Most foreign students planning to do tertiary academic study at universities in English-speaking countries are keenly aware of English-language-skills entry requirements and the various ways they are tested, such as TOEFL and IELTS. What is less well known is that the available ways of improving your English for study abroad do not stop in your country of origin.
Because most universities are eager to admit foreign students for whom English is a second language, many offer programmes to bolster foreign students’ English skills after they have arrived at their university of choice as well. In fact, many universities will at least temporarily waive the normally requisite TOEFL or IELTS scores for students who sign up for English-language instruction and training courses at the university after they have been accepted.
Typically, such programmes take place in the period before formal tertiary study begins. Commonly, there are summer courses that provide foreign students with intensive English-language “laboratory" courses and programmes, to bring those students’ English skills up to the level they will need them to be to study competitively. Sometimes, whole-year English-immersion courses are available to meet the same goal. Additionally, many universities now offer night and weekend courses in English (in all the skill areas, but in particular academic writing) for students whose language skills are nearly competitive but who still need some specialised work to hone specific skills.
So, do not assume that you must bring your English skills to the point where they are fully competitive with native students before you leave your home country. Any work you do there will of course be invaluable, and save you time and money abroad. But now most universities who cater to foreign students offer a range of English-improvement courses and programmes available to foreign students after they have arrived in the country in which they plan to pursue their advanced degrees. Sometimes the programmes are administered before the regular period of instruction in the students chosen field of study. However, it is usually possible for foreign students to continue to improve their English-language skills through organised courses even after they have begun studying in their academic field of choice.
Hugh Nelson is an e-learning specialist who has worked in the education industry for more than 10 years. He currently lives in Hong Kong and is a director of UniRoute, a company that runs educational websites helping students prepare and successfully apply for post-graduate studies abroad.
University Preparation I