Studying abroad can be an amazing experience that allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture, make international friends, and gain a new perspective on the world. However, applying to study abroad requires meeting certain English language requirements, which usually means taking standardized tests like the TOEFL or IELTS. But what if you don’t want to or can’t take these tests? Are there still options for studying abroad without TOEFL or IELTS?
Definitely! There are several countries that don’t require TOEFL, IELTS, or other English tests for university admission. These countries evaluate applicants in other ways to ensure they have adequate English abilities for academic study.
In this article, we will explore the top 5 countries for studying abroad without TOEFL or IELTS. We will cover which schools waive the tests, what alternative admission criteria they use, visa information, and costs. Read on to find the best options for test-free study abroad!
Germany has emerged as one of the most popular non-English speaking study destinations in Europe. Over 370,000 international students enrolled at German universities in 2020 alone!
The best part is that most German universities do not require TOEFL or IELTS. As long as you meet their English requirements through other means, you can study in Germany without taking standardized tests.
German universities assess English abilities based on previous schooling. If your secondary or post-secondary studies were conducted in English, you likely meet the language requirements already.
For example, Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich) exempts applicants from tests if:
- English was the language of instruction at your previous school
- You completed an academic degree taught fully in English
- You come from a majority English speaking country (e.g. Canada, UK, Australia)
Some universities may ask you to provide evidence, like transcripts, proving English instruction. Or, they might require you to do an English placement test upon arrival instead of TOEFL/IELTS.
Overall, admission criteria is quite flexible at German universities compared to other countries. Focus on meeting academic requirements and demonstrating your English abilities through past education.
Germany has free or extremely low-cost university tuition! Public university fees are capped at €250-750 per semester for international students.
You will need around €850-1000 per month for living expenses like housing, health insurance, transportation, and other necessities. Cost of living is relatively low compared to other European countries.
To get a student visa, you must open a blocked bank account showing you have at least €10,236 for your first year in Germany. This can act as a backup emergency fund in case you run out of money at any point.
Citizens from most non-EU countries can apply for a German student visa and residence permit. The application process involves:
- Getting university admission
- Proof of financial resources (blocked account)
- Health insurance
- Submitting visa application at German embassy/consulate in your country
Once approved, the visa allows you to study and work part-time in Germany. After 2 years of study, non-EU students can apply for a work permit and stay to gain professional experience.
Norway is a Nordic paradise offering stunning natural scenery, high standards of living, and tuition-free university education. It’s no wonder over 19,000 international students choose to study there every year.
Norwegian universities welcome applicants worldwide and do not require TOEFL or IELTS scores for admission. However, you do need to prove English proficiency through other methods.
To attend English-taught programs in Norway, previous education in English is highly valued during admission.
Accepted English proficiency criteria includes:
- English as the medium of instruction for your past studies
- Grades of C or higher in English classes from secondary/post-secondary school
- English test scores, like TOEFL or IELTS, if you have them
- Performance during admission interviews conducted in English
- Letters of recommendation from English teachers
Some universities may ask you to take an English test upon arrival to assess your skills level. But this is usually a placement exam rather than a high-stakes admissions test.
Overall, Norway focuses on a holistic assessment of English abilities through your educational background, documentation, and interviews.
Public universities in Norway do not charge tuition fees for international students!
However, you will need $12,000-15,000 USD per year to cover cost of living expenses like housing, health insurance, books, transportation, and other needs. Norway is relatively expensive, so be prepared for the higher costs.
To get a student residence permit, you must show proof you have sufficient funds to support yourself. Norwegian authorities estimate international students require at least NOK 123,000 (around $12,000 USD) per year.
You’ll also need to pay fees for the student visa application, medical check-up, etc. Overall budget about $15,000 per year for study in Norway.
International students from countries outside the EU/EEC can obtain a student residence permit for studying in Norway.
Required documents include:
- Letter of admission from university
- Proof of finances to support your stay
- Full health insurance coverage
- Passport and application form
- Receipt showing you paid the permit fee
Once you have these materials, submit your student residence permit application at least 2 months before studies begin. This permit allows you to live, study, and work part-time while in Norway.
With world-class universities, innovative research, and excellent quality of life, Sweden is a dream study destination for many internationals.
Luckily, Swedish universities recognize there are challenges taking tests like TOEFL or IELTS right now. So they provide flexible options to demonstrate English abilities without scores.
In lieu of test scores, Swedish universities may consider:
- Transcripts showing at least 2 years completed in English-medium education
- English proficiency test results (if available)
- Letters/statements from teachers validating English abilities
- Interview performance
In other words, Swedish universities take a comprehensive approach evaluating your English skills through academics, recommendations, and conversations.
If you do not meet a programs’ particular requirements, you may need to take a test upon arrival in Sweden to determine appropriate English support. But many programs are test flexible if you provide alternative evidence.
Swedish citizens and EU/EEA students enjoy free tuition at public universities in Sweden. But there are tuition fees for non-EU international students.
On average, international students pay around 80,000 – 140,000 SEK per year for degrees taught in English. This comes out to about $8,000 – 14,000 USD annually.
Additionally, you need at least 8,100 – 12,000 SEK per month ($800 – 1200 USD) to cover cost of living like housing, transportation, health insurance, food, and necessities while studying in Sweden.
Be sure to budget accordingly, as living expenses can be high, especially in bigger cities like Stockholm.
If coming from outside the EU, you will need to apply for a residence permit for studies in Sweden. Required documents include:
- Letter of university admission
- Proof of finances to support your stay
- Valid health insurance coverage
- Passport copies
- Completed application form
Submit a student residence permit application online or in-person at your nearest Swedish embassy/consulate. Processing times can range from 1-3 months. Once approved, the permit allows you to study, work part-time, and even search for jobs after graduation.
4. South Korea
Looking to immerse yourself in the tech and pop culture capital of Asia? South Korea attracts over 140,000 international students each year.
Best of all, many Korean universities allow overseas applicants without TOEFL or IELTS through their admissions by interview system.
Korea’s admission by interview process assesses prospective students through:
- Online or in-person interviews in English
- Demonstrating language abilities communicating verbally
- Previous grades, recommendation letters, and academic history
As long as you can hold a conversation and articulate ideas clearly in English, you have a good chance of passing the interview.
No need to stress about TOEFL cut off scores or IELTS band levels. The interview evaluates real verbal skills rather than test performance.
Some universities like POSTECH and UNIST are test-optional, allowing interviews to replace TOEFL/IELTS requirements completely. Others like Seoul National University still prefer scores but may waive through case-by-case interviews.
Overall, the interview system provides more flexible options for international students to prove English abilities.
South Korea offers affordable education, especially compared to studying in the West. Tuition fees range widely based on program and university prestige:
- Undergraduate: $5,000 – $12,000 per year
- Graduate: $6,000 – $15,000 per year
- Medical/Engineering: $8,000 – $18,000 per year
You’ll also need about ₩600,000 – ₩800,000 monthly ($500 – $700 USD) for living costs like housing, transportation, food, and health insurance in student cities like Seoul and Busan.
Budget $15,000 – $25,000 USD in total per year for living and studying in South Korea.
To obtain a South Korean student visa, you will need:
- Certificate of admission from university
- Bank statements showing financial support funds
- Passport with minimum 6 months validity
- Completed visa application form
Some applicants may need to interview at their nearest Korean consulate as well. Processing times for study visas can be 1-3 months.
Once granted, the D-2 student visa allows you to study, work part-time (max 20 hours per week), and apply to extend your stay after graduation.
This vibrant island nation attracts over 50,000 international students annually with world-class universities, cutting-edge research, diverse culture and more.
Even better, Singapore is TOEFL/IELTS waiver friendly! Many universities offer admissions without test scores.
Singaporean universities have flexible language requirements, including:
- 2+ years studying in English-medium curriculum
- English as the official national language of your country
- Evidence of English proficiency through previous grades/transcripts
- Older English test scores (2+ years old)
During application review, admissions officers look at your entire profile for evidence of English abilities, not just TOEFL/IELTS.
For example, the National University of Singapore may waive test scores if you have As or Bs in English classes or pass their interview.
Focus on highlighting English learning through academics, work experience, activities, etc. This multipronged approach often replaces rigid score requirements.
Tuition fees at Singaporean universities generally range from $14,000 – $38,000 per year. Examples:
- Arts & social sciences: $14,000 – $24,000
- Engineering & sciences: $16,000 – $28,000
- Medicine: $28,000 – $38,000
Living expenses like housing, food, transportation, and health insurance cost around $6,000 – $12,000 per year.
All together, plan for $20,000 – $50,000 USD per year for international study in Singapore depending on program.
Singapore offers merit scholarships offsetting some costs. But make sure to budget plenty as it is an expensive city overall.
International students will need to obtain a Student’s Pass from Singapore’s immigration authority. Required documents are:
- Letter of acceptance from university
- Financial statements showing you can cover tuition and living costs
- Medical exam results
- Valid passport
- Completed application form
Submit your Student’s Pass application about 2 months before school starts. You can take classes, work part-time on campus, and intern during summer/winter breaks once approved.
Choose Your Test-Optional Country!
As you can see, there are several great options around the world for studying abroad without TOEFL or IELTS. Germany, Norway, Sweden, South Korea, and Singapore all admit international students without English test scores through alternative evaluation methods.
Which test-optional country is your top choice? The application process can vary based on local immigration and university policies. So do thorough research to pick the best study destination for you.
Carefully review language requirements, speak with admissions counselors, confirm costs and visas, and complete all necessary paperwork. Follow the application instructions closely for your chosen university and country.
With smart preparation and planning, you can successfully study abroad without the need for TOEFL or IELTS. Avoid laborious language exams and gain exciting international experiences. Immerse yourself in a new culture and follow your educational dreams test-free!