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Somewhat surprisingly, the English language test is one of the most complicated aspects of any Aussie visa application. The complex rules surrounding the test make it a minefield for applicants. To help you out, we’ve put together this short guide to clear up all the confusion surrounding this test.

Cupcakes with Australian flag decoration

What is the English language test?

Previously, there was only one acceptable option for the English language test, namely the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS. However, the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) have introduced four more testing options. The following tests are all now acceptable:

It’s worth noting that the English language tests listed above are conducted by independent testing centres, not the DIBP.

See also: Australian Visa

What does the test entail?

All of these tests have listening, reading, writing and speaking components. You will be scored on these four components and accordingly awarded an overall level of skill. Based on these scores, the DIBP have created different levels of English language skills. They are:

  1. Functional
  2. Vocational
  3. Competent
  4. Proficient
  5. Superior

The English language skill level you will need depends on which visa you are applying for. For most skilled visas, you will need to show at least competent English to meet the threshold criteria. I advise you to get in touch with a registered immigration advisor if you’re uncertain of the level of English language skills you need to have.

Different scores in the varying tests will result in a different skill level, as illustrated below. The scores for the tests are all benchmarked against the IELTS.

English Language
proficiency level

Test component

IELTS

TOEFL
iBT

PTE
Academic

Cambridge English:
Advanced (CAE)

OET

Functional

Average/total/overall across test components only

4.5

32

30

147

n/a

Vocational

Listening

5.0

4

36

154

B

Reading

5.0

4

36

154

B

Writing

5.0

14

36

154

B

Speaking

5.0

14

36

154

B

Competent

Listening

6.0

12

50

169

B

Reading

6.0

13

50

169

B

Writing

6.0

21

50

169

B

Speaking

6.0

18

50

169

B

Proficient

Listening

7.0

24

65

185

B

Reading

7.0

24

65

185

B

Writing

7.0

27

65

185

B

Speaking

7.0

23

65

185

B

Superior

Listening

8.0

28

79

200

A

Reading

8.0

29

79

200

A

Writing

8.0

30

79

200

A

Speaking

8.0

26

79

200

A

 

When do you need to take the English language test?

Most Australian visas do not require evidence of your English language ability, including the:

  • Partner visa
  • Parent visa
  • Working holiday visa
  • Visitor visas

The Skilled Migration and Employer Sponsored visas, however, do require you to prove your knowledge of the English language. In order to be granted your visa, you will have to pass the English language test at the relevant level.

One of the most common questions from our clients is: “I’m a UK passport holder applying for the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189). I don’t have to do the English language test, do I?” The answer is yes, you do. The Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) has a minimum requirement of competent English, so your UK passport meets this criterion. However, in order to score points for the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189), you will need to demonstrate proficient or superior English, which means you need to do the test.

Having proficient English language skills scores you 10 points, whilst having superior English language skills scores you 20 points in the points-based system. So, as you can see, taking the test (and the score you get) can make the difference between you getting your visa or not.

See also: Australian immigration points calculator

Practice, as always, makes perfect

The great news about the English language test is that you can do it as many times as you want until you achieve your desired results. The not so great news is that the tests are costly, averaging at AUD350per test.

My advice to anyone taking the English language test is to prepare thoroughly to ensure that you obtain the best results possible. There are many resources available online to help you practice for the test, so make use of them so that you feel comfortable going into the test.

If you’re doing the IELTS test, I recommend that you prepare by using this free online course provided by the University of Queensland or these free practice tests. If you’re doing the PTE Academic test, you can use these preparation resources, and if you’re doing the TOEFL iBT test, you can use these practice tests.


Our registered MARA migration agents are on hand to answer any immigration queries you may have. Get in touch with us on ausoffice@sableinternational.com or +61 (1) 800 039 300. 

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