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IELTS and UKVI IELTS explained

In February last year, the UK government announced several changes to the Secure English Language Tests (SELT) which students need to take in order to obtain a UK Tier 4 study visa. These changes have been implemented since April 2015, but even though it has been over a year since the new requirements were introduced, some students, parents, and even education advisors are still unclear about the changes and how it affects them.

The International English Language Testing System, more commonly known as IELTS, is the world’s most popular English Language Test. Comprising of four parts – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – the IELTS is designed to assess students on the English Language competencies required to obtain a Tier 4 visa to study at a Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) in the UK.

Before these changes were made, most universities with HTS status accepted students with an overall IELTS grade of 6.0, with no individual skill below 5.5, to the majority of their undergraduate and postgraduate courses as this was, and still is, the minimum requirement needed in order to secure a Tier 4 visa; although some universities set their own higher entry requirements.

However, the government announced early last year that they were introducing a new test for entry to UK institutions, called UKVI IELTS, which must be taken by anyone applying to study a course below degree level, such as A Levels or a Foundation programme. Although IELTS requirements for undergraduate and postgraduate courses remained the same, many people within the industry were worried that more changes were to follow and advised all students to take UKVI IELTS regardless of the course they were applying to, but this is not true.

For undergraduate and postgraduate courses, universities with HTS status are still able to make their own judgement on which English Language qualifications they accept, on the condition that they can prove that they are a suitable equivalent to the IELTS level needed to obtain a Tier 4 study visa. Qualifications such as the SPM English Language in Malaysia, and the English Language High School Certificate in India, may be considered by some UK universities on a case-by-case basis.

Image via British Council

To summarise, all students who are entering a UK institution for a course which is below Bachelor’s degree level must take the UKVI IELTS, while students applying for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes need IELTS, or an alternative English Language qualification, if individual universities are willing to consider these.

Students who are unsure whether they will meet the academic requirements for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree programme should take the UKVI IELTS as a contingency, or wait until they receive their academic results if time permits. If students take the wrong test, they will be required to re-take the correct one and this will incur an additional cost. The best thing to do when applying to study in the UK is to contact each institution individually and find out their exact requirements to ensure that your application will be successful.

Images via Shutterstock

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