By Hava Salsi

11 January 2024 - 11:00

A man stands by the river and enjoys the bridge view in Sidney

Australia accepts different English tests for immigration purposes. Discover which English test for Australian visas is the right one for you.

So you’ve decided to take an exciting leap and move to Australia. Whether you’re planning to work, study, or make a home in this country, mastering English is key.

Like many countries, Australia requires proof of English language proficiency for most visa applications. This is where Secure English Language Tests (SELTs) come into play.

SELTs are standardised English language proficiency tests, recognised by many governments, like the Australian government, for visa and immigration purposes. They measure your ability to communicate in English, ensuring you can thrive in an English-speaking environment.

Learn more about moving to Australia 

 Which English proficiency test does Australia value more?

When it comes to choosing an English test for an Australian visa, you have several SELT options to choose from. The Australian government accepts scores from the following tests:

  • International English Language System (IELTS)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE)
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE or C1 Advanced)
  • Occupational English Test (OET)

All four tests assess your proficiency in the four fundamental language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Among these tests, the International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is a popular choice. 

In this article, we’ll guide you through the different English tests for Australian visas, highlight Australian visa IELTS requirements, and explain why sitting the IELTS test could be your best step forward in this journey.

Overview of SELTs: Understanding your options and their differences

Each test has unique features tailored to different needs. Here’s a quick overview: 

Test

Advantage

Best for

IELTS

  • Wide test recognition (accepted by more than 12,000 organisations globally)

  • Speaking test with an Examiner giving the test taker an experience as close as possible to real life

  • More choices for test takers (test on paper, computer or online, Academic and General Training tests)

  • Ability to retake a single section of the test if needed

  • Test availability

  • Premium test day experience

  • Excellent test preparation resources

PTE

  • Fully computerised

  • Rapid results

CAE (C1 Advanced)

  • Broad applicability (for both academic and professional purposes)

  • Proof of high-level achievement in English 

OET

  • Assesses English proficiency in a medical context

  • Healthcare professionals moving to Australia for work

 Now, let’s take a closer look at each test, their purpose, and main differences between them:

1. IELTS

There are many ways IELTS can prepare you for life in Australia

Firstly, it’s ideal for most Australian visa application purposes, including academic pursuits, work, or general immigration. It’s also globally recognised by more than 12,000 organisations, with a face-to-face speaking assessment that gives you a realistic experience of communicating in English. 

A key benefit is that the Australian government will accept IELTS test results that include One Skill Retake (OSR) for certain test takers. This means you can retake just one section of the test if needed, without having to redo the entire test, to get the score you need. 

For more information on the exceptions to this rule, make sure to visit the official website of the Australian Government.

2. PTE

The PTE test is a fully computerised test that’s designed primarily for assessing your academic English knowledge. 

For the speaking part, you’ll talk into a microphone, instead of speaking with a person face-to-face. Your responses are then evaluated using AI and you can expect to receive your results typically within two days.

3. CAE (C1 Advanced)

Cambridge English: Advanced test, which is now known as C1 Advanced, is a widely recognised test that is accepted by over 9,000 organisations globally. It is a high-level qualification that proves candidates have the English level to communicate effectively in academic and professional contexts. 

The exam has paper-based and computer-based modes of delivery, and the test format is the same for both. The computer-based test is being replaced by another version starting February 2024. 

The exam consists of four papers each testing one of the English skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) and the whole test takes 3 hours and 55 minutes. 

Similar to IELTS, the Speaking test in the C1 Advanced exam is done face-to-face but usually with one or two other test candidates and two examiners. 

4. OET

This test is specifically designed for healthcare professionals and is ideal for nurses, doctors, and other medical staff. 

It assesses your English proficiency in a medical context, using scenarios, test materials, and terminology that you would normally encounter in healthcare settings. 

This ensures that healthcare professionals are not only proficient in English but also able to effectively communicate in their specific professional environments.

Australian immigration IELTS requirements 

The Australian government categorises English language proficiency levels for visa applications into five distinct classifications, each associated with a specific IELTS score:

Classification

Functional

Vocational

Competent

Proficient

Superior

IELTS Score

An average band score of at least 4.5

At least 5 for each of the 4 test sections

At least 6 fo​r each of the 4 sections

At least 7 for each of the 4 test sections

At least 8 for each of the 4 test sections

The exact IELTS score requirements for an Australian visa highly depend on your specific pathway, whether it’s for study, work, or general immigration.

For example, for a student visa, you’d need a minimum overall IELTS score of 5.5. However, for a vocational training visa, you need to prove you have Functional English.

For some permanent work visas like the Employer Nomination Scheme visa, you must have at least Competent English. But to be eligible for a temporary work visa like the Business Innovation and Investment visa, you must have at least Functional English.

To ensure you meet the right English language requirements for your specific visa type, check out the Australian government’s official immigration website for the most up-to-date information and guidelines on what score you’ll need in your English test for an Australian visa. 

IELTS: your passport to a new life in Australia

Choosing the right English test for your Australian visa application is important. IELTS stands out as the perfect option for many. Some benefits of taking the IELTS test for an Australian visa include:

  • Tailored to your needs: With its two tests, Academic and General Training, IELTS caters to both higher education applicants and those migrating for work or other reasons.
  • Wide acceptance: The Australian government accepts IELTS for all types of visas, making it a universally accepted option.
  • One Skill Retake (OSR) option: IELTS on computer test lets you retake just one section of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing, or Speaking) if you need to. This flexible choice is accepted by Australian immigration. To know more about One Skill Retake visit this page on our website. 
  • Face-to-face Speaking test: IELTS offers a more natural and interactive assessment of speaking skills compared to computer-based tests. The Speaking test is as close to a real-life situation as a test can get.
  • Preparation resources: There’s a wealth of study materials and practice tests available to help you prepare effectively.

Learn more about moving to Australia

By choosing IELTS, you're selecting a test that not only meets the requirements for Australian immigration but also sets you up for success in an English-speaking environment.

The British Council offers a range of free support tools, like IELTS Ready to help you reach your goals in Australia with confidence. Begin your journey today!