International Student Programs
English Language Requirements
Academic success at USC is strongly dependent upon the ability to communicate in English. Listening, speaking, reading and writing proficiency must be well developed in order to assimilate large amounts of difficult material under limited time conditions with full comprehension. Such proficiency is much greater than that required for ordinary everyday living. Therefore, every effort should be made to acquire English proficiency prior to entering the university.
Admitted international students whose first language is not English are normally required to take the International Student English Examination (ISE Exam) at the beginning of the first term of study. The examination results determine whether students must take additional English for academic purposes course work.
International students who meet one of the following conditions may be exempt from taking the ISE Exam:
- International students who have completed their entire bachelor’s degree (typically four years) at a regionally accredited university located in the United States or in another country in which English is both the language of instruction and the only official language of the country.
- Applicants to master’s degree programs who have attained an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 90, with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 6.5, with no less than 6 on each band score.
- PhD and undergraduate applicants who have achieved an Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 100 with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or an IELTS score of 7, with no less than 6 on each band score.
USC does not accept “superscores” or TOEFL “MyBest scores.” Some departments may have higher requirements for English proficiency than what is listed above. USC must receive scores electronically from the testing service for them to be considered official. Photocopies or paper copies of scores are not acceptable. Scores must be received no later than the Friday before the classes of their first semester begin. Students should contact the American Language Institute (ALI) Office before the deadline to confirm that their scores have been received.
American Language Institute
Any student not demonstrating adequate English proficiency will be required to enroll in courses at the American Language Institute (ALI) at USC. The ALI provides courses designed to improve an international student’s oral and written communication skills in English. The extent to which a student may be required to take courses at the ALI is determined by the student’s performance on the International Student English Examination (ISE Exam) or, in the case of potential teaching assistants, the ITA Exam.
ALI tuition units are charged at the regular university rate. Entering students who need English language classes should be aware that the ALI course requirements will likely increase the overall cost of their degree program. ALI classes can normally be taken concurrently with a student’s other university classes and must be completed at the earliest opportunity. See here or the ALI website for more information.
All new teaching assistants (TAs) for whom English is a second language must demonstrate their competence in spoken English before assuming classroom or laboratory duties. Normally, new international teaching assistants (ITAs) demonstrate their English proficiency by taking the ITA Exam, administered by the American Language Institute (ALI) located on the USC University Park Campus.
The exam must be taken before assuming classroom or laboratory duties and no later than the first day of classes. The ITA exam is graded on a scale of 1 to 7. Those who achieve a score of 6 or higher are cleared for classroom duties and have no English oral skills requirement. Those who score 5 or 5.5 are cleared for classroom duties, but are required to enroll in an English language course through the ALI while performing their ITA responsibilities. Those who score below 5 on the exam are not cleared for classroom duties. These students are normally required to enroll in an English language course offered by ALI until adequate English proficiency is obtained. For more information, call (213) 740-0079 or visit ALI’s website at ali.usc.edu.
Those ITAs denied clearance for teaching duties may have their offer of graduate assistantship withdrawn or alternative responsibilities assigned. An ITA who is denied clearance to teach should immediately seek assistance from the chair of his or her home department or program director.
USC International Academy
The USC International Academy offers three avenues of study to prepare international students for admission to USC and other U.S. universities through intensive English instruction, test preparation and maximum academic support. Qualified students may also apply for admission with continuing registration requirements to select USC master’s programs through the academy’s Pre-Master’s Program. For further information about admissions, courses and program dates, visit the USC International Academy’s website at international.usc.edu or email email@example.com.