All about English language certifications in America

All about English language certifications in America

by Ginger Abbot

Updated November 10, 2022

The United States is home to more than 40 million immigrants, many of whom left their native land in search of work or an education. These people are what make America a melting pot of cultures and traditions, and a place where anyone can come and create new opportunities.

If you’re hoping to migrate to the U.S., too, you’re probably already neck-deep in paperwork, interviews, and screenings. But have you also considered taking an English test?

Passing such a test fulfills English language certification requirements in America and proves you’re serious about working or studying in the U.S. After all, you must know how to read, write, and speak the nation’s primary language if you’re to communicate effectively and make a name for yourself here.

Start your 7-day free trial

What Are English language certifications?

English language certifications are official proof that you have a good enough grasp of the language to participate in college-level classes or hold a job. Once you pass a test and earn your certificate, you can enroll in a university, fill out job applications, and begin growing your skills in your new home.

Typically, these English language tests will gauge your verbal, auditory, and written communication skills and use six different levels to rank your proficiency. Levels A1 and A2 are the most basic classifications and denote a beginner or elementary-level speaker.

Meanwhile, levels B1 and B2 indicate intermediate and upper-intermediate speakers, respectively. The most proficient speakers receive a level C1 or C2 certification, meaning they’re either advanced speakers or English language masters.

Popular English language certifications in America

There are many different kinds of English language certifications and corresponding tests. Therefore, it’s important to contact your future employer or university to determine which tests they accept.

Here are a few of the most common certifications you can earn in America.


One of the most popular English language certifications is the Test of English as a Foreign Language. More than 11,000 colleges, universities, and agencies accept TOEFL scores, allowing more opportunities for work and learning. You’ll likely take this five-hour exam online and receive a score between 0 and 120.


Like TOEFL, the International English Language Testing System is highly popular and widely accepted. However, this test takes less than three hours, and the results use a 0 to 9 grading scale.

To receive admission into English-taught programs, you typically need a score between 5.5 and 6.5. IELTS costs vary depending on where you take the exam. However, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars. The certificate is valid for two years.


Sometimes, a university or employer will require additional proof of your proficiency. In this case, you might choose to take the ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages.

The AAPPL addresses your word-readiness on a much deeper level by simultaneously testing your interpersonal communication skills and technological know-how. Test-takers will receive a score for each of the four components with recommendations for further improvement. Which scores are admissible depends on who arranges your assessment.

PTE Academic

Students all over the world take the Pearson PTE Academic test to prove their language skills to U.S. universities. This integrated test consists of three different sections, which may test more than one skill at a time. Plus, you’ll typically receive results within two days because the exam is computer-based.

Thousands of universities around the globe accept the PTE Academic. However, each one has its own minimum accepted score.

Prep for Success

Carefully choose the right certification for yourself and your situation. Then, get to prepping! Look at previous exams, read English nonfiction articles, listen to American music, and watch a few Netflix shows. Find speakers with different accents and practice communicating through both the written and spoken word.

Once you’re ready to earn your certification, register online and head to the nearest testing center. Good luck!

Ginger Abbot is a learning, education, and lifestyle writer with a special interest in study abroad and travel. When she’s not freelancing, she serves as editor for, where you can also read more of her work.

Start your 7-day free trial

Related articles