If you’re planning to apply for a UK visa, you may be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency. The UK government has set specific language requirements that must be met to ensure that non-native speakers are able to communicate effectively in English while in the UK. As such, taking an English language test is often a necessary step in the visa application process. In this context, various language proficiency tests are available, including IELTS, PTE, TOEFL, and SELT. These exams are designed to assess your ability to understand, speak, read, and write in English, and provide you with a certification of your language proficiency that can be submitted along with your visa application. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the different types of English language tests available for UK visa applications, their formats, and the language requirements for different types of visas.

The approved test providers are

  1.  Trinity College London 
  2.  Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic 
  3.  International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  4.  Cambridge English Qualifications 
  5.  Occupational English Test (OET)

Types of Visas that require an English Language Test 

The UK operates two different English language tests. Which test you need to take will depend on the type of application you are making.

The following work visa applications will require a comprehensive test covering English reading, writing, speaking and listening ability:

Speaking & listening tests

The following categories require only speaking and listening to be tested:

  • Sportsperson
  • Representative of an Overseas Business
  • Partner
  • Parent
  • Indefinite leave to remain
  • Citizenship – while the Home Office only stipulates speaking and listening skills to be tested for British citizenship applications, though there is also a requirement that the applicant passes a Life in the UK test on British values, traditions, history, government and law.

The level of English language test you will need to pass, known as the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level, will depend on the route you are applying for.

Applicants for ILR or citizenship in the UK are required to prove their knowledge of the English language by obtaining a speaking and listening qualification at the CEF’s B1 level.

Applicants Skilled Worker visas must obtain a B1 level certificate in speaking and listening as well as reading and writing.

Minister of Religion visa applicants are required to obtain a B2 proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Applicants for the Sportsperson visa are required to meet the A1 level in speaking and listening, the lowest CEF level. As of 1 May 2017, ‘Family of Settled Person’ Visas must obtain an A2 level.

In most cases, degree level students attending an approved university are not required to demonstrate any language proficiency to obtain a visa, though the individual university may have their own criteria for admission.

English language test exemptions

There are many exemptions to the English Language Test requirement.

Only applicants above the age of 18 and under the age of 65 are subject to testing.

If an applicant has a degree, masters or PhD taught or researched in English, this will usually exclude them from the requirement.

Nationals from listed countries that predominantly speak English are also exempt. These include:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • Republic of Ireland (for citizenship only)
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago, and
  • USA

If an applicant can supply a doctor’s letter confirming that the person has a long-term, physical or mental condition that prevents them from taking the test they will also be exempt.

For settlement visas, there are further exemptions for any applicant who is:

  • a victim of domestic violence as the partner or spouse of a British citizen;
  • the partner or spouse of a British citizen who has died;
  • an adult, dependent relative of someone who is present and settled in the UK and is a refugee or has humanitarian protection;
  • a refugee living in the UK;
  • a person with discretionary leave;
  • a person with humanitarian protection;
  • a person with leave to reside in the UK as a retired person of independent means;
  • a Commonwealth citizen on discharge from HM Forces;
  • a highly skilled migrant applying under the terms of the highly skilled migrant program (HSMP); or
  • someone in exceptional circumstances.

Exceptions to the English language Test Requirement 

The only exceptions to the English language test requirement are for applicants who have obtained a degree from a UK higher education institution which was taught and assessed in English, or those who can provide evidence of a valid score from the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Additionally, if an applicant is under 18 years of age they are not required to take the test.

Types of English language tests

The most common English language tests accepted for UK visas are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), PTE (Pearson Test of English), and Trinity College London ISE (Integrated Skills in English). Each of these tests is designed to assess different aspects of your language skills, so it is important to choose the test that is best suited to your individual needs. 

The IELTS exam is the most popular English language test for UK visas and evaluates your listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. It consists of four sections: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. You will receive a score between 0 and 9 on each section, with 9 being the highest score possible. 

The TOEFL exam is designed to measure your ability to use and understand English in an academic setting. It consists of four sections: Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing. Scores range from 0 to 120 points. 

The PTE exam is used to evaluate your English language ability in the context of real-life settings. It consists of three sections: Speaking & Writing, Reading, and Listening. Your overall score will be reported on a scale of 10-90 points.

Trinity College London’s ISE (Integrated Skills in English) exam assesses all four core language skills: Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. Your results will be reported on a scale from A1 to C2, with A1 being the lowest level and C2 the highest level. 

In summary, there are four types of English language tests accepted for UK visas: IELTS, TOEFL, PTE, and Trinity College London ISE. Each test has its own unique format and evaluates your language skills in different ways. Choosing the right test for your application is essential to ensuring that you have the best chance of success.

Recognition of test results by UK government 

Test results from any of the approved test providers are recognised by the UK government for all visa applications. The score you receive on your test will determine if you meet the minimum requirement for entry into the UK. The minimum requirement is CEFR B1 for most applications, but this can vary depending on the visa type.

If you are in the UK

Finding an approved test centre

If you are in the UK and applying for a UK visa, you need to take an English language test at an approved test centre. The list of approved test centres is available on the Home Office website. You can also contact the test centre directly to find out more information about their testing services.

Booking an English language test

Once you have identified an approved test centre, you can book your English language test online or by phone. When booking your test, you will be asked to provide your name, address and contact information. You will also need to pay the required fee.

Proving your identity on the day of the test

When attending your English language test, you must bring a valid form of identification such as a passport or driver’s licence. It is important that you arrive on time with all required documents and arrive prepared for the test. Failure to do so may result in your test being cancelled or delayed.

 If you are outside of the UK

Finding an approved test centre: If you are applying for a UK visa from outside the UK, you will need to take your English language test at an approved test centre. You can find out more information about approved test centres in your country on the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) website. 

Booking an English language test

Once you have found an approved test centre, you can book a test date. To book a test date, you will need to contact the test centre directly and let them know what kind of visa you are applying for, as well as providing the necessary personal details.

Proving your identity on the day of the test

On the day of the test, it is essential that you bring acceptable identification documents with you in order to prove your identity. The acceptable forms of ID are listed on the UKVI website and must be originals, not photocopies. Examples of acceptable ID include a valid passport or national identity card.

Test Format

The English language test for UK visa applicants consists of four parts: Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking. 

Listening: The listening section will take approximately 45 minutes to complete. You will be presented with an audio clip of a conversation and must answer 10 multiple-choice questions about the content. 

Reading: The reading section will take around 60 minutes to finish. You will be given three texts and asked 40 multiple-choice questions based on the content.

Writing: The writing section takes up to 60 minutes to complete. You will be presented with a task such as an essay or letter, and must answer it in writing.

Speaking: The speaking section is completed in person with an examiner and will last for up to 11 minutes. You will be asked a variety of questions related to your personal experiences, and will be expected to give a full response. 

Timing and length of each section:

Listening: 45 minutes

Reading: 60 minutes

Writing: 60 minutes

Speaking: 11 minutes 

Types of questions and tasks: 

Listening: 10 multiple-choice questions 

Reading: 40 multiple-choice questions 

Writing: Essay or letter 

Speaking: Questions related to personal experiences

Test Results

After taking an English language test, you will receive a score report within five to seven days. The score report will show a breakdown of the four sections (reading, writing, speaking and listening) as well as your overall score. The scores are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). 

The minimum scores required for UK visa applications are as follows:

  1.  A-level: B2
  2.  GCSE/IGCSE: 4
  3.  International English Language Testing System (IELTS): 4.0 or higher
  4.  Pearson Test of English (PTE): 32 or higher
  5.  Trinity Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE II with a Pass at Level 3 in all four components 

The validity period for test results varies depending on the type of test taken: 

  1.  IELTS and PTE Academic results are valid for two years
  2.  ISE results are valid for three years
  3.  All other tests are valid for one year.

 Test Preparation

Preparing for an English language test can seem daunting, but it is possible to do so effectively with the right materials and strategies. It is important to give yourself enough time to prepare, as this can significantly improve your chances of success. 

Study Materials and Resources

The best way to prepare for an English language test is to familiarise yourself with the material that will be tested on. Depending on the type of English language test you are taking, there may be a specific study guide or handbook that you can use. These are often available from the test provider, and can help you become more confident in the material you will be tested on. Additionally, there are many online resources available to help you brush up on your English language skills. 

Practice Tests and Mock Exams

Practice tests and mock exams are great ways to prepare for an English language test. These tests help familiarise you with the types of questions that are likely to be asked in the real exam. Additionally, taking practice tests gives you a better sense of how much time you should spend on each question and how quickly you need to answer them. Many test providers offer free practice tests, so make sure to take advantage of these when preparing for your English language test.

Test-Taking Strategies and Tips

When taking an English language test, it is important to have a strategy for tackling the questions. Make sure you read all the instructions carefully before beginning the test, and pay attention to the amount of time given for each question. Additionally, try to focus on understanding the questions rather than memorising answers, as this will help ensure that you are properly prepared for the test. Finally, remember to take regular breaks throughout the test to keep your energy levels up and stay focused on the task at hand. 

With the right preparation, you can feel confident when it comes time to take an English language test. By studying relevant material, taking practice tests, and following effective test-taking strategies and tips, you can maximise your chances of success.

Proving your identity on the day of the test

When taking an English language test for UK visa, it is important to prove your identity on the day of the test. You must provide one original, valid and current piece of identification which must include a photograph. If the name on the identification document does not match the name you used to book the test, then you must also present an additional document which shows evidence of a change of name. Acceptable documents for identity confirmation include a passport, driving licence, or other national ID card. 

The identification document must be in date and issued by an official government body. The document should include your name, a recent photograph, signature and either the document’s expiration date or your date of birth. When presenting this document, the name and photograph must be clearly visible. If the photo is faded or blurred, you may need to present an alternative document. 

All documents presented will be inspected by the test centre before the test begins. You will be required to present the original documents and a copy may be taken and retained for our records. If you cannot present valid documentation on the day of the test, you may be refused entry into the test centre and your fee will not be refunded.

After the test

Once you have completed your English language test, you will receive your results within one week. You will need to provide a copy of your test results along with your visa application. Make sure you keep the original certificate in a safe place, as you may be asked to produce it later. 

Depending on your visa type, you may have to take additional language tests or have an interview with a UKVI official to assess your language ability. 

The UKVI may also request that you attend a speaking and listening test for your visa application, even if you have already passed an approved English language test.

It is important to remember that passing a language test does not guarantee that you will receive a visa – other factors, such as the purpose of your visit and financial means, are taken into account as part of the visa application process.

Cost  for  English language test

If you are applying for a visa to the UK, then you will be required to take an English language test as part of your application. The cost of the test depends on the type of test and the test provider. 

The most popular English language tests are the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and the Trinity SELT (Secure English Language Test). Both of these tests have fees associated with them. 

For the IELTS, the fees range from £150 – £200 depending on which format you choose. The same applies for the Trinity SELT test which has a fee of £175. 

There are other tests available, such as the PTE Academic, which have different costs. The cost of this test ranges from £160- £220 depending on the format. 

When choosing an English language test, it is important to consider the cost as well as the time commitment and the difficulty level of the test. Make sure to research all of your options before making your decision.

How we can help

CGM App is an end-to-end immigration app, designed to make immigration and global mobility seamless. It is designed specifically for expats, sponsoring companies, and immigration consultants, globally.

Visit cgmpartners.org.uk/register for more information.


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