What is IELTS?
The IELTS stands for the International Language Testing System. This is an English language proficiency test that is approved by the Home Office to help UK visa applicants give evidence of their English language capabilities.
Basically, IELTS is a Secure English Language Test (SELT).
What are the different types of IELTS tests?
Which IELTS test you should take depends on what type of UK visa you are getting and the requirements it comes with. It could also depend on if you are coming to study, what requirements does your school have?
Whatever your visa requirements you will need to take either the ‘IELTS for UKVI’ test or the ‘IELTS Life Skills’ test.
For IELTS for UKVI, there are two different modules that you can do. These are Academic or General Training modules and both can be used as proof of English proficiency for studying, working or migrating to the UK.
IELTS for UKVI – Academic
This test will measure whether or not your English language proficiency is going to be good enough for an academic setting. It will evaluate whether or not you are ready to start studying.
This test is for those who are getting visas to come and study in the UK whether at the postgraduate or undergraduate level. This test is also for those seeking professional registration in the UK
IELTS for UKVI – General Training
This test will measure your English language proficiency in an everyday context. The test will reflect both social and workplace occurrences. This is for anyone who needs to prove proficiency for UKVI so that they can migrate or train or study below the degree level in the UK.
IELTS Life Skills
For this test, there are three different levels you could do. These are A1, A2 and B1.
A1 is for people who need to prove their English speaking and listening skills as a relative of someone who has already settled.
A2 is for people who wish to extend a parent or partner visa.
B1 is for those people who are applying for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
These Life Skills tests all correspond to A1, A2 and B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which are guidelines officially recognised by UK Visas and Immigration.
How to book your test.
You can book your IELTS UKVI test online. You will need to provide details that match your identifying documents. This is because you will need to bring in either a valid passport, a valid travel document or a valid biometric residence permit to prove your identity on the day of your test. This documentation must include a photograph of you.
The current rates for the tests are as follows:
- IELTS for UKVI (Academic & General Training) – £200
- IELTS Life Skills (A1, A2 & B1) – £150.
Where can the English language test be taken?
The IELTS can be taken all over the world as it is an internationally recognised way of proving English proficiency. Test dates should be available to you within 28 days of booking your test. You will need to confirm that this test is for your UK visa at the time of your registration.
If the test is for a UK visa application you must sit the test in an approved UKVI location under specific conditions and regulations. The UK Visas and Immigration office will not accept your test results if you did not sit the test under these conditions.
After your test, you should receive an IELTS report that will convey that the test you sat met the requirements and conditions for the ‘IELTS Life Skills’ test or the ‘IELTS for UKVI’.In some locations, you can also sit the test on a computer if needed.
What does the IELTS UKVI test involve?
Both the IELTS for UKVI Academic and General Training tests contain four sections:
- Reading – 60 minutes.
- Writing – 60 minutes.
- Listening – 30 minutes.
- Speaking – 11-14 minutes.
This is different from the IELTS Life Skills test as that only contains speaking and listening. This takes place in a single short session in a face-to-face setting with your examiner and one other person taking the test.
The IELTS Life Skills tests are much shorter. At CEFR Level A1 the test takes 16-18 minutes, Level A2 takes about 20 minutes and Level B1 takes the longest amount of time at 22 minutes.
In these tests, you will be asked to demonstrate that you are capable of having a structured conversation as this shows how well you can listen and respond in colloquial English. This conversation is meant to show that you can cope with everyday English therefore will include generic topics such as weather, work, health, transport and family and friends.
The IELTS tests use a nine-band scoring system to measure English language proficiency and you will receive scores on individual skills as well as an overall score.
What is the minimum IELTS score for a Skilled Worker visa?
Visa applicants must prove that they have evidence that they are proficient at the required CEFR level.
If you have applied for a Skilled Worker visa you will have to go and do an IELTS test for UKVI. Making sure that you take an IELTS for UKVI is extremely important. Although the tests are essentially the same, to be approved by UKVI it has to have been overseen by them.
For a skilled worker visa application you will need to complete B1 IELTS Life Skills with a 4.0 score overall and for each listening, reading, writing and speaking individually.
Can you get a UK Skilled Worker visa without IELTS?
There are some circumstances where you would not need to sit an IELTS to prove that you are proficient in the English language for your Skilled Worker visa. This applies if you are from a country or a territory that mainly speaks English such as:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- the Bahamas
- the British overseas territories
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
You will also not need to prove your English language proficiency as a visa applicant if you are applying to work as a doctor, nurse, midwife or vet. If this is the case you only need to prove that you have passed your relevant professional body’s English proficiency test.
For example, if you are a vet then you will have to show that you passed an English language assessment with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
If you hold a UK Bachelor’s degree, an equivalent qualification or higher, that was studied in English this can also satisfy the English language requirements for your visa application.
If you are applying via the family route you can also be exempt from proving your English proficiency because of one of the following:
- You are 65 or over.
- You have a disability which stops you from being able to meet this requirement.
- You have exceptional circumstances preventing you from meeting this requirement.
To be able to qualify for these exceptional circumstances you must be able to show that you will be unable to learn English before you are set to come to the UK and that it would not be a reasonable expectation to be placed on you. Exemptions will be considered individually.
If you are not sure if you should b exempt or not this list is not the be-all and end-all of exemptions. Reach out for help so that you can have more control over your visa application process.
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