Located in the heart of Europe, surrounded by Germany, France, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Italy, Switzerland is the continent’s cultural and demographic hub. The country is known for its beautiful natural terrain and, of course, its delicious chocolate! The prospect of studying here as an international student will surely entice you, as it has tens of thousands of others.

Switzerland boasts a lot of variety in terms of culture and language, so you would find it comfortable to integrate into it as an international student. The Swiss speak four official languages: French, Italian, German, and Romansh. Programs in educational institutions are conducted in these four languages and English. This article outlines everything you need to know about Switzerland’s general language requirements for higher education programs.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed in Switzerland

Programs offered across universities in Switzerland require proficiency in English, French, and/or German. Depending on your chosen course, here are some language tests accepted in the country.

German Language Tests for International Students

As of now, Swiss schools have standardized their language requirements and accept only a few accredited language proficiency certifications. These programs rank your standard of language understanding from Level A (Basic Understanding) to Level C (Proficient).

1. TestDaF German Language Exam

TestDaF is one of the major German language proficiency exams that is widely accepted certification in Switzerland and worldwide. All universities in Germany recognize the TestDaF certificate as a milestone qualification to enter into a program of choice for international students. TestDaF certifications are valid indefinitely.

Most Swiss universities, including ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, accept the TestDaF certificate as valid proof of German language proficiency. A minimum average score of 4 in all four tested sub-sections is needed to get into most programs at these universities.

2. Goethe-Institut 

Goethe-Institut is an independent organization that promotes the German language and provides recognized language proficiency certifications for expatriates in the country. It is partially funded by the German government, offering study material, lectures, tests, and formal recognition of German language proficiency. Although not locally based, the Goethe Institut’s certification is accepted across universities in Switzerland. Certifications go up to the C2 level of proficiency.

ETH Zurich accepts the Goethe-Institut certificate with a minimum required proficiency level of C1.

English Language Tests for International Students

Once you have fulfilled the language requirement for your chosen program, some institutions will also require proof of English proficiency. Here are some accepted English exams in Switzerland:

1. IELTS – International English Language Testing System

Of the English language tests that Swiss universities accept, IELTS Academic is the most popular. It assesses your English proficiency across four aspects: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking, and provides an overall band score of your English language proficiency. The exam can be taken in centers worldwide, with over three million candidates annually. The exam process could be a bit intimidating for foreign speakers, but there’s enough material online to make sure you prepare for the examination.

Universities in Switzerland, like the University of Basel and the University of Bern, recognize the IELTS Academic certification as suitable proof of sufficient knowledge of the English language. It is also important that the certification is no older than two years at the time of application.

2. TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language

The TOEFL test is also another popular English language certification around the world. It prepares students for higher education and immigration into foreign countries. Many students consider IELTS slightly easier than TOEFL, especially the reading sections. It tests students across four academic English skills: Writing, Reading, Listening, and Speaking.

The University of Bern and the University of Zurich are among the many universities in Switzerland that accept the TOEFL certification as a valid confirmation of your English language proficiency for their academic programs.

3. DET – Duolingo English Test 

The Duolingo English Test is a standard online assessment that assesses your English proficiency across listening, reading, speaking, and writing competencies. It has grown in popularity over recent years, especially among international students. The exam is a 1-hour online Question and Answer session with variable difficulty that gives you a grade between 10 and 160. The Duolingo English Exam is valid only for 2 years after completion.

More and more universities are accepting the Duolingo English Test as a valid confirmation of a student’s English language proficiency. Some of the Swiss universities that accept DET are Franklin University Switzerland and Lausanne Business School. A score of 110 is generally accepted in most of these universities for their undergraduate programs.


You need to consider language requirements at an early stage of submitting your application to a university abroad. As an international student, you must have sufficient knowledge of an international language upon enrolling in a program. This article listed some of those language tests that are accepted in Switzerland.


We hope you are clear about the language tests you might need to take for Switzerland. You can also find more information about studying abroad on the Study in Switzerland and Available Programs in Europe pages!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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