benefit from sending along a TOEFL/IELTS/PTE score.

Another murky area of the policy turns up when we make our admission decisions.  Not infrequently, we’ll require supplemental English study from enrolling applicants who have scored a 102 on the iBT.  The 102 should do the trick for them, but it may not if the subscores are uneven.  We’ll worry about the ability to contribute in class of someone with top scores on reading and writing, but low scores on speaking and listening.  We’ll also worry about someone whose conversation skills are strong, but whose reading and writing are weaker.  Students need to succeed both in and out of the classroom.

As an applicant, you should follow the rules.  If we don’t ask for a test score, you don’t need to send one.  But…if you feel that a score on an English assessment will help clarify an aspect of your application, feel free to send it along.  So long as your score is strong enough, you’re all set.  Except…if your skills are not consistent across the four categories, in which case we may ask you to brush up before starting your studies.  Clear or murky?  How you see the policy probably depends on your background.

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