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ESL Institute/Office of Global Engagement

O'Dowd Hall, Room 326
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4482
(location map)
Phone: (248) 364-8803
Fax: (248) 370-3587
esl@oakland.edu

ESL Institute/Office of Global Engagement

O'Dowd Hall, Room 326
586 Pioneer Drive
Rochester , MI 48309-4482
(location map)
Phone: (248) 364-8803
Fax: (248) 370-3587
esl@oakland.edu

Elliott Clock Tower on Oakland University's campus.

ESL Proficiency Policy

Undergraduate students

English proficiency is needed for students to be successful when completing an academic degree in the United States. All international applicants, other visa holders, permanent residents, and applicants whose native language* is not English, must be proficient in English as a requirement to enroll in courses for credit at Oakland University. Such applicants will be required to demonstrate English proficiency by meeting one of the following conditions listed below.

Some programs at Oakland University may require a higher level of proficiency than listed. Applicants should examine the program description for their field of study for information about additional English proficiency requirements and furnish proof as part of the admission process. Please visit the ESL Institute website and Undergraduate Admissions for additional information.

Please, consult the most recent Oakland University catalog for the current English Proficiency Policy for undergraduate students.

Graduate Students

Proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening English is needed for students to be successful when completing an academic degree in the United States.  All matriculating international applicants, other visa holders, permanent residents and applicants whose first language is not English, must be proficient in English as a requirement to enroll in courses for credit at Oakland University.  Such applicants will be required to demonstrate English proficiency by meeting one of the following conditions listed below.  The English proficiency scores must be two years old or less at the time of the applicant’s intended enrollment at Oakland University.

Some programs at Oakland University may require a higher level of proficiency than listed above.  Applicants should examine the program description for their field of study for information about additional English proficiency requirements and furnish proof as part of the admission process.  Please visit the ESL Institute or Graduate Admission for additional information.

Undergraduate Policy

Full Admission

One of the following constitutes proof:

  1. TOEFL: 79 minimum on internet-based TOEFL
  2. MELAB: 77 minimum
  3. IELTS: 6.5 minimum
  4. PTE Academic: 53 minimum
  5. Duolingo English Test (undergraduate students only): 100
  6. 24 transferable credits, excluding ESL coursework, from a U.S. community college or baccalaureate institution
  7. A degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university
  8. One year of study and a diploma from a U.S. high school
  9. Completion of all coursework to earn a high school diploma at an institution outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction was English.
  10. Completion of three level 7 courses with a minimum of a B- in the ESL Institute at Oakland University.
  11. Completion of ELS Level 112 Intensive program.

The following criteria only apply to students who do not hold and are not seeking an F or a J visa to study at Oakland University.

  1. Applicant has worked full-time in the United States for at least three years in an English speaking environment. Evidence must be provided such as a letter of support from human resources to confirm employment.
  2. Applicant has worked full-time for at least three years in an English speaking environment outside of the United States. Evidence must be provided such as a letter of support from human resources that confirms English as the primary language of written and oral communication.
  3. A letter of support or comment from the ESL Institute at Oakland University based on an interview and completion of the ESL placement test.

Admission with ESL coursework

Applicants, who are eligible for admission AND provide evidence of the following scores, will be permitted to enroll in the Global Achievement Pathway Program (GAPP) which permits students to simultaneously enroll in the ESL course sequence, as determined by the ESL Institute, and academic program courses. Enrollment in GAPP will be for one or two semesters. Students must register for ESL courses as part of their coursework starting in their first semester of registration. The ESL instruction sequence designed by the ESL Institute is not negotiable. Students not making satisfactory progress in the ESL course sequence or academic program are subject to dismissal from their program.

Global Achievement Pathway Program for One Semester (GAPP - 1)

One of the following constitutes proof:

  1. TOEFL: 69 – 78 on internet-based TOEFL with a minimum section score of 16
  2. MELAB: 73-76
  3. IELTS: 6.0 with a minimum section score of 5.5
  4. PTE Academic: 48-52
  5. Duolingo English Test (undergraduate students only): 95

Global Achievement Pathway Program for Two Semesters (GAPP - 2)

One of the following constitutes proof:

  1. TOEFL: 62-68 on internet-based TOEFL
  2. IELTS: 6.0
  3. PTE Academic: 44-47
  4. Duolingo English Test: 90

Admission to intensive English program

Prospective students who do not have adequate English Proficiency for admission or admission with ESL coursework to the university can be admitted to the Intensive English Program. ESL placement is done by the English as a Second Language Institute (ESL Institute) using the ESL Online Placement Test and other assessment tools. During the students' ESL instruction sequence, students' English Proficiency will be evaluated to determine whether adequate progress is being made and if additional ESL coursework is necessary to achieve English Proficiency. The ESL instruction sequence designed by the ESL Institute is not negotiable.

Upon completion of the Intensive English Program, students may (re)apply for admission to Oakland University; applicants are evaluated using the admission criteria described above.


Intensive English program

If you do not have adequate English proficiency for graduate admission or for admission with ESL coursework to OU, you can be admitted to the Intensive English Program. ESL placement is done by OU’s ESL Center using the Institutional TOEFL and other assessment tools. The individualized ESL program sequence determined by the ESL Center is not negotiable.

Upon completion of the Intensive English Program, you may reapply for admission to Oakland University where you will be evaluated using the admission criteria described above.

Graduate Policy

Admission eligibility

  • TOEFL (internet): 79
    TOEFL (paper): 550
    TOEFL (computer): 213
    Note: You may use MyBest TOEFL
  • or IELTS: 6.5
  • or PTE Academic: 53
  • or Duolingo: 105

Some programs at Oakland University may require a higher level of proficiency than listed above. Please review the program description for your field of study for additional English proficiency requirements and furnish proof as part of the admission process.

Additional ways to satisfy proof of English proficiency

  • Baccalaureate or master’s degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college/university
  • Baccalaureate or master's degree from an institution outside of the U.S. where the language of instruction was English
  • Oakland University non-matriculating students (guest students) who have earned a minimum of 12 academic credits in OU courses with a grade of B or above. 

The following criteria only apply to those who do not hold and are not seeking an F or J visa to study at Oakland University. 

  • Has worked full-time in the United States for at least three years in an English-speaking environment. Evidence must be provided such as a letter of support from human resources to confirm employment. 
  • Has worked full-time for at least three years in an English-speaking environment outside of the United States. Evidence must be provided such as a letter of support from human resources that confirms English as the primary language of written and oral communication. 
  • Has a U.S. professional license (e.g. United States Medical Licensing Exam - USMLE) that explicitly includes an English proficiency requirement. (Executive MBA applicants only). 
  • A letter of support or comment from the ESL Institute at Oakland University based on an interview and completion of the ESL placement test. 

Admission with limited standing

In addition to academic courses, ESL courses are required for students scoring below the minimum proficiency: 

  • TOEFL (internet): 69-78
    TOEFL (paper): 520-549
    TOEFL (computer): 190-212
    Note: You may use MyBest TOEFL
  • or IELTS: 6
  • or PTE Academic: 48-52

F-1 Students

If you are eligible for admission, but your test scores fall within the range listed above, you will begin your studies with Oakland University's English as a Second Language (ESL) program. You are expected to complete your ESL course of study within one year of your admission. If you complete your ESL course of study or submit a passing TOEFL, IELTS or PTE Academic score during this one-year period, you will be fully admitted to your graduate program. 

All other applicants

Applicants, with evidence of an English Proficiency exam with the following scores, AND determined academically qualified for admission to a graduate program,  will be required to enroll in an ESL course sequence, as determined by the ESL Institute, along with required academic program courses starting in their first semester of registration and each subsequent semester until successful ESL completion.  

It is expected that applicants, granted admission with limited standing for ESL requirements, will successfully complete the required ESL course sequence within one year.  Students not making satisfactory progress in the ESL course sequence and/or academic program courses will result in automatic dismissal from their academic program.

The ESL Institute will monitor progress and provide written notification to the Graduate School, when the student has successfully completed three level 7 courses with a minimum of an A- or three level 8 courses with a minimum of B-, and the Graduate School may extend the student full admission to the graduate program.    

Admission to Intensive English Program

Prospective students, who do not have adequate English Proficiency scores for full admission or admission with ESL course sequence requirements can apply directly to the ESL Institute at Oakland University.  Course placement is done by the ESL Institute using the ESL Online Placement Test, reported English proficiency test scores, and/or other assessment tools. During the students’ ESL instruction sequence, students’ English Proficiency will be evaluated to determine whether adequate progress is being made and if additional ESL coursework is necessary to achieve English Proficiency. The ESL instruction sequence designed by the ESL Institute is not negotiable. 

Upon completion of the Intensive English Program in the ESL Institute at Oakland University, students may (re)apply for graduate admission to Oakland University.


The individualized ESL instruction sequence designed by OU’s ESL Institute is not negotiable. Satisfactory completion of the individualized ESL instruction sequence is expected within one year, but ESL coursework is required until minimum proficiency is demonstrated.