The Australian Immigration Department has reported that it will extend acceptance of TESOL iBT and PTE Academic as alternatives to the current requirement for Australian migrants to evidence their English ability via IELTS or OET from November 2014.
While these two tests have been accepted for student visas since November 2011, the acceptance of the tests for a much wider range of Australian visas is likely to greatly benefit a large number of migrants who have struggled with IELTS and OET due to the lack of quality instruction outside of English speaking countries.
For those of you unfamiliar with the OET, OET stands for Occupational English Test and mainly focuses on testing the English of medical professionals. Unfortunately, this test is not widely taught outside of Australia and the learning materials are quite limited. While IELTS has become more widespread due to the presence of the British Council and IDP in a large number of countries, IELTS itself has been criticised on a number of grounds including the high cost of taking the test, slow issuing of results and the difficulty in achieving consistent band scores.
What visas will be affected?
From November 2014, applicants for most visas will be able to provide TOEFL iBT and PTE Academic results as alternatives to IELTS or OET. A notable exception is the 457 visa however the Department has explained that the omission of this visa is due to a current review of the 457 programme. Affected visas include:
What scores will be accepted?
The Australian Immigration Department has published the following table showing how TOEFL iBT and PTE Academic scores will be interpreted as equivalent to the current IELTS scores.
|English Language proficiency level||Test component||IELTS||TOEFL iBT||PTE Academic||OET|
|Functional||Average across test components only||4.5||32||30||n/a|
|Proficient (for points tested Skilled visas)||Listening||7.0||24||65||B|
|Superior (for points tested Skilled visas)||Listening||8.0||28||79||A|
Note: Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test score equivalencies will be available from January 2015.
While the exact date on which this change will be implemented is currently unknown, the Department predicts that the change will be implemented in November of this year.
We expect that this change will lead to a large decline in applicants for the IELTS test amongst migrants coming to Australia. While this is likely to cause a headache to those in the ELICOS industry who have invested heavily in IELTS training, with change also comes opportunities. Those education providers who are quick to pivot toward TOEFL and PTE Academic (and later Cambridge CAE) are likely to be well rewarded.
Overall, this is good news for Australian migrants and should also put pressure on current test providers organisations such as IELTS and OET to reduce testing prices and fast-track the issue of results.