In this article, you’ll find out about approved ways to prove your English language ability in order to move to the United Kingdom:
International students have remained remarkably enthusiastic about studying in the United Kingdom, despite the onslaught of the Covid-19 outbreak. The number of Sponsored study visas issued in the year ending June 2022 was 486,868, which was 71% more than in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic (gov.uk, 2022).
The reasons why the UK remains one of the world’s most popular destinations for higher education are many and varied. Among other things, UK-bound students can benefit from hundreds of years of proven academic excellence, study at some of the world’s best universities, live in a multicultural society that is welcoming, and explore post-study work opportunities via the Graduate route. Working in the UK too is something that many foreigners find appealing, and why wouldn’t they? The graduate labour market is robust, there are diverse job sectors, and the country offers good working conditions and numerous job opportunities.
Finding the right UK visa
The type of visa you need to stay in the UK will depend on whether you are planning to work or study there. You should also consider the type of work you intend to do once you reach. If you go to the UK government’s official website, you should find all the information you’ll need to decide which visa is right for you.
As far as English language tests go, which one you need to sit will depend on what you are applying for. Different immigration routes require different levels of English language ability. Some application routes (e.g. Student, Skilled Worker) will require an approved language test that assesses all four language skills – listening, reading, writing and speaking – whereas other routes (e.g Sportsperson, parent) might need you to take a test that assesses just your speaking and listening abilities. Be sure to check this beforehand so that you take the right test.
Secure English Language Tests (SELT)
In order for you to be able to apply for a UK visa, you’ll first need to prove your knowledge of English by passing a secure English language test (SELT). These are tests which meet rigorous security and quality standards so that assessment is fair and unbiased, and results reflect the test taker’s true English language ability.
The UK government’s website has a list of approved test providers with who you can take a SELT. If you are going to the UK to study, it’s important that you know which test you will need to take. While a SELT exam is a standard requirement for a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa, remember that the university or institution where you intend to study may also ask you for proof of your language ability.
As well as the IELTS Academic and IELTS General Training tests, taken by over 3.5 million people in 140 countries each year, IELTS also offers secure English language tests (SELT), approved by the UK Home Office for visa applications to the UK.
IELTS Life Skills, a test you can pass or fail, is usually taken by someone who needs to prove their English speaking and listening skills as part of their UK visa application. It is available at two CEFR levels – IELTS Life Skills A1 and IELTS Life Skills B1.
IELTS for UKVI (Academic) is ideal for test takers wanting to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels, and for those seeking professional registration in the UK.
IELTS for UKVI (General Training), on the other hand, is the right test for individuals planning to migrate to the UK, and for those wanting to train or study below degree level.
If you want to know more about IELTS Life Skills or IELTS for UKVI, you’ll be able to find sufficient information on British Council’s Take IELTS website. You can also view test dates and book your IELTS test on the website.
To be absolutely certain which test you need to take, it would be a good idea to check with the university or college you are hoping to attend, before you book a test date.
English requirement for UK visas
What level of English must I have in order to get a UK visa?
The answer to this question will depend primarily on two things. First, find out the English requirement set by the UK Home Office for the application route you want to take. Second, if you are applying to a UK university or college, you will need to check with them too to see if they require proof of language proficiency. Sometimes, the English language requirement set by the institution for your chosen course of study may be above the UK Home Office minimum level.
Broadly speaking, in order to apply for a UK Student visa, your level of English must be equivalent to CEFR level B2 if you want to study at degree level or above. If you choose a course of study below degree level, your level of English will have to be a CEFR level B1. To apply for a work visa, the level of English you will need to exhibit depends on the type of work you intend to do. For instance, someone applying for a Skilled Worker visa must prove their level of English is at least a CEFR level B1.
Getting ready for the UK
No matter what your current level of English is, spend enough time working on your language skills before you move abroad. As well as improving your general English skills, it is a good idea to do a preparation course for the English proficiency test that you would like to take. This should help you better your language skills and develop exam technique. Remember, some test takers do not get the scores they should do due to insufficient preparation and bad exam technique.
Once you book an IELTS for UKVI test with the British Council, you will have access to a range of free preparation materials. They include online IELTS practice tests and ‘Road to IELTS’, British Council’s most popular online preparation course. Additionally, British Council SELT test takers also get free access to GEL IELTS, an online platform that offers expert support.
Moving abroad can be tricky, but at the same time it can also be incredibly exciting and rewarding. Many see it is as a life-changing experience because it helps them gain new perspectives and experiences.
Even if your language ability is above average, there will always be other challenges that come your way. Don’t lose heart, though, when facing difficulties. Remember, the UK is one of the best places to live and work, so don’t let nagging doubts put you off.
If you think you’re ready to begin your UK adventure, IELTS would be a good starting point. Good luck!