English language requirements Australia Visa
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English Language Requirements For Australian Visas

The English Language Requirements for Australia form an integral part of the Australian Visa Application process. Many years ago, those looking to emigrate to Australia faced English language requirements which were a lot more relaxed then they are now. In recent years, however, the need to speak a good level of English has become a cornerstone of a successful Australian Visa Application.

As an English speaking country, it will come as no surprise to learn that the Australian government places due consideration on a candidates ability to speak English at a competent level as part of their Australian visa application. Candidates English speaking capabilities are categories using a number of thresholds which we will cover in more detail below.

Firstly, it’s essential to know that for migration purposes, your English ability is broken down across five categories. The higher the level of English capability you can demonstrate, the more points you will be awarded as part of your Australian visa application.  The higher levels are confirmed by testing with an approved body; however, your circumstances or country of origin also come into play with some of the lower thresholds.

Australian English Language Requirements

Recognised English Testing providers?

IELTS

Until several years ago, the IELTS test used to be the only way of evidencing your English language ability. Thankfully many other providers have been added, which gives Australian migration candidates a much broader range of options. With that said, IELTS is still the most common way of evidencing your English ability. Either the Academic or General Training versions of the test are acceptable to the Department of Immigration, but some skills assessing authorities require applicants to sit the Academic version. You will need to obtain a minimum score in each band of the IELTS (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking) in a single sitting.

Pearson Academic Test of English (Pearson PTE) and TOEFL Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT)

The Pearson Academic Test of English (Pearson PTE) and TOEFL Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT) are now accepted for all skilled subclasses. Most state and territory governments also recognise these tests, as do some skills assessment authorities. The PTE Academic test has three main parts; speaking and writing (as one part), reading and listening. The TOEFL consists of four components; Reading,  Listening, Speaking and Writing.

Occupational English Test (OET)

The Occupational English Test (OET) is also accepted as evidence of proficient and superior levels of English. The OET is only appropriate for medical and allied health professionals. The OET has four components; reading and Listening (as one component), speaking and writing.

Cambridge Test of English

The Cambridge Test of English is the most recent addition being recognised by the Australian government since January 2015. The Cambridge test consists of four parts; reading and use of English (one part), writing, listening and speaking.

Australian English Language Requirements – English Language Thresholds

Let’s take a more detailed look at the five English language thresholds including an overview of the additional points available and how to demonstrate the requirements under each threshold. To begin with, let’s take a look at the English threshold required for each of the primary visa types:

Level of English

Visa TypeLevel of English
Student VisasIt is not a mandatory requirement if the education provider accesses the student’s English language skills as satisfactory for their studies. However, the DIBP may request a test report to be presented.
Graduate VisaCompetent
Most Skilled Migration Visas
189 Visa
190 Visa
You will need to show at least Competent English. Cambridge Advanced English test results will only be considered if the test was undertaken on or after 1 January 2015. A Cambridge Advanced English test conducted before 1 January 2015 will not be accepted.

IELTS has an academic test and a general training test. For visa application purpose, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection accepts all English test forms listed above; however, the Assessing Authorities may require particular English test form to meet the skills assessment requirements.

457/482 VisaVocational/Competent
ENSCompetent
RSMSCompetent
Parent VisasNot required
Partner VisasNot required
Australian Permanent Residency and Citizenship for New ZealandersNot required

Superior English

Starting at the highest level, you will gain an additional 20 points if you can demonstrate English at a Superior level. Now if you are a native English speaker who thinks your English is excellent. Don’t get too excited. You might think you are great; however, even native English speakers must undertake English language testing to obtain the points associated with having Superior English capabilities.

TestScore
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)At least 8 for each of the 4 test components
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)At least 28 for listening, 29 for reading, 30 for writing and 26 for speaking
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)At least 79 for each of the 4 test components
Occupational English Test (OET)At least A for each of the 4 test components
Cambridge C1 Advanced test​At least 200 in each of the 4 test components

Proficient English

For proficient English speakers, 10 points will be awarded for applicants with Proficient English. As is the case with Superior English applicants, native English speakers must still undertake English language testing to obtain points for proficient English.

TestScore
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)At least 7 for each of the 4 test components​
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)At least 24 for listening, 24 for reading, 27 for writing and 23 for speaking
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)At least 65 for each of the 4 test components​
Occupational English Test (OET)At least B for each of the 4 test components​
Cambridge C1 Advanced testAt least 185 in each of the 4 test components​

Competent English

Competent English is the current threshold requirement for applicants looking to apply for an Australian Visa under the General Skilled Migration,  Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) and Regional Sponsored Migration Schemes (RSMS). For most skilled visas, you will need to show at least Competent English to meet the threshold criteria. Unfortunately, having only Competent English will give you 0 (zero) points in the Skilled Migration Points Test.

However, it is still essential as being able to demonstrate English at this threshold is a requirement to be able to lodge a skilled visa. Thankfully, if you hold a passport from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States or Ireland, you can establish competent English without completing an English test. If you do not hold a passport from one of these countries, you will still need to complete a test with a recognised English testing provider.

TestRequired score
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)At least 6 for each of the 4 components
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)At least 12 for listening, 13 for reading, 21 for writing and 18 for speaking
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)At least 50 for each of the 4 components
Occupational English Test (OET)At least B for each of the 4 components
​Cambridge C1 Advanced testAt least 169 in each of the 4 components

Vocational English

Demonstrating English at the vocational English threshold previously used to be essential for General Skilled Migration and Employer-Sponsored Visas. Due to changes in the required limits, this is less important now.

TestScore
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)At least 5 for each of the 4 test components
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)At least 4 for listening, 4 for reading, 14 for writing and 14 for speaking
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)At least 36 for each of the 4 test components
Occupational English Test (OET)At least B for each of the 4 test components
Cambridge C1 Advanced test​At least 154 in each of the 4 test components

Functional English

Functional English is essential for secondary applicants seeking to avoid paying the English Language Charge. As well as demonstrating that you meet the functional English threshold via the completion of a test with a recognised provider as below:

TestScore
International English Language Testing System (IELTS)An average band score of at least 4.5 for each of the 4 test components
Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)A total band score of at least 32 based on the 4 test components of speaking, reading, writing and listening
Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)An overall band score of at least 30 for each of the 4 test components
Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)An overall band score of at least 147 for each of the four test components

You can also demonstrate that you have functional English abilities by providing evidence of one of the following:

Australia visa English language test scoring

  • Completion of a degree, higher degree, diploma or trade certificate that required at least two years of study in English medium
  • Completion of at least five years of secondary education in English medium; or
  • Completion of all years of primary school and at least three years of secondary education in English medium; or
  • Scoring the necessary mark required to demonstrate functional English within a test taken with a recognised English testing Entity.
  • Completion in Australia of at least one year of full-time study or equivalent part-time study towards a degree, higher degree, diploma, or associate diploma in English medium.
    In some circumstances, functional English can be established via interview

English Language Tests – Exams, Scoring, Structure and Results

In this next section, we’ll begin to look at the English language tests themselves including where you can take the tests, the test format, the English test structure, how the tests are scored, and how long the test is valid for.

When and where can the English test be taken for Australia Visas?

Though more information is available on each of the test providers websites, the following provides a summary of when and where exams can be taken. This might prove useful when shortlisting which provider to engage in demonstrating that you fulfil the needs of the Australian English requirement.

IELTSUp to 48 times a year in over 900 locations in 130 countries worldwide.
TOEFLUp to 50 times a year in 900 test centres in 130 countries
PTE Academic Up to 363 times a year in over 200 locations worldwide.
OET Up to 10 times a year in 30 countries
Cambridge (CAE) Up to 3 times per month in 130 countries

How long will I have to wait for my English test Results?

IELTSYour Test Report Form will be issued to you 13 calendar days after your test date. All test centres will post your Test Report Form to you. Keep your Test Report Form in a secure place as you only receive one copy. Some test centres provide SMS alerts and an online results service.
TOEFLYour scores will be posted electronically only unless you request a paper copy by selecting that option when you register, which can take ten days after your test date.
PTE AcademicPTE Academic typically delivers results in five business days
OET Results are published online approximately 15 business days after the test
Cambridge (CAE) Your Statement of Results is released online, about four to six weeks after the exam for paper-based exams, and two to three weeks after the exam for computer-based exams.

How is the test undertaken?

IELTSPaper Test
TOEFLPaper/ online (TOEFL ibt internet version)
PTE AcademicComputer
OETPaper Test
Cambridge (CAE)Computer or paper-based

How many components are there?

IELTSIELTS has four components:
Listening (30 minutes)
Reading (60 minutes)
Writing (60 minutes)
Speaking (11–14 minutes)
The total test time is 2 hours and 45 minutes.
TOEFLTOEFL has four components:
Reading ( 60 – 100 minutes)
Listening (60 – 90 minutes)
Speaking: (60 – 100 minutes)
Writing: (50 minutes)
Total test time: 4 hours 30 minutes
PTE AcademicPTE Academic has three main parts:
Speaking and writing (77 to 93 minutes)
Reading (32 to 41 minutes)
Listening (45 to 57 minutes)
OETOET has four components:
Reading (approx. 60 minutes)
Listening (approx. 50 minutes)
Speaking: (approx. 20 minutes)
Writing: (approx. 45 minutes)Total test time: 3 hours
50 minutes
Cambridge (CAE)Reading and Use of English (1 hour 30 minutes)
Writing (1 hour 30 minutes)
Listening (about 40 minutes)
Speaking(15 minutes per pair of candidates)

How are the tests scored?

IELTSIELTS uses a 9-band scoring system to measure and report test scores in a consistent manner. You receive individual band scores for Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking and an Overall Band Score on a band scale from one to nine.
TOEFLAn overall score out of 120 (each paper is marked out of 30).
PTE Academic The range for the overall score is 10-90 points.
OET Graded A (highest) to E (lowest) for each sub-test.
Cambridge (CAE) The range for the overall score is 180-210 points.

A summary of test score equivalencies for all English language tests accepted by the department is provided below.

English Language proficiency levelIELTSTOEFL iBTPTE AcademicOETCambridge (CAE)
Vocational5.0Listening & Reading 4.0
Writing & Speaking 14
36B154
Competent6.0Listening: 12 Reading: 13
Writing: 21 Speaking: 18
50B169
Proficient (for points tested
Skilled visas)
7.0Listening & Reading: 24
Writing: 27 Speaking: 23
65B185
Superior (for points tested
Skilled visas)
8.0Listening: 28 Reading: 29
Writing: 30 Speaking: 26
79A200

How long are the English test results valid for?

Tests conducted up to 3 years before lodgement of an application will be accepted by the Department of Immigration.  The only exception to this is for functional English where the following timelines apply.

SubclassApplicantWhen to provideValidity
Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)Main/primaryBy time of applicationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of application
Regional Sponsor Migration Scheme (subclass 187) – Direct Entry pathwayMain/primaryBy time of applicationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of application
Business Innovation and Investment (Provisional) subclass 188) (Entrepreneur stream)Main/primaryBy time of invitationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of invitation
Skilled Independent (subclass 189)(Points-tested stream)Main/primaryBy time of invitationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of invitation
Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190)Main/primaryBy time of invitationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of invitation
Skilled Regional (Provisional) (subclass 489)(first provisional stream)Main/primaryBy time of invitationTest cannot have been undertaken more than 3 years before the date of invitation

Level of English

Visa TypeLevel of English
Student VisasIt is not a mandatory requirement if the education provider accesses the student’s English language skills as satisfactory for their studies. However, the DIBP may request a test report to be presented.
Graduate VisaCompetent
Most Skilled Migration Visas
189 Visa
190 Visa
You will need to show at least Competent English. Cambridge Advanced English test results will only be considered if the test was undertaken on or after 1 January 2015. A Cambridge Advanced English test conducted before 1 January 2015 will not be accepted.

IELTS has an academic test and a general training test. For visa application purpose, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection accepts all English test forms listed above; however, the Assessing Authorities may require special English test form to meet the skills assessment requirements.

457/482 VisaVocational/Competent
ENSCompetent
RSMSCompetent
Parent VisasNot required
Partner VisasNot required
Australian Permanent Residency and Citizenship for New ZealandersNot required

Migration points awarded on English skills factor for General Skilled Migration

PointsLevel of English
No points awardCompetent
10 PointsProficient
20 PointsSuperior

Resources:

The following resources may prove useful:

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)

Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)

Occupational English Test (OET)

Cambridge C1 Advanced test

https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/help-support/meeting-our-requirements/english-language

Questions?

Do you have any questions about taking an English test for your Australia Visa? If you do, please ask them in our comments below, and we’ll do our best to help you where we can.

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Written by Mark

As the founder of Getting Down Under, Mark is passionate about demystifying the process associated with a move to Australia. Having launched Getting Down Under in early January 2006 and made the move to Australia from the UK in the same year, Mark continues to share resources and support for those looking for assistance. If you have a question for Mark, please post in our Community Forums. Please note All information provided on Getting Down Under should be considered in conjunction with our disclaimer. Please seek professional advice if you have any doubts!

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Nidip
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Nidip
5 days ago

My Husband has taken the IELTS twice now and got 7.5 for his overall score. He would need to retake the test, but not not sure what provider to go with. He needs 8 or above and not sure if it is worth going with IELTS again.
Has anyone experienced this and if so who would you recommend taking the english test with.

Any advise would be appreciated?

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