From November 2014, the department will accept English language test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT) and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) across visa programmes. These tests are alternatives to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and Occupational English Test (OET), and have been accepted in the Student visa programme since November 2011.
The Department of Immigration has announced that the TOEFL and Pearson tests of English language ability will be accepted for immigration purposes from November 2014.
Currently, only the International English Language Testing System IELTS and Occupational English Test (OET) are accepted for the purposes of applying for General Skilled Migration and Permanent Employer Sponsored ENS/RSMS visas.
From November 2014, the following tests will also be accepted:
- Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-based test (TOEFL iBT)
- Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)
The TOEFL iBT is taken via the internet. There are more than 50 test dates each year, and there is a wide range of test locations throughout the world.
The test takes approximately 4.5 hours to complete has the following structure:
- Reading: 60-80 Minutes
- Listening: 120-180 Minutes
- Speaking: 20 Minutes
- Writing: 50 Minutes
TOEFL scores are available approximately 10 days after the test date. They can be viewed online, and a hard copy is sent approximately 13 days after the test date. You can specify recipients for your scores to be sent to via an online facility, but this cannot be changed after you have taken the test.
The current cost to undertake the TOEFL iBT in Australia is $240, well under the current cost of IELTS ($330).
The Pearson Test of English Academic is structured as follows:
- Speaking and writing: 77 – 93 minutes
- Reading: 32 – 41 minutes
- Listening: 45 – 57 minutes
Overall, the test takes 3 hours. Results are available within 5 working days, and can be accessed by logging into an online account. It is possible to forward results to institutions via the online account also. This compares favourably with IELTS – results currently take 2 weeks to become available, and there is no online account facility for test takers.
The cost to do the PTE Academic test in Australia is $330 – exactly the same as IELTS. Locations and test dates are less extensive than the TOEFL.
Which Visas Will Be Affected?
The new English tests will apply for the following types of visa:
- General Skilled Migration, including Skilled Independent Subclass 189, Skilled Nominated Subclass 190, Skilled Regional Sponsored Provisional Subclass 489 andGraduate Temporary Subclass 485 visas.
- ENS Subclass 186
- RSMS Subclass 187
- Business Migration
- Distinguished Talent Subclass 124
- Former Resident Subclass 151
At this point, the new English tests have not been announced as applying to the subclass 457 visa. This subclass is currently under review and a report is due in July 2014, and it is likely that one of the recommendations would be to accept a wider range of English tests.
Various Levels of English are Relevant for visa purposes:
1. Functional English
This is the level required for applicants for permanent and provisional skilled visas who wish to avoid paying the English Language Charge (currently $4,500 or more).
Required Scores to establish Functional English are as follows:
|Test component||Average across test components only|
2. Vocational English
Vocational English is the required level to obtain a 457 visa, and also ENS and RSMS visa through the Temporary Residence Transitional stream for people who have held a 457 visa for 2 years with the employer.
Required scores to establish Vocational English are as follows:
3. Competent English
Competent English is the minimum (threshold) score for people applying for General Skilled Migration. It is also the score required for people applying for ENS and RSMS visas through the Direct Entry Stream.
Scores required to show Competent English are as follows:
4. Proficient English
Proficient English applies only to Points Tested General Skilled visas, and is the required score to obtain 10 points for English.
Scores required for Proficient English are:
5. Superior English
Superior English is to obtain the maximum score of 20 in the Skilled Migration Points Test.
Minimum scores for Superior English are:
The availability of more choices for English language testing from November 2014 will be good for visa applicants. There will be various advantages for the different English tests, for instance:
- TOEFL: readily available, inexpensive
- Pearson: results ready in 5 days, ability to forward results to various recipients after test date
- OET: no requirement to sit all 4 modules on the same date, results from different dates accepted by Immigration