Introduction to IELTS and its role in student visa applications
When you’re applying for a university abroad, it is important to exhibit your proficiency in the medium of education in that country. For this purpose, there are international standardised tests that students from all over the world take in order to show that they are capable of understanding their academic coursework and function in the country.
IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System and its results are used to gauge student success by immigration authorities. By assessing non-native English speakers thoroughly with the reading, writing, speaking and listening tests, it can be decided whether they would be able to adjust and thrive in the new environment and education system.
Understanding the IELTS requirements for student visa applications
You have dreamt about the university of your choice and the program you want to enrol in but this journey has a lot of steps. One of these is to master the language of the country you are applying to. Depending on the country you are focusing on, you will required to achieve a minimum score in your IELTS exam:
- For Canada, the minimum requirement for undergraduate courses is 5.5 in each category and 6.0 overall. For postgraduate programs, it is 6.5 in each band and 6.0 overall.
- To apply in the US, your undergraduate or postgraduate study program will usually define the minimum requirement for your IELTS score but on an average, it is 6.5 overall score. Some institutes do not require IELTS scores and instead require you to submit TOEFL or PTE scores.
- In the UK, there are two kinds of student visas- ‘Degree level or above’ and ‘Below degree level’.
- Degree level or above: CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level of B2, 5.5 overall and in all the four categories in IELTS for UKVI.
- Below degree level: CEFR of B1 and 4.0 overall, plus in all four categories in IELTS for UKVI.
Note: The CEFR is a grading system that defines the proficiency of English with six reference levels- A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, and C2.
- For Australian universities, the minimum requirement of IELTS score varies with each institute and field of study but you do need this score to prove your communication skills. Generally, you will require an overall score of 5.5, as well as a 5.5 score in each category. For teaching, nursing and engineering, the overall minimum requirement would be 7.0 and in each skill, it would be 7.0 as well.
Besides these four countries discussed above, IELTS is accepted in 140 countries worldwide so check out if it is widely accepted in the country that you are aiming for. Keep in mind that you are exempt from providing your English language proficiency results if you are a passport holder of a certain country or you have pursued education in one of these countries in the English language.
Preparing for the IELTS exam as part of the student visa application process
You have excellent scores in your academic records and you are passionate about the subject that you are going to study, this gives you confidence to pursue your dreams but there is another component. Your communication skills in English need to be proven by extensive studying and getting a good score in your IELTS exam. When you are being assessed by the immigration officer for your student visa, they will see your commitment to the program you are going to study abroad by your English proficiency. Here are some tips to study smart:
- Take a good look at the test format and familiarise yourself with the different kinds of tasks and their time limits in the exam
- Before enrolling for any coaching lessons, you need to take a practice test and see where you stand. This will remove your fears about this totally new test you have to prepare for and will give you an estimate of what you need to do for further improvement
- For the reading section, you need to read a wide variety of texts and be able to skim quickly so that you can quickly answer the questions about the passages
- Both the writing tasks require you to use formal English and for this, you have to be able to express what you understand from the graphical data (task 1) and be able to use appropriate devices and language for your persuasive skills in task 2. Keep a diary of vocabulary and record what you learn
- Speaking test intimidates most students because the topic is unknown and you are tested on your fluency and accent. The best way to practise this is to mirror native speakers when you hear them talk in tutorials, videos, movies, etc
- The listening part will be more like a test of your concentration because you need to retain the information you pick from it so make some personal hacks to do that
- If you start practising 3 to 6 months before taking the exam, you can start developing your own strategies and this will enable you to consistently improve your band score
How IELTS scores are evaluated and used in the student visa decision-making process
Just as you take medical tests to prove that you are healthy, IELTS is the kind of test that proves you in the following ways:
- In the speaking test, you are sitting across from the examiner and actually expressing yourself in the language of the country that you will be living in for the next few years. If you are not doing that well, it will make the visa officer think that you might not be able to cope with the language barrier. Hence, the test is a litmus test for your communication skills
- As the education system in every country varies, the visa committee wants to test the cognitive abilities of the student in order to make sure that they will be able to adjust with the new system. The many tasks in the IELTS test show whether you are ready for a learning environment that is more conceptual rather than memorisation-based.
Alternative language proficiency tests for student visa applications
There are many other tests that you can take besides the IELTS for your university admission tests and student visa but you have to make sure they are acceptable by the immigration office and the specific university that you are applying to. Let’s look at some of the most common English proficiency tests:
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) by ETS
- Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE)
- Duolingo English Test
- Cambridge English: Advanced (Certificate in Advanced English)
- CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language)
- Occupational English Test (OET)
All these tests have different formats and their minimum scores for the visa office would also be different for each country. You can explore your options and whichever test stays valid for longer, is affordable and applies to most places you are aiming for, should be preferred.
Conclusion: The importance of IELTS in student visa applications
You need rigorous preparation and practice in order to prove to the immigration services that you will be able to function and contribute to their society as an international student. Without knowing the language, you will not be ready for cultural and knowledge exchange so excelling in IELTS is a requirement you must fulfil. Book a consultation session with our mentors to clear your mind about which test to take and how to prepare for it.