8 Language Proficiency Tests to Help You Learn & Work in the US

Signing up for extra exams is the last thing students want to do, but it could launch your career. While you’re studying for your degree, you might ask yourself — do you need English language proficiency tests to live, study, and/or work in the US? Even if English is your second language, taking a test will provide college recruiters and hiring managers with an in-depth look at your existing skills.

Taking English language proficiency tests is an excellent use of your time while you’re still a student or just after college graduation. These are a few of the best exams to help prepare you for learning and working in the US, no matter what languages you currently speak. 

1. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

If you’re looking for the top English language tests for US colleges, start with the Test of English as a Foreign Language or, as its commonly known, the TOEFL. Your results will work for university first-year or transfer applications in the US, plus Canada, Australia, and the UK.

The exam tests your ability to speak and write in English, as well as listen and read. Prepare to sit down for at least four and a half hours to concentrate on the four sections of the TOEFL. 

2. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

In 2019, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) broke new testing records by providing over 3.5 million exams to students from around the world. It’s one of the most popular language tests to work in the US and study at an English-speaking university, especially after many more workplaces and institutions began to accept IELTS results in 2019.

Anyone who takes it will need two hours and forty-five minutes to complete the reading, listening, writing, and speaking sections.

3. The ACTFL Writing Proficiency Test

As you read about taking language tests to learn and work in the US, you may run across the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) exam. Employers often give it to newly hired employees, but it can also be part of the hiring process.

The self-assessment and background survey tests five levels of proficiency and divides those into subcategories depending on your existing skills.

Employers will use the ACTFL results to determine where your abilities will most benefit the company and your future team members.

4. The Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC)

You can also take the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) to gain employment in an English-speaking country. It’s one of the top language tests to work in the US because over 14,000 organizations accept it as the leading exam for determining a person’s ability to use English in everyday life and work settings.

Students may prepare for it with the same study materials that other proficiency tests require, but they should also be aware that the speaking portion of the TOEIC has eleven tasks.

You’ll need to read paragraphs like other exams, but you’ll also need to complete sections like describing pictures or discussing your opinions. These parts sometimes catch students off guard because they require more personalized answers instead of simply reciting from a textbook.

5. The Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)

There are plenty of English language tests for US colleges, but if you’re interested in a UK university, you should sign up for the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). It’s an incredibly advanced test for people who consider themselves fluent in English.

You’ll need a maximum score from the TOEFL or at least an 8.5 on the IELTS to take the four-hour CPE exam.

6. The Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE)

Other types of English language proficiency tests can also help you get into UK universities. The Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) is for people who are confident in their English-speaking skills but may not score high enough to qualify for the CPE exam.

If you register for the CAE, you’ll spend four hours demonstrating your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills either through an online platform or in-person.

7. English Courses on DuoLingo

DuoLingo doesn’t often come to mind when people research language tests to learn and work in the US, but the brand provides language certificates to those who pass their proficiency test. In one hour, you could get results that help you gain admission to over 3,000 universities.

It’s free to take and there’s no cost to send your results to universities, so it’s perfect for anyone on a budget, too.

8. English Proficiency Classes With Rosetta Stone

Now that you’ve learned all about the many types of English language proficiency tests, you can also add Rosetta Stone to your list of learning resources.

Although the program doesn’t have an official certification test, it does have numerous classes where you can refine skills that may need work to pass an exam. It’s an excellent resource if you need to retake your proficiency test or want daily practice in the months before the test begins.

Explore English Language Proficiency Tests

Do you need English language proficiency tests for the US? Although some employers may not require it, most universities and corporations will look for a high score from one of these tests if you’re applying from outside the country. The skills you’ll need to pass each exam will help prepare you for learning and working in the US and achieving whatever goals you set for yourself.

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