English requirements and language tests

English language requirements for visa applications

A number of visa classes require proof that an applicant meets certain minimum standards of English language proficiency. Furthermore, in points-tested visa classes, the applicant’s individual level of English proficiency has a major impact on the overall points they obtain and consequently on their chances of a successful visa application. In addition, some skills assessments also require proof of a defined minimum standard of English. The same applies to most educational institutions and universities.

This proof of sufficient English language proficiency is normally provided by taking an English language test which assesses the applicant’s ability to read, listen, write, and speak English. The Australian Department of Home Affairs currently recognises the following English language tests for Australian visa purposes:
folgenden Sprachtests an:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS): Academic and General
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • Occupational English Test (OET)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT)
  • CAE Cambridge Test: Certificate in Advanced English

All of these English language tests can be taken at a variety of test centres worldwide. The various centres and test dates can be checked on the websites of the respective providers and examination dates can be booked online.

Please note that an English language test for an Australian visa must be up to date and will not be recognised if it dates back several years. If you have already completed one of these language tests in the past, you should check whether your test will be recognised for your visa application.

Computer based English Language Test for Migration

English language tests for skills assessment, other professional registration requirements, and study

If proof of your English language level is required for a skills assessment or for registration purposes for a profession, you should check in advance which English tests will be accepted by the relevant Australian authorities and institutions.

The same applies to educational institutions such as universities and colleges. It is possible that not all of the English language tests suitable for visa applications are recognised by other institutions. It is also important to know whether a language test focusing on English for academic purposes, such as the IELTS Academic test or the PTE Academic test, is required.

English language proficiency level and test structure

The English language proficiency levels relevant for a visa application range from functional English to superior English. The two highest levels, proficient English and superior English, are only relevant for Australian point-tested Skilled visas and Business visas. A test score equivalent to these levels can help by increasing the total amount of points in the points test for your visa application. All recognised tests consist of four parts: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. A score is given for each of these test components, to give an overall test score. For visa purposes, it is necessary to achieve a minimum score in each of the test components. In skills assessments, a certain overall score and minimum results per sub-test are often required to fulfil the respective minimum standards. The same applies to university applications.

The following table gives an overview of the results required in the recognised language tests for the various visa classifications. For comparison purposes, we have included the corresponding levels according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Paper based English Language Test for Immigration
Proficiency level for visa purposes:SuperiorProficientCompetentVocationalFunctional
Language test
IELTSListening 8.07.06.05.04.5 (average score)
Reading8.07.06.05.0
Writing8.07.06.05.0
Speaking8.07.06.05.0
PTE AcademicListening 7965503630 (average score)
Reading79655036
Writing79655036
Speaking79655036
TOEFL iBTListening 282412432 (total score)
Reading2924134
Writing30272114
Speaking26231814
Cambridge English Advanced C1Listening 200185169154147 (total score)
Reading200185169154
Writing200185169154
Speaking200185169154
OETListening ABBBn/a
ReadingABBB
WritingABBB
SpeakingABBB
Corresponding level according to CEFR C1 to C2C1B2B1A2 to B1
Proficiency levelSuperiorProficientCompetentVocationalFunctional
Language test
IELTS
Listening 8.07.06.05.04.5 (average score)
Reading8.07.06.05.0
Writing8.07.06.05.0
Speaking8.07.06.05.0
PTE Academic
Listening 7965503630 (average score)
Reading79655036
Writing79655036
Speaking79655036
TOEFL iBT
Listening 282412432 (total score)
Reading2924134
Writing30272114
Speaking26231814
Cambridge English Advanced C1
Listening 200185169154147 (total score)
Reading200185169154
Writing200185169154
Speaking200185169154
OET
Listening ABBBn/a
ReadingABBB
WritingABBB
SpeakingABBB
Corresponding levels according to CEFR
C1 to C2C1B2B1A2 to B1

Overview of English language tests accepted for Australian visa applications

IELTS

The IELTS test is arguably the most widespread and popular test worldwide for proof of English language proficiency. The IELTS test is offered in a general and academic version. For visa purposes, both tests are recognised, but in the context of skills assessments, for a number of professions the academic version of the IELTS is necessary. For university admittance, only the academic version is recognised.

One disadvantage of the IELTS test is that it is still paper-based in most test centres. Only a few countries have test centres offering a computer-based IELTS version. The speaking sub-test is in any case taken in the form of an interview with an IELTS examiner.

While the General IELTS test focuses on general language skills in a home and work environment, the IELTS Academic is more geared towards the academic environment.

The total test duration is around three hours. The speaking sub-test can be taken either on the same day or on a separate date. The potential score ranges from one to nine, with nine representing the best possible outcome.

The results of the computer-based variant are generally readily available, whereas results of the paper-based version take longer to correct.

The test can be taken in more than 1,100 test centres worldwide and is offered throughout the year.

PTE Academic

The PTE Academic is a fully computer-based test. In this version, the speaking sub-test is not taken by a human examiner. Instead, you speak into a microphone connected to the test computer, which will be assessed by a computer algorithm. Whether you prefer to talk to a computer anonymously or talk to a real person is a personal choice. The entire test lasts three hours.Test scores range from 10 to 90 points.

The advantage of the PTE Academic is undoubtedly that, due to the complete assessment via computer algorithm, the test results are available very quickly, usually the following day.

This test is offered in more than 250 test centres throughout the year.

OET

The OET Test is an English test aimed at healthcare professionals and is specifically designed to determine how well a candidate’s language skills meet the requirements of the healthcare environment. The test is recognised by regulatory healthcare bodies and councils but is also valid for general visa purposes.

The possible test score for the OET ranges from A to E. An A score represents the best possible result, whereas E means an insufficient English language level. Each test component is assigned its own rating.

These tests are conducted 12 times a year in around 100 test centres spread over 40 countries.

TOEFL iBT

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. The TOEFL internet-Based Test (iBT) is also a widely used English language test aimed at the academic environment. The test is computer-based. Also, for the speaking sub-test, a text must be spoken via a microphone into the computer. This is recorded digitally and later assessed by several TOEFL examiners.

Each of the four test components can yield up to 30 points. The total overall score is a maximum of 120 points. The test duration is around 2.5 hours.

The TOEFL iBT has over 50 test dates per year at more than 4,500 test centres worldwide.

CAE Cambridge Test / C1 Advanced

The Cambridge C1 Certificate, formerly called Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), is a proof of proficiency in the English language according to the C1 competence level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEPR). The possible test result comprises language levels from B2 to C2.

A maximum of 210 points can be achieved, with at least 160 points required in order to pass. The test is offered on a computer and paper basis and lasts around four hours.

For this test, 33 exam dates are available annually in 1,300 examination centres spread over 113 countries.

Tips for preparing for an English language test

What is the best way to prepare for an English language test? Obviously, this depends on the individual’s learning methods and language skills. In all cases, though, it is important to familiarise oneself with the structure, task types, and peculiarities of the chosen test. In addition, research in advance how the scoring is applied in the sub-tests and what standards are used. For example, in the speaking section of the PTE Academic, emphasis is placed on adhering to the given time rather than on the complexity of the grammar used, while the IELTS Academic calls for the use of advanced grammar to achieve higher test results.

For all of the tests mentioned here, there is a multitude of textbooks and other learning materials available that provide sample exercises and test strategies. In addition, there is a huge variety of resources on the Internet for the different tests. Indeed, the test providers themselves often provide examples online, and even offer practice tests for an initial assessment. In addition, there are a number of specialised learning providers offering online courses. Some of these are free of charge. YouTube is also a great resource when it comes to preparing for a language test, with a wealth of professionally produced videos covering different aspects of learning English in general, and specific tests. Furthermore, there are platforms for taking lessons with professional English teachers via Skype. This option not only gives you the opportunity to prepare for the speaking component of an English language test, but many of these online teachers are specialised in preparing English language learners specifically for the above-mentioned tests. They thus assist you in preparing for all test components (reading, listening, writing, and speaking). These platforms are often a cheaper and more flexible alternative to language schools, but you still receive individualised feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as an assessment of your current language level with respect to the language test you are aiming for.

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