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English Language Testing in Australia

For many visa applications, the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) assesses visa applicants’ English language proficiency. Visas which require you to do an English language test include employer-sponsored and skilled migration visa program categories.

In some circumstances, a visa applicant can satisfy the English language proficiency requirement without sitting a test. These are in circumstances if the applicant in Australia has successfully completed Australian studies to a certain level. Similarly, some visa applicants who have studied for at least five years in the English language medium in an English-speaking country will satisfy the language requirement.

You do not need to be assessed of your English proficiency if you hold a type of passport specified by the legislative instrument made under regulation 1.15B. At the time of writing, these are passports issued by the following countries:

  • United Kingdom;
  • United States of America;
  • Canada;
  • New Zealand; and
  • The Republic of Ireland.
You do not need to take an English language test if you hold a type of passport specified by the legislative instrument made under regulations 1.15B. Currently, these are passports from the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.

Regulation 5.17 of the Migration Regulations 1994 prescribes what can be used as evidence of English language proficiency. The visa applicant has to give evidence of having achieved a result in an approved English language test.

Any English language test that the visa applicant relies on must have been undertaken in the three years immediately prior to the visa application lodgement. It is not possible to submit the results of an English language test taken after the visa application was lodged in a permanent visa application.

What are the approved English language tests?

If you cannot provide a documentary evidence which supports a claim that you are in the group of people who do not have to provide results of an English language test, you will need to undertake one to make a successful visa application.

The following is a list of approved English language tests for Australian visa purposes:

The required marks to meet the English language requirements among these tests are not the same. The score requirements will be different depending on which test you take.

It is important to provide the results of an approved English language test undertaken in the three years immediately prior to the visa application lodgement. This is to ensure that your English language proficiency is current. If the test results are more than three years old, your application will be refused for not meeting the requirement.

What are the English language proficiency levels?

There are five different levels of English language proficiency as prescribed under the Migration legislation, as follows (in increasing levels of proficiency):

  1. Functional;
  2. Vocational;
  3. Competent;
  4. Proficient; and
  5. Superior.

The following chart shows the requisite scores required for each level of English language proficiency:

Proficiency Level Components OET IELTS TOEFL iBT CAE PTE (academic)
Functional English Overall score, test average or total Not applicable 4.5 32 147 30
Vocational English Reading B 5.0 4 154 36
Writing B 5.0 14 154 36
Listening B 5.0 4 154 36
Speaking B 5.0 14 154 36
Competent English Reading B 6.0 13 169 50
Writing B 6.0 21 169 50
Listening B 6.0 12 169 50
Speaking B 6.0 18 169 50
Proficient English Reading B 7.0 24 185 65
Writing B 7.0 27 185 65
Listening B 7.0 24 185 65
Speaking B 7.0 23 185 65
Superior English Reading A 8.0 29 200 79
Writing A 8.0 30 200 79
Listening A 8.0 28 200 79
Speaking A 8.0 26 200 79

Functional English

Functional English as required in the immigration legislative instrument refers to your ability to read and understand English texts about topics that are familiar to you.

This can be evidenced by demonstrating completion of all years of primary education and minimum of three years of secondary education in an educational institution whether it be in or outside Australia. All instructions should be in English.

Vocational English

Vocational English is usually required for Temporary Work (Skilled) Visas subclass 457. This level of English language proficiency refers to your ability to comprehend English to understand topics that are basic but unfamiliar.

For 457 visas, a particular legislative instrument applies. This legislative instrument changes the definition of vocational English to the following:


Competent, Superior and Proficient

People with the English language proficiency of competent, superior or proficient are confident in their ability to communicate. As indicative of their test scores, these levels of English language proficiency can engage in any method of communication with accuracy and comprehension. 

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