Not all visas require English language qualification such as tourist and other visitor or permanent visas.

However, if you want to study, work or immigrate to Australia, you will normally be required to provide an English language qualification.

Different visas require different levels of English proficiency. These are functional English, vocational English, competent English, proficient English, and superior English levels.

If you are a citizen and hold a valid passport of United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, and your visa application requires Functional English, Vocational English, or Competent English, you don’t need to pass an English language test.

However, if you are not a citizen and a holder of a valid passport issued by the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland, then you need to pass an English proficiency test.

If your visa application requires an English with a higher degree of proficiency such as Proficient English and Superior English, passing an English test is required even if you come from English-speaking countries mentioned above.

Applicants for a First Work and Holiday (subclass 462) visa only requires functional English. This means that you have other options in obtaining the required evidence aside from passing an English test.

If your only option is to pass an English language test, here are your choices:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)
  • Occupational English Test (OET)
  • ​Cambridge C1 Advanced test
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based Test (TOEFL iBT)

Let’s discuss in more detail the different English tests accepted in Australia.

1. International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

IELTS is a standardised international test of English language proficiency and tends to be one of the most prominent centres in the industry. In order to take an IELTS test, you need to register and find a vacant test date. IELTS test is available during Thursdays and Sundays or up to four times a month. To prepare for the test, you can order Official IELTS Practice Materials which include samples of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening Samples for more effective review.

Minimum Required IELTS Score Approved by Australia:

  • Student Visa – 6.0 to 7.0
  • Working Visa – 7 to 8 (Proficient English and Superior English)
  • Immigrant Visa – 7 to 8 (Proficient English and Superior English)

Advantages:

  • Globally Recognized
  • Achieving a high IELTS score allows you to enter top universities around the world
  • Accuracy

Disadvantages:

  • Booking schedule
  • Two-part exam

2. Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)

PTE is popular computer-based English test for both study and immigrant visa. In fact, PTE Academic is accepted by prestigious schools around the globe such as Harvard University, Yale University and INSEAD. Pearson Test of English is accepted and approved for Australian visa applications. Pearson is mainly chosen by students because of its fast score results which can only take 24 hours up to 5 business days.

Minimum Required PTE Academic Score Approved by Australia:

When applying for 189, 190 and 489 visas, you need to get a minimum score of 50 on every four components of the PTE Academic test.

Advantages:

  • PTE is accepted for permanent residency in Australia
  • It is mostly preferred by students since it is accepted by prestigious schools around the globe
  • It provides immediate test results
  • Mainly preferred by the Australian government when applying for a visa

Disadvantages:

  • Concentration problem during the speaking section of the exam, 
  • It requires enough computer literacy
  • Typing speed is very important

3. Occupational English Test (OET) 

This language proficiency test is designed for healthcare professionals. Many healthcare professionals choose the OET exam because they believe that it can really help them prove that they are at the right level of English proficiency for work or study.

OET is the only designed English language test for healthcare professionals. It is also recognised by the healthcare regulators around the world as proof of English proficiency. OET is developed in Australia to assess the communication skills of healthcare professionals.

Minimum Required OET Score Approved by Australia:

You will need a 4B grade in each skill; reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Advantages:

  • The only English proficiency exam designed for healthcare professionals
  • Designed in Australia
  • You will definitely learn from it

Disadvantages:

  • Only applicable for healthcare professionals

4. Cambridge C1 Advanced test 

Formerly known as Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)

Some examinees take the Cambridge Advanced Test for visa and university requirement purposes. In order to take the Cambridge exam, you need to find a local registration centre near you, and this is applicable for both paper and computer-based exams. Once you’re registered, they will inform you about the course, price, dates, etc. that are available, and you will be the one to choose.

Even though it is a computer-based exam, you can’t take the test at home and do it on your computer. The exam will still take place in a venue arranged by the centre where you are registered. Sometimes they will allow you to take the speaking test on the same day of the examination. Advanced and Proficiency Test usually take long hours, so be patient and concentrate while answering the questions. Since it is an advanced test, a hands-on review is essential.

Minimum Required Cambridge C1 Advanced Test Score Approved by Australia:

A score of 147 pts is accepted by Australian immigration.

Advantages:

  • Helps you develop your skills for studying, working and living in English-speaking countries around the world
  • Having a certificate like this proves that you can effectively communicate to professional and managerial level people
  • It proves that you have a high level of fluency

Disadvantages:

  • Paper-based exams take 4-6 weeks, while computer-based exams are being released after 2 weeks. This is a long wait compared to other English test centres
  • Technical problems usually occur on a computer-based exam

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

TOEFL is a language proficiency test for students preferred by universities in diverse countries. The centre provides unbiased score rates with the help of a centralised scoring network. This centre does not conduct a face-to-face interview during the speaking test, and also open for several retakes in case you fail, but not twice in a 12-day period.

Minimum Required TOEFL iBT Score Approved by Australia:

A total score of 35 is under the category of vocational proficiency level, while 110 is considered as the superior proficiency level.

Advantages: 

  • 100% unbiased scoring
  • Recommended for student visa applicant takers
  • Preferred by universities around the globe
  • Internet-based Test

Disadvantages:

  • Not applicable for immigrants
  • You have to book fast
  • You must have good computer skills since it’s an internet-based test
  • The duration of the test will take up to 5 hours, so concentration and patience is of extreme importance
  • Typing speed 

Final words

If you are going to apply for a student or a skilled visa, you will need to meet Australia’s English language requirements. The same requirement applies to some visas that allow a visa holder to stay in Australia permanently.

Check your eligibility in a visa you wish to apply for, to see the English level required.

So, which English test is right for you?

Well, it really depends on your current personal circumstances. For instance, if you are in a hurry and need to get the results as soon as possible, then the PTE is a better option because it offers a five-day turnaround time. In contrast, C1 can take up to six weeks.

If you are more comfortable in an online or electronic environment, then the PTE or TOEFL may offer an advantage over others.

For those working in the health industry and have failed IELTS multiple times, the better choice would be the OET. 

If face-to-face English setting is more comfortable for you, then the IELTS may be a good choice. After all, IELTS seems to be the most popular English test worldwide and have the broadest selection of locations.

TOEFL seems to be the least popular English test for Australian visa applicants.

If in doubt, you may contact a registered migration agent for advice or assistance in applying for an appropriate visa.

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