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English Language Tests Explained

Written By Georgina Lyons
Thu, Nov 30, 2017
Georgina Lyons


For visa applicants who do not hold a passport from the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA or New Zealand, in the many cases to apply and be granted a visa for Australia they will have to undertake an English language test.

For applicants not from an exempt country there are limited exemptions to providing English tests for primary and secondary applicants. For example, if an applicant is applying through the 186-Temporary Residence Transition (TRT) stream, or applying as the primary applicant on a 457 visa, and they have studied in English for 5 years in a secondary (ie: high school) and/or higher education (ie: university) institution they do not have to an English language test provided they can provide evidence of this education.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) accepts 5 different types of English language tests:

  • IELTS - International English Language Testing System
  • PTE - Pearson Test of English 
  • CAE - Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English 
  • TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language 
  • OET - Occupational English Test 

The tests follow the same format, applicants are tested and marked on 4 different components - reading, writing, speaking and listening. Each component is scored individually and applicants are given an overall average score also known as “band score”. The required scores for these tests are dependant on what type of visa you are making an application for.

For many visa applications, the applicant’s lowest score is taken to be the test score. The average/band score may not be sufficient to meet the English language requirements for the visa. For example, if your are applying for a 186 visa that requires the applicant to obtain a score of 6 in IELTS, and the applicant scores marks of 6 in three components and a 5.5 in one of those and your average/band score is 6, the applicant will not meet the English language requirements for your visa as the lowest score of 5.5 is taken to be their test score.

Available Tests


The most recognised and used test. IELTS is a paper-based test that can be taken at 400 testing centres world-wide, tests generally occur on Saturdays and Thursdays. The cost is approximately A$330. Results are generally issued 13 days after taking the test.


The increasingly popular PTE can be taken at 250 test centres around the world it costs approximately A$330 and results are generally issued within 5 days. This test is fast being favoured by applicants instead of IELTS as clients seem to obtain more favourable results.


Due to its high availability with monthly test dates available at 2,800 exam centres around the world the CAE test is becoming increasingly popular. The cost is approximately A$350 and results are generally issued 2–3 weeks after an online exam has been taken and 4–6 weeks after a paper-based exam has been taken.


Has 50 test dates in approved venues around the world it costs approximately A$380 and results generally take 10 days to issue.


Although the OET test is available to anyone, however those working in the healthcare sector generally use it. OET was specifically developed for healthcare professionals, therefore it is widely accepted by many healthcare boards and councils. Testing is available once per month in 30 countries world-wide it is the most expensive than the other tests at an approximate cost of A$587.

TSS Immigration has further information on the required tests scores for most common visas on our website.

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