What is IELTS and UKVI and what are International English Language Tests?

What is IELTS

If you’ve been interested in gaining a sponsorship visa in the UK or in sponsoring visas for some time, you will no doubt be aware that international English language tests are required for most visa applications. You may also have heard them referred to as IELTS or UKVI tests, so what is IELTS and what is UKVI exactly?

UKVI stands for UK Visas and Immigration, and it is the sector of the home office responsible for administering visas in the UK. English language tests labelled UKVI can be used to support UK visa applications.

IELTS tests are English language tests, but referring to all such tests as ‘IELTS tests’ is incorrect. IELTS is actually the name of one of several providers of English testing that are accepted for UK visa applications, and it stands for International English Language Testing System. Other commonly used providers are LanguageCert, Pearson & Trinity College London.

What is a SELT test?

SELTs is the term that should actually be used when referring to these tests collectively. SELT stands for secure English language testing, and it is the term used for any valid English test accepted by UKVI, including all the above.

The International English Language Testing System is perhaps the most widely recognised English testing system for learners across the globe, and the testing is also available online. It is accepted for visa applications in all major English speaking countries.

It also has an easily accessible and recognisable scoring system of band scoring from 1 to 9. For a skilled worker or health and care worker visa, an IELTS score of 4.0 is required.

What is CEFR?

CEFR is the unified scoring system used to enable a comparison of the different international English language tests available, which all use their own scoring systems. CEFR scoring is graded in 6 levels – A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 & C2. An IELTS score of 4.0 is equivalent to CEFR B1. If you’re using a testing system other than IELTS, you’ll need to score their equivalent of CEFR B1 to meet the requirements for a skilled worker visa.

Are there Exemptions from English Testing?

International English Language tests are exempt for those who can demonstrate their English ability in some other capacity. For the UKVI, this can be in the form of formal learning such as degrees that have been taught in English or in English speaking countries. People who have undertaken other schooling in the UK such as A Levels might also be exempt.

What is ECCTIS?

ECCTIS is the recognised reference point for qualifications and their international equivalency. It is trusted by the UKVI to benchmark qualifications against its English testing requirements. You can use their site tools to understand whether your qualification makes you exempt from English testing. Ecctis can provide you with a letter for your visa application confirming your English language proficiency.

How does IELTS Testing work?

IELTS tests are made up of four sections – Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking. For the UKVI skilled worker visa, you need to score 4.0 – or CEFR B1 – in each of these key areas.

The tests are based on everyday situations and are designed for equality of opportunity across the globe. They’re not designed to be prohibitively difficult. They’re being used in this instance to ensure you have sufficient English proficiency to fulfil the role you are being sponsored for.

Need help to pass IELTS?

English Online is the official teacher-led British Council course for IELTS preparation. Get private one-to-one private coaching from the official provider of the IELTS tests.

The IELTS Listening test

The listening test involves four sections with 10 questions each. You will listen to spoken dialogues and answer questions in note form as you listen. The answers will appear in the same order as the questions, and you are given 10 minutes at the end of the test to transfer your notes into answers using good spelling and grammar.

The IELTS Reading test

The reading test involves 40 questions which relate to a series of texts to be studied. In broad terms, the questions are about summarising the main points, arguments and details contained within the texts.

The IELTS Writing test

The IELTS writing test consists of two parts which involve writing a letter and an essay in response to a given situation, argument or problem. These should be in the form of a 150 word letter and a 250 word essay respectively.

The IELTS Speaking test

The speaking test involves recording and assessing a conversational exchange between yourself and the examiner. There are 3 sections to be recorded. The first will be about everyday conventional things such as family and personal interests, and should last around 5 minutes.

The second will be about a prescribed topic that will be presented to you. You’ll prepare briefly and give a 2 minute dialogue before being cross referenced by the examiner. The third section expands on the second and covers more abstract ideas and notions. This again lasts around 5 minutes.

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