English Proficiency for J-1 Scholars

Meeting the English Language Proficiency Requirement

J-1 Exchange Visitor visa applicants may demonstrate their English proficiency using the options described below. EPPIC (English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center) works with the J-1 Scholars Advising Office to verify that international exchange visitors meet the requirements for English proficiency.

If you are a J-1 applicant, please choose one of the options below to fulfill the English language proficiency requirement. For Options 1, 2 and 3, relevant documentation can be posted directly to iStart.  To pursue Option 4, the Language Proficiency Interview, please visit the "Language Proficiency Interview" information page by clicking here.

Option 1: Evidence of citizenship in a country whose official language is English.

Option 2: Evidence of a degree (B.A., B.S., MA, or Ph.D) earned from an English-medium institution of higher education 
  • Applicants must provide a transcript or diploma from an internationally-recognized institution of higher education indicating that a degree program was completed in English.  For institutions located outside the U.S., the transcript—or an accompanying letter from the institution’s registrar—should confirm English as the primary language of instruction for the degree program completed.

Option 3:  Evidence of minimum acceptable scores on an internationally-recognized test of English
  • Applicants must send test results from one of the tests below to Penn State’s EPPIC program for verification and certification of oral proficiency in English. Test scores must be from the past two years.

  • Test scores accepted include: 


Acceptable Score 

ACTFL OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) 

Intermediate High 

CPE (Cambridge English:  Proficiency) 

Level C1 

CAE (Cambridge English: Advanced) 

Grade C 

IELTS (International English Language Testing System)

6.5 overall band, minimum 6 speaking

TOEFL iBT (Internet-based Test) 

80 cumulative, minimum 18 speaking 

Option 4:  A passing proficiency rating on Penn State’s Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) 
  • J-1 Exchange scholar applicants may demonstrate English oral proficiency through a Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) conducted via Skype by Penn State’s English for Professional Purposes Intercultural Center (EPPIC).  Scholars receive a Language Proficiency Interview score within five (5) business days of completing the interview (not including Saturdays & Sundays).

  • Should an applicant request to schedule a second Language Proficiency Interview, twenty (20) business days (not including Saturdays & Sundays) must pass between the first and second interview.  Scholars may schedule a maximum of three (3) LPIs per 12 month period.

  • To schedule an on-line Language Proficiency Interview, please visit the Language Proficiency Interview page by clicking here.
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