Degree Programs & Courses Language Courses

Information about TOEFL and IELTS

If you decide to study abroad, and if the language used at your exchange university is English, then there is a good chance that you will have to take either the TOEFL or IELTS to prove that your English is good enough.  Please contact your chosen university to find out if they require an English test and the pass score they request.

If your chosen university is the University of Bern, please contact Admissions.

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language, and is a US-based test designed to measure people's skill in reading, listening, speaking and writing English in university situations. IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and is the British counterpart of the TOEFL. Most North American universities require foreign students to take the TOEFL when they apply for admission, but now many universities and professional bodies accept IELTS scores as well. Universities in other countries may require you to take one of the two tests.

It may be that your exchange university suggests or requests that you send a letter from an English language lecturer to attest to your English proficiency. Please note: Academic English Services do not provide a testing service for students. Students who have successfully completed one of our courses can show which English courses they have attended by printing out their study sheet (Studienblatt) in KSL/CTS.

What score do I need?

The IELTS and TOEFL are not tests that you can pass or fail; they are instruments that measure your skill in English and give you a score that represents a level of competence. The university to which you want to apply will probably require you to achieve a minimum test score. The level required depends on the field of study. An IELTS score of 6.5 (or TOEFL 92) may be good enough for a student in the natural sciences, but a law student will probably be required to get a higher score. Only the university you want to apply to can tell you what score is required.

A comparison of CEF levels and scores for various exams is available at the bottom of this web page.

TOEFL exam preparation at the University of Bern

Academic English Services run an exam preparation course for the TOEFL test. The course is aimed at students who are at an upper-intermediate/advanced level of competence in English and takes place once a year, usually in an autumn/fall semester. Participation is free of charge to bachelor, master and doctoral students matriculated to study for a full degree at the University of Bern. The course DOES NOT replace the official TOEFL examination. It is offered to help students prepare for the official TOEFL examination.

Please note that the TOEFL Exam Preparation course is not intended to be a general English course. It is an exam preparation course. Students who would like to improve their overall English skills should take a look at the English for University Studies courses at intermediate (B1), upper-intermediate (B2) and advanced levels (C1).

The TOEFL Exam Preparation Course provides guidance and practice in all four academic English skills assessed by the TOEFL test: reading, listening, speaking, and writing. 

After the course, students should be able to:

  • Fully understand how to take the official TOEFL exam and be able to successfully complete each section of the exam on time;
  • Use proper style and vocabulary in academic speaking and writing;
  • Evaluate their own needs for further development with respect to TOEFL.

Registration for the official TOEFL test is not included as part of the University of Bern's course. The actual test can only be taken at one of the official test centers.  A list of test centers can be found on the TOEFL website (link provided below). 

How do I prepare for a TOEFL or IELTS test? 

If you are already taking an English course, you are preparing for the TOEFL or IELTS. Most of the English courses taught at Academic English Services are a good preparation for these tests.

Other ways to prepare for the TOEFL test are to attend the University of Bern's TOEFL Exam Preparation Course or to practice online. Official practice tests for the TOEFL iBT® test, using authentic past test questions from ETS, the maker of the TOEFL® test, are available on the TOEFL website (see link below).

The British Council Switzerland hold IELTS preparation courses in both Bern and in Zurich. The one day IELTS preparation course is from 10:00 to 17:00 on a Saturday (CHF 180, October 2019). An intensive preparation course takes place from 17:00 to 20:15 and costs CHF 135.  An IELTS preparation for writing course takes place from 17:00 to 20:15 on a weekday and costs CHF 135 (October 2019). You can also prepare for IELTS with the FREE online practice tests and answers provided by the British Council. The tests can be used to carry out timed practice sessions and to develop good test technique.

When, where and how can I take the official TOEFL test?

The official TOEFL test is not given in Bern; however, you can take it in other Swiss cities (e.g. Geneva, Lausanne, St. Gallen and Zurich). You can register for the test and check for available test dates on the official TOEFL website.

When, where and how can I take the IELTS?

The British Council offer a range of convenient IELTS test dates in six official test center locations across Switzerland: Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano and Zurich. You can choose between paper-based or computer-delivered IELTS tests, both of which are given at one of the official test centers. Register online by contacting the British Council Switzerland. The fee for a computer delivered IELTS Academic or General Training test is CHF 388. The fee for a paper based IELTS Academic or General Training test is CHF 369.

Make sure you find the right IELTS test for your needs

The British Council offer an IELTS Academic test, which is the test you need to take if you want to study at either undergraduate or postgraduate level, or if you want to work in a professional organization in an English speaking country. Take the IELTS General Training test to study at below degree level or to work in an English speaking country. If you are a student, please check which test you should take before booking.