So do you want to study in the United States? or do you want to study in the United Kingdom? Maybe you have a prestigious school or university in mind? Harvard? Yale? Berkeley? the MIT? Oxford? Cambridge? Of course your university of choice may not be as famous as one of those I have just mentioned but you will do just as good. Or maybe just want to study in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Wait, you do not need to study in an English-speaking country but you just want to study abroad? And this international programme you are interested in just so happens to be in English because yes, English is the language of international studies.

Whatever your choice is, the universities will require to prove your proficiency in English. This is why you need to get a language certificate.

A university may require a specific language certificate or give you a choice between a selection of certificates and will also specify the expected level. If you remember the previous article, this level will be either expressed by a grade or by a specific certificate.

Here we are using the word “certificate” liberally. Indeed, you will notice that most of what we call certificates here are technically  just standardized tests and do not lead to a diploma. Rest reassured, we will detail the differences between tests and certificates in this article.

English is an extremely popular study language – it sits at the top of the list of the most studied foreign languages in the world. As a result, there are more than 50 different English certificates on the market today and it would not be possible to list them all here. The aim of the article is not to detail each of them, we will focus on the most prominent certificates and help you make out the differences.


TOEFL and TOEIC and :  the American references

ETS, an American nonprofit organization whose goal is “to help advance quality and equity in education”, manages these two very popular language “certificates”:  the TOEFL and the TOEIC.

It might be abusive to call them certificates though. Technically they are standardized language tests. That means you cannot fail them and the score is interpreted as your level in English language. In practise, schools use your score to accept you or to refuse you. If you do not meet their requirement, you are not going to get admission. The ETS is thus just a service provider that give standardized tests that is recognized everywhere. So the tests do not entitle you to a certificate or a diploma.

But as those tests have become globally recognized, they have become references and people often write them in their resumes and it’s still relevant even though they are past their validity time. And as such it is no surprise that people have started calling them certificates abusively.

Different tests will test different English. English for studies, English for work, etc. This is why your test will have a limited time of validity, unlike a diploma  that you keep for life, like a bachelor in English for instance.