Some of the most popular international study destinations are the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Seeing as English is the most widely-spoken language and medium of instruction in most universities in these countries, it is of utmost importance that potential international students are fluent in both spoken and written English. If you only have a basic working knowledge of English or if you need to brush up on your English language skills, don't worry! SchoolApply has partnered with various Pathway providers worldwide that support international students in overcoming the English language barrier before they start their university studies.


Being fluent in English opens a world of career opportunities in countries, businesses and industries around the globe, including careers in international affairs, global trade, diplomacy, commerce and tourism.

Despite advances in tools that translate languages, English also remains the undisputed language of the online world. From software and apps to social media platforms and peer-to-peer review sites, English serves as the main language in which people communicate online. Without a good understanding of this language, you are sure to be left behind in the tech-driven world.

English proficiency tests

Another reason you should brush up on your language skills is because, even if universities don’t conduct an entrance exam, you can be sure that as a non-native English speaker you will be required to sit for an English proficiency test of some sort. IELTS v TOEFL: which one should you take?

Two of the most common English proficiency tests are, the TOEFL: the Test of English as a Foreign Language; and IELTS: the International English Language Testing System.

The TOEFL consists of four sections and is scored on a 0-120 point scale. The average score required by universities in the United States is approximately 80 points. The IELTS exam also contains four sections and is scored on a band system, with one band meaning the user has no knowledge of English, whereas 9 bands imply that the person is an expert in the language. The average band requirement for universities in the United Kingdom is 5.5 to 6 out of 9, in all the four modules as well as the overall score. Both exams test a student’s ability in reading, speaking, listening and writing.

It’s one thing to earn a good score on one of these two exams for non-native English speakers, but it’s another thing to be able to navigate life and studies at a university in a country where English is the main language. You will have to speak up in classes, maybe even work as part of a team, and you will want to make friends with fellow classmates during social activities. Not only is your proficiency in English necessary for your academic success, but it’s a key element in getting settled in your new environment when you study abroad.

SchoolApply advisors will guide you on the next steps you need to take to better your English language skills

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Enroll in a Pathway Program

Pathway Programs, also known as English Preparation Programs, are specialized courses that aim to teach the language skills necessary to successfully study a degree course and to improve overall language skills too. This program offers you a chance to become immersed in written and spoken academic English before you actually start your Bachelor’s Degree studies. The teaching will be done through various methods. During the course, you may learn seminar skills, essay writing and oral presentation skills. You will also brush up on your note-taking, research strategies and computer skills. Depending on the course, there may also be a section offering an introduction into local university life. These courses not only aim to make you feel more confident in your academic ability, but also more comfortable in your new academic surroundings and culture. You’ll be taught the art of critical thinking and writing English in an academic style, ensuring that you use sources and reference them properly. Quick and efficient note-taking is also key, as this is a vital skill to master in the university environment.

When you enroll in an English Preparation Program, you’ll soon notice improved reading speed and accuracy. Plus, you can put your newfound language skills to the test by practicing speaking English in front of an audience in a formal situation – a very important skill for achieving success in an academic environment.

Learning the ins and outs of academic life and immersing yourself in university-level English language before actually starting your bachelors studies abroad will be hugely beneficial. Thanks to the course, you will have a much easier time kicking off your studies in September because you will already be familiar with academic language, the teaching methods, and the school setting itself. This will undoubtedly pave the way to greater success during your university studies.

If you want to apply for a preparatory English course before starting your studies abroad in September, keep in mind that the application deadlines for these programs are in May and June. You can usually submit an application via the university’s website as long as you pay the application fee (up to $80). Depending on the institution, you may need an offer of complete or conditional acceptance into the same university’s Bachelor’s Degree program for the following semester. Transcripts, a personal essay and your previous TOEFL or IELTS scores might also be requested. If you get accepted to the pre-sessional English Pathway Program, you can generally just apply for one student visa that covers your English course as well as your future studies abroad.

Our expert advisors can walk you through the application process and offer additional insight regarding Pathway Programs

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Tips to improving your English language skills

There are four facets of learning or mastering a language: speaking, writing, reading and being able to listen and understand when the language is being spoken.

Here are a few ways in which you can improve your language skills before you take off for your studies abroad.

  • Watch movies, shows or the news in English, preferably with subtitles. This is a great way to increase your vocabulary and learn English grammar, correct pronunciation of words and the correct usage of certain words.
  • Read a good book or articles in a newspaper or magazine (printed in English, of course) for one hour per day. Not only will this help you relax, it will also improve your language. Keep a dictionary handy in order to look up words that you don’t understand and write them down in a book with the definition. Before your hour is over, take a couple of minutes to go through the new words and memorize them. Lastly, try to use them in conversations during the day to help you remember them.
  • Join a group such as TOASTMASTERS where you can spend time talking in English. TOASTMASTERS is an international non-profit organization that will not only improve English skills, but also build your self-confidence in public speaking. If there isn't a TOASTMASTERS close to you, find an English native and ask them to help you. Spend time talking to them and ask them to correct you where you use the language incorrectly. Who said you can’t have fun while learning a new skill!
  • Start writing down your thoughts in English, be it writing about your day or about a specific topic. This does not need to be a long essay, just something so that you can try your hand at writing. Once you are done, run the Microsoft Office spell checker or use a program such as Ginger or Grammarly to look for spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Take note of the errors and recurring themes.
  • Practice makes perfect: you won’t progress unless you’re being consistent in your attempts. Daily actions such as speaking to your family and close friends in English or going down to your local coffee place or favorite restaurant and practicing ordering food in English or even writing down your thoughts and daily occurrences can go a long way.

So long as you’re making small conscious and consistent efforts, your living and studying experience in an English speaking country will be quite enjoyable. If you need additional support with improving your English skills, consider enrolling in one of the English language Pathway Programs that you can apply for only with SchoolApply.