IELTS Begone! Australian Immigration to Accept Alternative English Tests From November

Matthew Halliday, Admitted as Solicitor (QLD), MARN 0701626, GA CONSULTING


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:


  • Distinguished Talent (Australian support) (subclass 124)
  • Business Talent (subclass 132)
  • Former Resident (subclass 151)
  • Business Owner (provisional) (subclass 160)*
  • Senior Executive (provisional) (subclass 161)*
  • Investor (provisional) (subclass 162)*
  • State/Territory Sponsored Business Owner (provisional) (subclass 163)*
  • State/Territory Sponsored Senior Executive (provisional) (subclass 164)*
  • State/Territory Sponsored Investor (provisional) (subclass 165)*
  • Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)
  • Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187)
  • Business Innovation & Investment (provisional) (subclass 188)
  • Skilled – Independent (subclass 189)
  • Skilled – Nominated (subclass 190)
  • Work and Holiday (temporary) (subclass 462)
  • Skilled – Recognised Graduate (subclass 476)
  • Temporary Graduate (subclass 485)
  • Skilled – Regional (provisional) (subclass 489)
  • Distinguished Talent (subclass 858)
  • Skilled – Regional (subclass 887)
  • Business Innovation and Investment (permanent) (subclass 888)
  • Business Owner (Residence) (subclass 890)
  • Investor (Residence) (subclass 891)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Business owner (Residence) (subclass 892)
  • State/Territory Sponsored Investor (Residence) (subclass 893)


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
Vocational Listening 5.0 4 36 B
Reading 5.0 4 36 B
Writing 5.0 14 36 B
Speaking 5.0 14 36 B
Competent Listening 6.0 12 50 B
Reading 6.0 13 50 B
Writing 6.0 21 50 B
Speaking 6.0 18 50 B
Proficient (for points tested Skilled visas) Listening 7.0 24 65 B
Reading 7.0 24 65 B
Writing 7.0 27 65 B
Speaking 7.0 23 65 B
Superior (for points tested Skilled visas) Listening 8.0 28 79 A
Reading 8.0 29 79 A
Writing 8.0 30 79 A
Speaking 8.0 26 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.







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