Graduate Bulletin

Spring 2023

English Proficiency Requirements for Non-Native Speakers of English

English Language Requirements

All students who are not native or primary speakers of English must demonstrate proficiency in English to be admitted to the Graduate School. Stony Brook University has established overall minimum English language competency requirements for admission to graduate study and additional, more stringent speak competency requirements for PhD applicants as well as master’s students who serve as Teaching Assistants. Students may be conditionally admitted without meeting some admission requirements, but under no circumstances may students teach in a class or laboratory until they have met Stony Brook University’s speak competency requirements.

A native speaker of English is someone who learned English as a child and uses English as his or her primary language at home. A primary speaker of English may speak a language other than English at home but has developed native fluency as a result of using English exclusively in most social and educational contexts.

All students must declare their native language as part of the admission process. Intentional misrepresentation by a student of his or her native language is academic dishonesty and is grounds for dismissal from the graduate school.

English Proficiency Requirements for Admission:

Any applicant with a degree from an English language institution, including high school, a bachelors, masters or PhD do not need to take an English language proficiency test as long as they select one of these on their application. Additionally, any applicant who served as a Teaching Assistant at an institution where the primary instruction was in English do not need to take an English language proficiency test as long as they select this on their application.

To be considered for admission, an applicant who is not a native or primary speaker of English or do not qualify to be exempt from a language proficiency exam based on their answers to the application questions listed above, must present a minimum score for either the TOEFL or IELTS tests, as defined below. Students who fail to meet this requirement must enroll in a course at the Intensive English Center (IEC) and achieve satisfactory grades before admission to graduate study. At the request of the program, conditional admission may be offered to students who do not meet minimal language requirements for admission. Note: Students whose scores on either of these tests are more than two years old must retake the test.

  • IELTS: Overall score of 6.5, with no subsection recommended to be below 6
  • TOEFL iBT: Overall score of 90 for doctoral applicants and 80 for master’s applicants.

For Students Affected by Center Closures due to COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus

For international students, in response to the closure of testing centers due to the Novel Coronavirus, Stony Brook University has temporarily approved the use of the Duolingo English test in place of the in-person TOEFL and IELTS proficiency exams. 

The exam costs $49 (USD) and may be taken from any computer that has a camera, audio, and reliable internet. The exam portion of the Duolingo English test contains a series of speaking, reading, writing and listening exercises. Following the exam, there is an interview portion that will ask you to respond to various prompts in 30 to 90 seconds. The exam takes about 45 minutes to complete and you will need either a passport, driver's license, or national or state ID to show the camera. The score results are generally received within a few days of exam completion.

A minimum score of 105 is required for Master's applicants. A minimum score of 110 is required for PhD applicants. PhD's and students who will serve as Teaching Assistants scores must be assessed by the Writing and Rhetoric Department to determine OAE placement (see below).

Information on preparing for the Duolingo exam can be found here.

To take or practice the exam go here.

A verification email will be sent to you a few days after completing the exam containing a link to send your score to SBU. Please send your scores to

English Speaking Proficiency Requirements to Serve as a Teaching Assistant:

Supervised college-level teaching is required for the award of any doctoral degree at Stony Brook, and occasionally master’s students serve as teaching assistants. Eligibility for any student serving as a Teaching Assistant is contingent upon the candidate’s ability to speak English proficiently. All prospective Teaching Assistants who are not native or primary speakers of English must achieve a minimum score on the Speaking subsection of the Internet-based TOEFL or IELTS. The TOEFL iBT is administered at centers throughout the world several times each year; applicants should forward their scores directly to the Graduate School (the Stony Brook code is 2548). Further information is available by contacting the Education Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA, or at . Information on the IELTS test can be found at .

All applicants who fail to achieve the minimum score on one of these tests will not be allowed to serve as a Teaching Assistant. This includes all doctoral students and all master’s students who will be assigned as a Teaching Assistant.

Students who will have a teaching role at the University and whose speaking test scores do not meet our minimum standards for teaching will be assigned to an Oral Academic English (OAE) course. NOTE: OAE courses are remedial and cannot be counted toward degree requirements or degree completion from any program.






Course Requirement



7 or Higher


Eligible to TA



OAE 594

Eligible to TA



OAE 592

Eligible to run recitation and lab sessions and/or grade



OAE 590

Not eligible to TA