English Language Competency - A required test for general skilled migration

One of the requirements of general skilled migration is that the applicant must provide evidence of their English language competency.

There are as many as 20 points at stake, meaning this part of the points test is significant in your overall score.

English language competency

How are points awarded for English language competency?

There are four levels:

  1. Functional. The requirement here is either an IELTS average score of 4.5 or evidence of studies in an English language. It is also the minimum requirement for secondary applicants.
  2. Competent. In this instance, you must achieve an IELTS average score of 6 or hold an approved passport. It is the minimum level of English language competency for any skilled migration visa but provides no points.
  3. Proficient. The requirement here is an IELTS average score of 7. This provides a score of 10 points.
  4. Superior. You English language competency will be qualified as 'superior' if you achiever an average score of IELTS score is an average of 8. This provides a score of 20 points.

How do I get my English language competency tested?

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the most common test to validate your English language competency.

This test comprises four components:

  1. Reading.
  2. Writing.
  3. Listening.
  4. Speaking.

Generally an applicant must show a certain minimum score in each of the four components to meet the requirements for GSM (i.e. competent, vocational and proficient English).

If the score is less than the required number in any component, English language competency has not been sufficiently proven. In such a case, the applicant must re-sit all four components.

Other tests include the Occupational English Test (OET).

Want to find out which English test you should take?

Types of IELTS tests

There are two types of IELTS test available:

  • General Training; and
  • Academic.

The government makes no distinction between these two tests. Either of the tests can be used to satisfy the English language competency criteria for a GSM visa.

However, for skills assessments in some skilled occupations, applicants must sit for the Academic IELTS. Examples of such occupations are medical practitioners, nurses and teachers.

How long is the IELTS valid for?

You can use IELTS results dated up to three years before the date of application for GSM applications.

Can I improve my score by sitting the test even if I am a valid passport holder?

If you hold a passport from the UK, USA, Ireland, Canada or New Zealand, the IELTS testing requirement is waived in assessing threshold English.

However, this means you do not get any points for English. Therefore, should you want to get points for you English, you'll have to sit for the IELTS.

Timing of English testing

  • If you are applying for a subclass 489, 189 or 190 visa:

Secure your English language score before you receive an invitation to lodge a visa application. In a perfect world, it should happen at the same time as the Expression of Interest submission.

  • If you are applying for a subclass 476 or 485 visa:

You must secure the competent threshold level of English before you make the visa application.

What about secondary applicants?

Seconday applicants aged 18 or older must show functional English competency. This is thus an average score of 4.5 in IELTS or evidence of studies in English.

Dependents who have less than functional English must pay a second visa application charge (VAC), called the English Education Charge. This is currently charged at $4885.

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