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Language Requirements

Language Requirements for Admission, and Teaching Assistantships

English is the language of instruction and communication at the University of California. Your success at UC Santa Cruz will depend on daily classwork, written papers, frequent short examinations, and major examinations in English.


Applicants whose primary language is other than English, regardless of citizenship status (either US citizens, Permanent Residents, or non-citizens) must take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test.

Scores must be reported to us electronically from your test provider; we do not accept paper test score reports, nor do we look up scores individually. Language scores must be received before they expire or they will not be considered official.


For those choosing to take the TOEFL iBT (including the TOEFL iBT Home Edition*) the following scores are the minimum allowed by UC Santa Cruz for admission qualifications:

  • 89 for applicants to the Bioinformatics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Applied Math,  Computational Media, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Statistical Sciences programs; 

  • 83 for all other programs.

    • For inquiries on test dates, fees and free test preparation courses and guides, please contact TOEFL Services.

    • *Test scores from the TOEFL ITP Plus China Edition are not accepted at UC Santa Cruz.

Any international students who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistant opportunities must score a 26 or higher on the Spoken Word portion of the TOEFL iBT.


For those choosing to take the IELTS Academic (in-person and online versions), a minimum overall score of 7 from the IELTS test is required for admission.

  • We will accept IELTS One Skill Retake test results but only if you have reported an official, valid (not expired) IELTS Academic score report, as well to our campus. - Postponed, not available for the 2024 application.

  • For inquiries on test dates, fees and preparation, please contact your nearest IELTS test center.

Any international students who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistant opportunities must score an 8 or higher on the Speaking portion of the IELTS Academic test. ​​

Language Waiver Requests

If you declare English as your second language, the TOEFL/IELTS examination requirement will show up, regardless of your citizenship status.


You may ask the program you are applying to for a waiver of the requirement based on your language and life experience, where you may have used English in an academic setting, and other relevant aspects to your background and mastery of language (certificates in English, or degrees earned at English-speaking schools). 


Notice that the waiver of the requirement will only be offered to admitted applicants - at the point of admission. 

  • English Language Waiver for Admission:
    • TOEFL/IELTS waivers for admission purposes may be requested by applicants who have completed a four-year bachelor's degree at an English-speaking institution. If you plan to request such a waiver, you must select a back-up method of examination on the admission application in case your request is not approved. Indicate a future testing date and explain your desire and qualifications for a waiver of this requirement on the English Language Competency section of the online application.

    • Please note that the waiver of English Language Competency will be considered if you are recommended for admission; you may still see the requirement for English Language Test Score in your application checklist.

  • English Language Waiver for Teaching Assistantship:
    • Applicants with a Master's degree earned in the United States, at an accredited university, and with experience as a Teaching Assistant at that university may be eligible for an exemption of the English language prerequisite for Teaching Assistant (TA) purposes only (not admission).

    • A final transcript indicating that the degree was awarded, as well as a letter from the TA supervisor confirming the applicant's position, their level of responsibility in the classroom, and their proficiency in English are required to apply for this type of waiver. The letter would be provided to your graduate program upon admission.

    • Request this waiver in the application, in the English Proficiency section.

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