How to Get into a University Preparation Course? Requirements for International Students

Preparation courses aim to provide future students with the academic background necessary to succeed in higher education degree courses such as Bachelors and Masters at a college or university abroad.

These pathway programmes are dedicated either to students who don’t fulfil the requirements for university entrance through their qualifications, or to adult learners who have been out of their academic studies for a longer period. Find out what are the benefits of taking a preparation course, also known as a pathway programme, and learn how you can meet the entry requirements.

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What to expect from an international foundation programme?

  1. The number of disciplines students attending a foundation degree can participate in is different depending on each foundation degree, and optional courses are also recommended. Generally, higher education institutions focus more on academic study and communication skills.
  2. Most preparation courses for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees combine teaching classes with a final exam. Lessons include tests, written assignments, oral presentations, and lab, or field trip reports.
  3. Apart from foundation programmes, some universities will make it easier for students to integrate into the university community. The institutions will offer access to various optional courses and career advice to assist students in making informed decisions about undergraduate degree choices.
  4. Undergraduate pathway programmes can be completed in 1 to 3 semesters – or between 4 and 12 months (sometimes even longer). Students will become familiar with the university level expectations, they will understand the learning style and build relationships with their peers.
  5. Successful completion of preparation courses will allow students to transfer to the first year of an undergraduate or graduate degree. Some institutions allow applicants to enrol directly as a second- semester student after completing an international foundation programme, but this is not guaranteed.
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What are the English language requirements for a foundation degree?

Higher education institutions need to make sure that your English language skills are up to the level demanded by university studies. All international students who want to sign up for a preparation course taught in English are required to prove sufficient English language proficiency.

IELTS or TOEFL preparation are the most commonly accepted English language tests, but other options may also be offered (for example PTE-Pearson Test of English or Cambridge). Usually, the preferred English level varies depending on the degree course students apply for. According to a recent research study made by StudyPortals, most universities worldwide accept:

  • Minimum overall IELTS score of 5.0 - 33.56% of preparation courses require this band score.
  • The most common general accepted TOEFL score is an average of IBT 71 or around 530 for the paper-based test.

Preparation courses for Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees are suitable for a wide range of abilities in spoken or written English and include interactive learning, self-study, assignments, projects and online activities.

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Exceptions from English language tests

The following candidates may be exempt from the English language requirement:

  1. Students who have completed their previous education in English, depending on the nationality or the country where their previous qualifications were completed. The prerequisite condition is to provide a statement or certificate issued by the Registrar (or equivalent) of that institution confirming this.
  2. Residents of any English speaking country; applicants will need to provide proof of residency with their application for admission. It is always best to check with the Admissions Office of the institution you're applying to.
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Check out English language schools worldwide that are great for preparing for English university admission exams.

Other foundation requirements for international students

Each higher education institution has its own set of requirements when it comes to enrolling for a preparation course abroad. Students should have their overseas qualification approved for university admission.

Here is a list of the most common entry requirements for a foundation degree:

  • International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma (required subjects vary depending on the programme students are applying for) or an Advanced Placement (AP) course
  • Official academic transcripts for the last four years of high school.
  • Some institutions may require in addition a personal interview before enrolment.

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