IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is popular worldwide with speakers of English as a second language as proof of their proficiency. IELTS is jointly owned and managed by the British Council, Cambridge English Language Assessment and IDP Education Australia. IELTS is designed to test the language ability of people who want to study or work where English is used as the language of communication. Over 2.5 million tests are taken each year.
Whether you are applying for study, work or a visa, the IELTS examination is the same in terms of content, examiners, format, level of difficulty and scoring. If your test results are not satisfactory, there is no limit on when and how often you can retake it, but it is advisable to take some time and study more before your next attempt. In most countries, test centres offer preparatory courses and language classes, but you can also find online learning resources that will help you refresh your knowledge and explain how best to prepare for the exam.
The Academic IELTS is required for university or college admission, while the General Training IELTS is intended for career and immigration purposes. The IELTS Life Skills is a new UK government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) to support your UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) application.
IELTS for Study
If you are interested in studying abroad, remember that many universities worldwide and all universities and colleges in the UK accept IELTS test results. Tier 4 student visa applicants can apply to universities in the UK with an IELTS result from any of the 1,000 IELTS test locations worldwide unless the institution has additional requirements. Some universities act as local agents on behalf of the British Council, ensuring the organisation and delivery of the IELTS examinations.
If you are considering an undergraduate or postgraduate degree programme, you should take the Academic IELTS test. The General Training IELTS test is sufficient for programmes which do not award a degree. Find your chosen college or university and check the version of IELTS that is right for you.
As a future international student, you will need to demonstrate that you are qualified and can successfully complete a degree programme taught in English. You will, therefore, need higher IELTS scores to enrol in advanced degree programmes such as Masters or PhDs are.
IELTS for Work
Providing proof of your language proficiency is an important step in obtaining a visa so that you can work abroad. Language skills are key to career success and are considered a valuable asset in addition to all the other requirements of any job. If you are a work visa applicant, you must achieve either ‘competent’ English or ‘vocational’ English language skills, meaning you will have to be prepared for more than basic conversational English.
- In the UK, applicants must score at least 6.5 on each of the four components of the test (Reading, Speaking, Listening and Writing).
- For working in Australia, a test score of 5 is considered to be ’vocational English’ level. A band score of 6 means that the applicant is a ’competent English’ speaker.
- In New Zealand, work permit applicants must gain an overall band score of 4 or higher in the IELTS General or Academic module. They may also provide additional evidence of their English languages abilities, such as information about countries they have lived in, their current country of residence or their family’s knowledge of English.
- In Canada, applicants should check directly with the organisation they want to apply to for the IELTS score requirements. Employers and educational institutions generally set their own language requirements.
In all these countries, you should take into consideration that minimum score requirements vary depending on your chosen occupation. For some professions, applicants must achieve a minimum of 6 in each of the testing modules, whereas for teachers, for example, a minimum score of 7 is required.
IELTS for Immigration
Government agencies use the IELTS exam as part their applications processes to obtain citizenship or the right to permanent residence. They consider language proficiency to be strongly related to people’s ability to integrate into the community and the workplace. The IELTS exam is accepted by immigration authorities and continues to play an important role in using language assessment as a mean to control migration numbers.
A new UK-government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT) has been introduced as part of the visa application process. The test is known as IELTS Life Skills or ‘IELTS for UKVI’. This means that IELTS can be used to prove your English language abilities in support of a UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) application. The IELTS Life Skills test requires you to demonstrate your speaking and listening skills only at level A1 or B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). At the end of the exam, you will receive a pass/fail result rather than band scores.
- Immigration to New Zealand requires an IELTS overall score of 6.5 in either the General Training or Academic IELTS modules. This is mandatory for a visa application.
- Canada accepts IELTS, but you will also have to achieve the Canadian Language Benchmarks standard.
- Australia recognises both Vocational and Competent English by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Check with government agencies or institutions in these countries for specific language requirements and scores regarding immigration.