By Emma Walker

20 February 2024 - 18:00

People taking an English proficiency test in a test centre

In this article you will read about the importance of English proficiency and the best way to push your level of English.

With millions of English learners taking language exams every year, have you ever wondered why English proficiency tests are so important? 

In this article, we are going to define what the term ‘proficiency’ means. Then, we will look at the importance of English proficiency to students, how an English exam can impact your life, and how studying for a proficiency test can improve your level of English. Let’s dive in! 

Learn more about IELTS 

What is English proficiency?

The concept of proficiency can help us to understand someone’s ability to communicate effectively in English.

If a person has a high level of proficiency, it means that they can hold complex conversations, use more sophisticated grammar and vocabulary, and express themselves in a variety of ways. However, someone with a lower level of proficiency may only understand more basic language and use simple grammatical structures and vocabulary to express themselves.

It is important to know that the concept of proficiency looks different to everyone. This is why standardised tests, like IELTS, are developed, as they help other people clearly understand your language capabilities.

Your overall level of proficiency can be broken down into smaller components. These are:

  • reading
  • writing
  • listening
  • speaking (including pronunciation)

It is completely normal for your levels of proficiency to vary in these components. For example, you may have a high level in reading and writing but have a lower level in speaking and listening. It is important that your test covers all of these components. If you are unsure which test is right for you, check out our comprehensive guide to English proficiency tests here.

But why exactly do so many people take an English proficiency test? 

What is the importance of an English proficiency test?

There are many reasons why you may wish to take an English proficiency test, so let’s explore some of those reasons.

1.Academic studies

Universities and schools often need proof of your English level for admission. This ensures that you can participate in classes, understand lectures, speak to your teachers, write essays, give presentations, as well as talk to your classmates and integrate into the country. A high level of English is essential if you plan on pursuing a career in academics, as most academic papers, journals and conferences are in English.

2. Employment opportunities

English is the language of business, so having a high level of English will open the doors to more job opportunities for you and make you an attractive employee to companies. You can attend conferences, network with other business professionals, work abroad, and communicate with international colleagues and clients. Bilinguals are often paid more than those who are monolingual, which adds to the importance of English proficiency for professionals. 

3. Visas and immigration

If your dream is to work, live or study abroad in an English-speaking country, then you will most likely need to apply for a visa and have proof of your language skills. This ensures that you will be able to live and function in the new country. Keep in mind that the English level required for your visa may be different to the level your employer, university, or school needs. They may also ask for a specific language test, so make sure you choose a test that they accept. IELTS is one of the most globally recognised English proficiency tests in the world. 

4. Personal development

If you are learning English for your own personal development, taking an English proficiency test can provide you with a clear goal to aim for and help you easily track your progress.

Also, by improving your English, you can make friends from around the world, travel more easily, explore new cultures, and discover new films, literature, and art. 

Learning a language is also fantastic for your brain. It helps improve your memory, concentration and problem-solving skills.

5. Access to online resources

Did you know that over 50% of websites are in English? By knowing English, you will be able to access more information and resources online, which is incredibly useful for your work, education, or just your own personal research. 

How studying for a proficiency test boosts your level of English

Let’s now look at some ways an English proficiency test can boost your level of English.

Tracking your progress is easier

It can be difficult to measure your progress if you are studying by yourself. A language test can help you track your progress and highlight your strengths and weaknesses.

You have a clear structure

Language proficiency tests have a very clear marking criteria which helps you understand exactly what you need to do to get a higher score. This can provide you with a clear structure and goals to work towards.

You focus on all of your skills

Most English proficiency tests mark you on multiple components (e.g. reading, writing, listening, etc.). When studying alone, it can be easy to neglect some of these components. However, studying for a proficiency test encourages you to focus on building all of these skills, so your English level becomes more well-rounded.

You improve your time management

Language tests often have a time limit, so it is important to improve time management to ensure you finish all the questions. You can then transfer your time management skills into real life and use them at work or when studying at university or school.

You’re motivated to improve and learn more

Sometimes learning a language without a specific goal to work towards can be demotivating. Aiming to pass a language test gives you a clear objective and sense of achievement, so you feel more motivated to keep learning. 

Why should you take the IELTS test?

Now that you understand the importance of English proficiency tests, you are probably thinking about which one to take.

Here are a few reasons why the IELTS test could be the most suitable for you:

  • It is globally recognised and highly trusted. IELTS is recognised by more than 12,000 organisations globally which makes it the most popular English language proficiency test for higher education and global migration.
  • IELTS gives you the choice to take the test on paper, on computer or online from the comfort of your own place. 
  • If you take IELTS on computer you can retake just one section of the test to improve your band score with One Skill Retake (so there is no need for you to retake the entire test again if you only need to improve one section).
  • You will receive your results quickly (it is just 13 days for the paper test and 3 to 5 days for the computer test).

You can read more about the reasons why you should choose the IELTS test here.

If you know that IELTS is the language proficiency test for you, then get started by preparing with IELTS Ready.

Learn more about IELTS