By Hava Salsi

22 January 2024 - 09:24

A test taker taking IELTS in a test centre

In this article you will get insights on minimum requirements to pursue your dream education or job abroad.

If you're planning to move abroad to an English-speaking country for work or studies, you'll most likely have to demonstrate a certain proficiency in English. 

Sitting the IELTS test, or the International English Language Testing System, is a great way to prove this. But every country has different minimum IELTS score requirements for both work and study visas.

Learn more about IELTS

In this article, we'll explore the minimum IELTS scores needed for different countries, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, the United States, and Canada. 

Minimum IELTS score requirements for the United Kingdom 

Planning to start a new life in the UK? Here are the minimum IELTS score requirements for working or studying in your new potential home:

Student visa

For a student visa in the UK, the IELTS score you need depends on the level of the course you plan to study:

  • Courses at the university level: The minimum requirement is a level B2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This is equivalent to an IELTS score between 5.5 and 6.5. 
  • Courses below the university level: You’ll need a lower score of at least B1 CEFR. So, in IELTS terms, this means aiming for a score between 4 and 5, which shows you have a good basic understanding of English.

However, each school or program might have its own IELTS requirements, which could be higher than the visa's minimum. So, always check the exact IELTS score your chosen institution requires. 

Work visa

In the UK, there are many types of work visas. The most popular ones include:

  • The Skilled Worker visa: This is designed for individuals who have a job offer in the UK in a skilled occupation. For example, architects, journalists, and laboratory technicians.
  • The Health and Care Worker visa: This is specifically for medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers coming to work in the UK health sector. 

For both the Skilled Worker and Health and Care Worker visas, you’ll need to prove you can read, write, speak, and understand English to at least level B1 on the CEFR scale. This is equivalent to an IELTS score between 4 and 5.

Minimum IELTS score requirements for Ireland 

Now, let’s take a look at what IELTS scores you would need to apply for a work or study visa in Ireland:

Student visa 

If you're planning to study in Ireland, you have several options:

  • 2nd Level Education: A secondary education, which includes both junior (ages 12-15) and senior cycles (ages 15-18).
  • Foundation level: Introductory courses with a vocational focus, providing foundational knowledge and skills in a specific area, like business, healthcare, or technology. 
  • English preparation courses: Designed for those needing to improve their English before starting their main academic program.
  • Higher education courses: Such as undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.

For 2nd level, foundation level, and English preparation courses, you'll need a minimum IELTS score of 4.0. However, for all other courses, like higher education programs, the requirement is a higher IELTS score of at least 5.0.

Work visa 

There are no strict IELTS score requirements set by the Irish immigration authorities. Your IELTS score requirements can vary depending on your employer and the type of job you’re applying to. 

Minimum IELTS score requirements for Australia

Here are the minimum IELTS scores you’ll need to study or work in Australia:

Student visa 

The basic requirement for your student visa application is a minimum overall IELTS score of 5.5. 

If you're not quite at the minimum score yet, don't worry. You can still qualify for a student visa.

If your IELTS score is 5.0, which is slightly below the standard requirement, you'll need to enrol in an English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students (ELICOS) for at least 10 weeks. 

If your IELTS score is 4.5, you'll need to take a longer ELICOS program, lasting at least 20 weeks. 

Work visa 

There are two main types of work visas for Australia: Permanent and temporary.

The permanent work visas include:

  • Regional visas like the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme. For this visa, you’ll need an IELTS score of at least 6 for all four sections of the test (Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking).
  • Skilled migration visas like the Employer Nomination Scheme visa. To be eligible, you’ll also need an IELTS score of at least 6 for all four sections of the test.

Temporary work visas include:

  • The Temporary Skill Shortage visa requires a minimum IELTS score of 5, with a score of at least 4.5 in each section of the test.
  • The Temporary Graduate visa allows recently graduated international students to live, work, and study in Australia for at least up to 18 months. For this visa, you’ll need an overall score of at least 6 with a minimum score of 5 for each of the four sections of the test.

For more information about your specific situation, make sure to visit the Australian government’s Working in Australia page.

Minimum IELTS score requirements for the United States 

Here’s what you need to know about the requirements for English proficiency if you’re planning to move to the US:

Student visa 

In the US, each school sets its own minimum IELTS score needed for a student visa. So, make sure to check the English language requirements of your prospective institution before applying.

For example:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expects a minimum IELTS score of 7, with a recommended score of 7.5.
  • Berkeley College applicants need to achieve an IELTS score of 5.5 or higher.

Work visa 

Unlike the UK and Australia, the US government doesn’t set a universal minimum IELTS score requirement for work visas. English proficiency requirements can vary based on what your employer requires.

Minimum IELTS score requirements for Canada

Here’s what you need to know about taking IELTS if you’re planning to live in Canada

Student visa 

There are no set language prerequisites for higher education in Canada. So, your minimum IELTS score requirements depend on the institution you’re planning to attend.

Citizens of certain countries, like China, India, and Brazil, can apply for a Canadian student visa through the Student Direct Stream (SDS).

For this, you'll need an IELTS Academic score of at least 6 overall, or an IELTS General Training score of at least 7 in each section of the test. 

Work visa 

For Canadian work visas, the language requirements can vary depending on the specific visa type and the job you are applying for. 

If your future job is in the National Occupational Classification (NOC) TEER Category zero or one, which are management occupations, or jobs that usually require a university degree, you’ll need a minimum IELTS score of 6 in each section of test.

If your work experience is in the NOC TEER Category two or three, like jobs that require a college diploma, you’ll need to meet a minimum IELTS score of 4 in Reading, and 5 in the other three sections.

IELTS: your key to global success

Now that you understand the minimum IELTS score needed to succeed in different countries, you can prepare better for your big move and confidently step into your new life abroad.

The British Council offers free preparation resources to guide you through your IELTS preparation journey. Sign up to IELTS Ready today and start preparing. 

Receive in-depth guidance from qualified IELTS experts, practice tests to check your readiness, and other resources to set yourself up for success. Invest in your future today!

Learn more about IELTS