Working in the UK

IELTS for UKVI (Test Guide)

If you are looking to apply for a UK visa, you may be required by the Home Office to prove your knowledge of the English language by way of a government-approved test, known as a secure English language test (SELT) from an approved provider.

The following guide looks at the International English Language Testing System (IELTS for UKVI), among other test providers, in the context of UK immigration visa applications, with information on who will be required to take an approved test and how to book a test.

IELTS for UKVI

Table of Contents

COVID-19 update 

Applicants are advised to check the status of their local test centre to confirm if they are open or if they are closed temporarily due to pandemic restrictions.

Where centres are open, applicants must ensure they adhere to any health and safety requirements when attending the centre, such as wearing a face covering, social distancing, sanitising and washing hands and any other safety procedures in place.

Approved Secure English Test (SELT) providers

The approved test can only be taken through one of the following organisations. Applicants have the choice as to which they use:

  • IELTS SELT Consortium (the UK or overseas)
  • LanguageCert (the UK or overseas)
  • Trinity College London (the UK only)
  • Pearson (the UK and overseas)
  • PSI Services (UK) Ltd (overseas only)

 The approved IELTS SELT Consortium tests are:

  • IELTS for UKVI
  • Life Skills

The approved Language Cert tests are:

  • Language Cert International ESOL SELT
  • Language Cert International ESOL SELT (Speaking and Listening)

The approved Trinity College London tests are:

  • Integrated Skills in English (ISE)
  • Graded Examinations in Spoken English (GESE)

 The approved Pearson tests are:

  • Pearson PTE Academic UKVI
  • Pearson PTE Home

The approved PSI Services (UK) Ltd tests are:

  • Skills for English UKVI (4 components)
  • Skills for English UKVI (2 components)

What is IELTS for UKVI?

UKVI provides a list of Secure English Language Tests (SELTS), setting out the English language qualification(s) required for each category of visa application, including ‘IELTS for UKVI’ and ‘IELTS Life Skills’.

IELTS is an international standardised test that measures non-native English speakers’ English language proficiency. It is also among the most popular English language proficiency tests for higher education and worldwide global migration.

IELTS is a valid measure of language proficiency for various purposes, such as studying, working, and migrating to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. It is also accepted for research and employment opportunities in the USA. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that each country has specific IELTS examination requirements.

For UK visa purposes, ‘IELTS for UKVI’ and ‘IELTS Life Skills’ are designed to meet certain administrative requirements specific to UK Visas and Immigration. However, the difficulty level, the content or format, and even the examiners or scoring system for IELTS tests used for all other purposes are the same.

That said, the report forms for those tests designed to meet the requirements of UK Visas and Immigration will be slightly different to those used otherwise, as UKVI will not accept results from other locations. As such, these forms are to show that applicants have taken the test at an IELTS UKVI visa session.

Recommended IELTS Practice test

The following mobile application can be downloaded on your phone to practice before writing your IELTS Exam.

Android Users:

Apple Users:

What are the Different Types of IELTS Tests?

The choice of which IELTS test to take and the required score depends on your UK visa requirements and the institution where you plan to study or work. If you are taking the IELTS test for a UK visa application, you must choose either the ‘IELTS for UKVI test or the ‘IELTS Life Skills test.

Under the ‘IELTS for UKVI category, two training modules are available: Academic and General Training. Both modules are accepted as proof of English proficiency for individuals wishing to live, work, or study in the UK.

The ‘IELTS for UKVI (Academic)’ module evaluates your English language proficiency for an academic environment and assesses your readiness to begin training or studying. This module is suitable for applicants who need to demonstrate their English language proficiency to UKVI for undergraduate or postgraduate studies and for professional registration in the UK.

The ‘IELTS for UKVI (General Training)’ module assesses English language proficiency in practical, everyday situations, including workplace and social contexts. This test is for individuals who must prove their English language skills to the UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) authority. It applies to those pursuing training or study below the degree level or those planning to migrate to the UK.

The ‘IELTS Life Skills test has three levels: A1, A2, and B1. The A1 level is for individuals who need to demonstrate their English speaking and listening skills as part of their visa application to UKVI as a family member of a settled person. The A2 level is for those seeking to extend a partner or parent visa. The B1 test is for individuals applying for indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship.

Each ‘IELTS Life Skills test corresponds to a specific level (A1, A2, or B1) of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), recognised by UKVI as a guideline for measuring language ability.

Who needs the IELTS for UKVI?

Evidence of English language ability to the required CEFR level is a requirement for many UK visa applicants. Below we look at which IELTS test you will need to take and what score you will require for each type of UK visa based on the required minimum CEFR level and skills for that particular visa category. For example:

  • Skilled Worker visa – this will require CEFR level B1 including reading, Writing, speaking and listening, for which you will need to score 4.0 overall for each of the four skills in the IELTS for the UKVI test.
  • Tier 2 (Sportsperson) visa will require CEFR level A1 for which you will need to pass the IELTS Life Skills at A1 or score 4.0 overall and for both speaking and listening skills in the IELTS for UKVI test.
  • Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) visa will require CEFR level B2 including reading, Writing, speaking and listening, for which you will need to score 5.5 overall for each of the four skills in the IELTS for the UKVI test.
  • Tier 4 (General student) visa, below degree level – this will require CEFR level B1 including reading, Writing, speaking and listening, for which you will need to score 4.0 overall for each of the four skills in the IELTS for the UKVI test.
  • Tier 4 (General student) visa, degree level and above – this will require CEFR level B2 including reading, Writing, speaking and listening, for which you will need to score 5.5 overall for each of the four skills in the IELTS for the UKVI test.
  • Family of a settled person visa – this will require CEFR level A1 for which you must pass the IELTS Life Skills at A1 or score 4.0 in speaking and listening in the IELTS for UKVI test.
  • Family of a settled person visa extension (available only in the UK) – this will require CEFR level A2, for which you will need to pass the IELTS Life Skills at A2 or score 4.0 in speaking and listening in the IELTS for UKVI test.
  • Indefinite Leave to Remain or British citizenship will require CEFR level B1 for which you will need to pass the IELTS Life Skills at B1 or score 4.0 in speaking and listening in the IELTS for UKVI test.

If you intend to study a course at a degree level or above at a Higher Education Institution (HEI), passing a SELT test is optional. As such, the HEI can determine its methods to assess your English language ability.

If you intend to study a course below degree level, regardless of the type of academic institution, you must pass a SELT test to meet the English language requirements. All British universities and colleges accept IELTS Academic results, which means that you may not need to take an IELTS for UKVI (Academic) test, but instead can submit an IELTS Academic result.

As such, you should always check with your course provider what test and band scores are required for your particular course. Further, the band scores above for Tier 4 visa applications are the minimum requirements for UKVI, whereby certain academic institutions may set a higher entry requirement.

IELTS for UKVI Exemptions

In certain circumstances, applicants may not need to satisfy the English language requirement; for example, if you are a national of a majority English-speaking country, you should automatically meet this requirement.

You may also satisfy the English language requirement if you hold a UK Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree or PhD or have an academic qualification taught or researched in English. That qualification is equivalent to a UK bachelor’s degree or higher.

Further, if you are applying under the family route, you may be exempt from the requirement in any one of the following circumstances:

  • You are aged 65 or over
  • You have a disability which prevents you from meeting the requirement
  • There are exceptional circumstances that prevent you from completing the requirement.

To qualify for an exemption based on exceptional circumstances, you must demonstrate that you cannot learn English before coming to the UK or that it is not practicable or reasonable to travel to another country to take an approved English test. However, each application for an exemption will be considered case-by-case.

This list of exemptions is not exhaustive, so expert advice should always be sought before applying for UK Visas and Immigration without first passing either the IELTS for UKVI or the IELTS Life Skills test.

Where can the English language test be taken?

The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is offered globally at designated locations approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). During registration, it is crucial to indicate that you intend to utilise your test results for a UK visa application. IELTS test dates are typically made available within 28 days of booking your test.

You must sit the test at a location authorised by UKVI under specified conditions, as UKVI will not accept results from other testing locations. After taking the test, you will receive an IELTS report form showing that your trial met the IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Life Skills requirements.

In specific locations, the IELTS for UKVI (Academic) test is also available on the computer, whilst the UKVI Life Skills A2 test for an extension to a partner or parent visa is only available in the UK.

What does the IELTS UKVI Test involve?

The IELTS UKVI tests are designed to assess UK visa applicants on their English language competencies required to obtain a particular visa category.

The IELTS for UKVI (Academic) and (General Training) tests comprise four parts: reading (60 minutes), writing (60 minutes), listening (30 minutes) and speaking (11-14 minutes). The reading, Writing and listening tests are done in one sitting, whilst the speaking test may be on the same day or up to seven days before or after the other tests.

The IELTS Life Skills test comprises only speaking and listening. Both aspects are completed in one short session, face-to-face with an examiner and another test taker. The IELTS Life Skills at CEFR Level A1 takes 16-18 minutes, whereas Level A2 takes 20 minutes and Level B1 takes 22 minutes.

In the Life Skills test, you will be asked to conduct a structured conversation to demonstrate that you can listen and respond to several tasks using conversational English needed for living in the UK. This will be on everyday subjects such as family and friends, work, health, leisure, transport and weather.

IELTS uses a nine-band scale scoring system to measure proficiency levels and report test scores clearly and consistently. You receive individual band scores for each relevant skill, with an overall band score on a scale from 1-9.

You can improve your skills by using the IELTS official practice materials to prepare for the test. Some test centres also offer preparatory courses and language classes.

How to book your IELTS test 

You will need to book your IELTS UKVI test using the relevant online booking system, where the details used to book your test must be as stated on your passport or other identity documents. IELTS has a set fee for its test. These are currently set at the following rates:

  • IELTS for UKVI (Academic & General Training) – £200
  • IELTS Life Skills (A1, A2 & B1) – £150.

On the day of your test, you must provide evidence of your identity at the test centre before you are allowed to take the test. This will need to be by way of a valid passport or travel document or a valid biometric residence permit.

These documents must be originals and include a photograph.

Conclusion:

When applying for a UK visa, it may be necessary to take a secure English language test (SELT) to prove proficiency. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS for UKVI) is one of the approved tests. It is essential to check the status of local test centres and adhere to health and safety measures due to COVID-19. Different types of IELTS tests exist, depending on visa requirements. Exemptions may apply, and it is recommended to seek expert advice. Preparatory materials and courses are available. Booking the test requires using the online system and providing valid identification on the test day. Understanding these requirements is crucial for a successful visa application process.

IELTS for UKVI FAQs

The IELTS UKIVI tests are

  1. IELTS for UKVI (Academic),
  2. IELTS for UKVI (General Training) and
  3. IELTS Life Skills.

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) test is an approved examination by the Home Office for UK visa applicants to demonstrate their proficiency in the English language. It is classified as a Secure English Language Test (SELT) and necessitates a minimum score of 7.0 in Reading, Speaking, and Listening and 6.5 in Writing.

IELTS is a general English language proficiency test, UKVI IELTS is specifically tailored to meet the English language requirements for visa and immigration purposes in the United Kingdom.

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