While Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams was once preferred by American Universities, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) has recently gained popularity in the States. Now, over 3,000 universities in the United States will accept IELTS scores as proof of mastery of the English language. The minimum score needed for most United States universities ranges between 6.0 and 7.5 (however, some require a higher score) and necessary scores can vary by department and program. Some programs in the USA will not accept IELTS scores and that is why it is important for prospective students to research their specific program of interest for unique requirements.

Read on to discover some of the most desirable schools in America and the IELTS scores you need to get in!

IELTS Requirements in USA

1. Cornell University

If you see a giant dragon being paraded around campus, you might have found yourself at Cornell University. One of the school’s oldest and most unique traditions is “Dragon Day” where freshman architecture students parade a giant dragon around campus that they have built. The university itself is located in Ithaca, New York, and is in close proximity to several waterfalls including Ithaca Falls and Buttermilk Falls.

The university is also one of eight Ivy League schools in the US and the admissions process is highly competitive. Some of the most popular majors at include business, marketing, and even agriculture. In addition to these, the university also offers over 100 different fields of study. The recommended minimum IELTS score at Cornell is a 7.0.

2. Duke University

Duke University is a private university in Durham, North Carolina making it a part of the “Research Triangle area” which is known for high-powered research and scholarship. The university is also reputed for its beautiful architecture. The main campus is home to the neo-Gothic Duke Chapel and the Nasher Museum of Art.

This university practices “need-blind admissions,” meaning that a student’s ability to pay for their education does not factor into their admittance at this college, making it an attractive option for many. Students hoping to gain admittance to Duke will need an overall IELTS band score of 7.0 or higher.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT is a private, research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This university is well-reputed in the States for its emphasis on laboratory instruction, technology, engineering, and mathematics. MIT’s School of Architecture was also the first in America (1868). The university offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Many have come to regard MIT as their top choice for engineering, and the college has been consistently ranked as the number one school for engineering by a variety of sources.

For undergraduate applicants, MIT prefers TOEFL scores. The university only accepts IELTS scores for its graduate programs. The required band scores are determined by each department. However, students who have had instruction in the English language, or who have been in the United States for 4+ years, or who have a degree from an American university might be eligible to waive the IELTS requirement.

4. Princeton University

The fourth oldest university in the United States, Princeton University is part of the Ivy League and has an incredibly competitive admissions process. However, students who do attend Princeton, love their school. The institution boasts an impressive 5 to 1 student to teacher ratio, proving the university’s commitment to its students.

Notably, the university was attended by two U.S. presidents and 26 Nobel prize recipients. The campus also draws thousands of people to its Art Museum, which houses over 100,000 works of art. According to the University, students who do not score an 8.0 on their IELTS exam will be required to take an English Placement test at Princeton.

5. Stanford University

Stanford University is a smaller, private, research university in the California Bay Area. Once a farm owned by Leland and Jane Stanford, the 8,180 acre campus is now adorned with lush palms and verdant lawns. The university has 40 academic departments at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Its seven schools include Business, Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, Education, Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, and Medicine. In 2019, Stanford was named the 7th best university in the world by Best Colleges. Notably, the University has also turned out 83 Nobel Laureates and 17 of those graduates currently members of the Stanford community. Stanford requires an IELTS band score of 7.0 for admission.

6. University of Chicago

Welcome to the University of Chicago, a private university located in the cultural hub of Hyde Park. With neo-gothic architecture and manicured lawns, UChicago is stunning in mid-winter when the frosted, castle-like buildings look like something out of a film or fairytale. In fact, Harry Potter fans might recognize the dining room in Hutchinson Hall, for the movie franchise actually used the location to film several major scenes in the series.

While the hall attracts tourists for its notoriety, the university also offers world-class instruction and acclaimed academic programs. Both the law and business schools rank among the top five best in the country. The University also houses influential research laboratories including Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory, which both produce cutting-edge research. Students interested in the University of Chicago should aim for an overall band score of 7.0 on their IELTS exam. They will also need a minimum score of 7.0 on each, individual section.

7. Yale University

Another Ivy League university, Yale is another of America’s most competitive higher education institutions and only has an acceptance rate of about 7%. That being said, it is the third-oldest institution for higher education in the United States and has managed to uphold a strong reputation for educational excellence since its inception.

While Yale’s campus is only a mere 345 acres, it is located in downtown New Haven, making the campus only a short road trip away from a city that never sleeps, New York City. Students will often travel an hour and a half into the city for some fun on the weekends. In addition to its rigorous academics, Yale features world-renowned drama and music programs. Hollywood’s top talent like Meryl Streep and Angela Bassett are likely the most well-known alumna of the program.

The school has also produced a total of 61 Nobel Laureates. Yale University states that its most competitive applicants should strive for 7.0 or higher on their IELTS exam. They will also need to take the Pearson Test of English and score 70 or higher.


As you can see, most prestigious universities in the USA require at least 7.0 on the IELTS exam. If you are applying for less prestigious universities, you can get by with a lower score. However, it is recommended that you have at least 7 on the IELTS for you to become a successful applicant.

We hope that this article on IELTS Band requirements for universities in the USA was helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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