English Proficiency Tests

English Proficiency Tests

The Australian Skilled visa programs all possess some degree of an English proficiency requirement. This might be meeting a minimum standard or it may be to gain a certain number of points. In some cases an applicant’s English ability can be assessed depending upon the country of the passport they hold or it can be assessed via a number of approved English tests. If the applicant is not able to rely upon the passport they hold, in nearly all cases, the main applicant will have to demonstrate their English ability by obtaining a positive test result no more than 3 years old to their application lodgement date.

There are five levels of English proficiency as defined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), being functional, vocational, competent, proficient and superior. Skilled visas require the main applicant to possess at least competent English proficiency. How these levels are defined and what they mean for you will be discussed at the end of this article

There are a number of English tests that the DIBP accepts as evidence of English proficiency. All of these tests measure 4 main components, which are listening, reading, writing and speaking.  

  1.       IELTS
  2.       Pearson Test of English (PTE)
  3.       Occupational English Test (OET)
  4.       TOEFL iBT
  5.       Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

All test are greatly accessible with test centres spread across Australia and the rest of the world. Often you will find preparatory information and aid on the testing body’s website.

IELTS website   |   PTE website   |   OET website   |   TOEFL website   |   CAE website

It is important to note that for the IELTS, PTE, TOFEL and CAE tests, an applicant can only supply a single test result to the DIBP to demonstrate their English ability. This means that if you are trying to achieve a certain level you must obtain that level in a single test sitting.

 

IELTS

Cost: $330 AU

The IELTS test is designed to assess whether candidates are ready to work or study or train in English. For over a decade it was the only English test approved for the DIBP’s General Skilled Migration (GSM) points based program and probably for this reason alone, the test has attracted a great deal of criticism.

Many people who have sat the IELTS multiple times received results which vary, which naturally resulted in frustration – whilst they have on different occasions achieved the minimum score in a certain module for their target proficiency level, they were never able to achieve all the minimum scores in a single sitting, which is the DIBP requirement.

To understand the minimum scoring in one sitting requirement, head to the end of this article.

Over the years, we at Australian Immigration Law Services have met a number of people who have sat for the IELTS test over 20 times, and in one case, a staggering 30 times. Even where test dates were only 2 to 3 weeks apart, some results varied considerably but most varied about 0.5 and mysteriously this seemed to rotate around on the 4 sections of the test. The client was never able, despite these 30 tests, obtain the 6.0 on each section he needed on a single test.

There are two types of tests available, General and Academic. For the immigration department a result in either of these two streams is acceptable for any of its five defined levels. For the purpose of assessing ‘functional English’, applicants need only sit for the General Training stream. O utside the Immigration department however, organisations such as approved skill assessment bodies may have their own requirements as to which streams they accept.  The IELTS test typically runs for 3 hours.  As the tests are marked locally, candidates receive their results fairly quickly (results can be viewed online within 10 days after the candidate sits the test).

IELTS test scores can be accessed through the  IELTS website. You will need your candidate ID (from the test) and your passport number. Visit the IELTS website for information on its test format, to understand on how tests are graded, to find test centre locations, dates and times and more.

Due to past abuses of the test process, security is strict with biometric test taker registration systems in place; fingerprints and photos are taken. I’m sure the police would be envious to exercise that right to demand such details of the public be recorded. It seems somewhat over the top just to take an English test and one has to wonder just how secure is the data they are storing.

 

PTE Academic

Cost: $330 AUD

The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic), which is a fully computerised test. The listening and speaking modules are no exception with the use of recordings to facilitate assessment. Because of this, PTE is capable of having more tests and time slots that the other tests. Its format also means that results are more quickly available, often arriving in 1 business day.

As with IELTS, PTE Academic is an integrated skills test and applicants must provide evidence that the scores for each test component were achieved in one examination. The test lasts for about 3 hours, but can be completed earlier as it is fully computerised and without the physical need of an assessor.

PTE test takes will also have to get through biometric ID checks where their palms are scanned and photos taken. Again what confidence can we have of the security of the information stored?

PTE Academic test scores van be viewed through the account created when you book your test on the Pearson website. Visit the PTE website for information on its test format, to understand on how tests are graded, to find test centre locations, dates and times and more.

 

Occupational English Test (OET)

Cost: $587 

Some Australian skills assessing authorities such as APHRA require visa applicants to sit an OET test to demonstrate their English proficiency before the authority will issue a skills assessment. The OET is a specialised English language test targeting health professionals.

Unlike the other tests, OET is a module-based test of discrete modules and is the only test where visa applicants can provide OET results achieved in more than one test. This means that modules can be sat for on different occasions.

You can see an overview of your latest test grades via your online profile on the OET website, approximately 16 business days after each test day. Official, hard copy Statements of Results are mailed within 5 business days of the publication of results in online profiles. Visit the OET website for information on its test format, to understand on how tests are graded, to find test centre locations, dates and times and more.

 

TOEFL iBT

Cost: $300 USD 

The Test of English as a Foreign Language – Internet Based Test (TOEFL iBT) is administered via the internet, similar to PTE. You will still need to visit a test centre to take the test. It is an integrated skills test and applicants must provide evidence that the scores for each test component were achieved in one examination. The TOEFL iBT can take 4 hours to complete.

TOEFL iBT test scores are available approximately 10 days after you take the test, through the your TOEFL account here. Visit the TOEFL website for information on its test format, to understand on how tests are graded, to find test centre locations, dates and times and more.

 

Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

Cost: $330 AUD

The Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test, also known as the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE), can be taken on paper or computer. The Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test is an integrated skills test and applicants must provide evidence that the scores for each test component were achieved in one examination. The CAE takes around 4 hours to complete.

The CAE test has the same 4 modules as the other tests, with the inclusion of a fifth ‘Use of English’ component. The result for the ‘Use of English’ component is not required or accepted by the DIBP for any visa application. Results expressed as written descriptors are also not acceptable; all results must be expressed as numbers.

As the CAE test format changed from 1 January 2015, the DIBP does not accept tests taken before 1 January 2015. 

The quickest and easiest way to get your results is to sign through the Cambridge English online service. Your results will be displayed there as soon as they are ready, and you can download a copy of your Statement of Results if you need to. You will need your Candidate ID Number and your Candidate Secret Number, which you can find on your Confirmation of Entry. Visit the CAE website for information on its test format, to understand on how tests are graded, to find test centre locations, dates and times and more.

 

ENGLISH PROFICIENCY LEVELS

Competent English

Competent English is the bare minimum required for your General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa. It awards you zero points. To demonstrate that you have competent English, you must,

  • Be a citizen of and Hold a valid NZ, UK, USA, Canada, Republic of Ireland passport, OR
  • Achieve test results that are at or above the scores in each category in the following table:

 

Test

Listening

(Minimum Score)

Reading

(Minimum Score)

Writing

(Minimum Score)

Speaking

(Minimum Score)

IELTS

6666

PTE Academic

50505050

OET

BBBB

TOEFL iBT

12132118

CAE (Advanced)

169169169169

 

Proficient English

Proficient English awards you 10 points. To demonstrate that you have proficient English, you must achieve test results that are at or above the scores in each category in the following table:

Test

Listening

(Minimum Score)

Reading

(Minimum Score)

Writing

(Minimum Score)

Speaking

(Minimum Score)

IELTS

7777

PTE

Academic

65656565

OET

BBBB

TOEFL iBT

24242723

CAE (Advanced)

185185185185

 

Superior English

Superior English awards you 20 points. To demonstrate that you have superior English, you must achieve test results that are at or above the scores in each category in the following table:

Test

Listening

(Minimum Score)

Reading

(Minimum Score)

Writing

(Minimum Score)

Speaking

(Minimum Score)

IELTS

8888

PTE Academic

79797979

OET

AAAA

TOEFL iBT

28293026

CAE (Advanced)

200200200200

 

Vocational English

Vocational English awards you zero points and is the bare minimum for Employer Nominated Scheme (ENS) and Regional Skilled Migration Scheme (RSMS) visas. To demonstrate that you have vocational English, you must,

  • Be a citizen of and Hold a valid NZ, UK, USA, Canada, Republic of Ireland passport, OR
  • Achieve test results that are at or above the scores in each category in the following table:

 

Test

Listening

(Minimum Score)

Reading

(Minimum Score)

Writing

(Minimum Score)

Speaking

(Minimum Score)

IELTS

5555

PTE Academic

36363636

OET

BBBB

TOEFL iBT

441414

CAE (Advanced)

154

154154154

 

Functional English

Functional English are for secondary applicants who are looking to avoid an English Language charge. Unlike the others, this test must be completed within 12 months of application lodgement. To demonstrate that you have functional English, you must,

  • Be a citizen of and Hold a valid NZ, UK, USA, Canada, Republic of Ireland passport, OR
  • Have a positive assessment from an Adult Migrant English Program, OR
  • Completed all years of primary education and at least 3 years of secondary education in an educational institution in or outside Australia where all instructions were in English, OR
  • Completed at least 5 years of secondary education in an institution in or outside Australia where all instructions were in English, OR
  • Successfully completed at least 1 year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in an institution in Australia where all instructions were in English, OR
  • Have a positive functional level result through the Australian Assessment of Communicative English Skills (ACCESS) test, certified by the relevant testing body
  • Achieve test results that are at or above the scores in each category in the following table:

 

TestListening(Minimum Score)Reading(Minimum Score)Writing(Minimum Score)Speaking(Minimum Score)
IELTS4.54.54.54.5
PTE Academic30303030
TOEFL iBT
32323232
CAE (Advanced)147147147147

 

 

 

Meeting the one sitting requirement 

Earlier we discussed how the Immigration department requires that you achieve the minimum score in all modules within in a single seating for the IELTS, PTE, TOEFL iBT and CAE tests. We shall use IELTS as an example, and assume that you need to achieve a level of Competent for your visa.

 

IELTSListeningReadingWritingSpeakingLevel
Test 15766Vocational
Test 26665Vocational
Test 37876Competent

 

 

 

 

 

Note  that you are NOT able to combine tests 1 and 2 for a competent level. The minimum score must be met in a single sitting