I am UK-born and bred. My first language is English. Why do you need to do an English test you ask? Well, you don’t actually. But it could mean the difference between getting your visa or not.
Let me explain, you need to reach a minimum points threshold of 60 before you are eligible to submit an Expression of Interest for your chosen visa (and you should have done a skills assessment).
If you have 60 points when you submit, then you stand a good chance of being invited in the up-and-coming rounds, provided your occupation has not reached its yearly invitation ceiling. Of course, the more points you have, the more likely you are to be selected.
At the time, I calculated that I would have 55 points from my age, education and work-experience. Damn! Although having a UK passport automatically means you have competent English – that nets you nil pois! I needed to do the English test! How funny, I thought!
There are different tests that you can choose from:-
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Cambridge English (CAE)
- Pearson Test of English (PTE)
- Occupational English Test (OET)
After a couple of years these will expire (a bit like your UK driving theory test before you get round to taking the practical test) so that’s something to keep in mind when lodging your visa application.
I went for IELTS as I could do it locally and it was the one I’d read the most about. IELTS has 50 test centres in the UK – find your nearest one here.
But then it hit me. I’m a Welsh (proud of it, of course) and soon felt the pressure of the possible jokes that would ensue if I failed this English test.
To make it worse, after closer inspection, you actually get graded and ranked – but the higher the rank, the more visa points you can score! To achieve the rank of ‘Superior English’ you have to score at least 8 in each of the four test components (speaking, reading, listening and writing) – that would net you 20 points. For my pride and to avoid ridicule, I had to get top marks!
Here is the breakdown:-
|Superior English – person has a score of 8 or more in the English Language Testing System (IELTS) in each of the four test components.||20|
|Proficient English – person has a score of 7 or more in the English Language Testing System (IELTS) in each of the four test components.||10|
|Competent English – person has a score of 6 or more in the English Language Testing System (IELTS) in each of the four test components.||0|
Booking your appointment
Once you have picked your day, signed up and paid you will receive a confirmation email. You will also be able to log into the ‘Candidate Area’ (using your IELTS Reference No and email address). Here, you are provided with free IELTS practice materials.
On the day
I didn’t do any preparation for the test, but perhaps it is wise to do so. Along with the pressure of humiliation, there is also the associated fee for doing the test (£145 in 2014) – so we didn’t want to end up paying for me again to do the re-test! Also, ensure you have your passport for identity otherwise you’re a non-starter.
When I got to the test centre I was surprised – I thought I would be the only first language English-speaking person doing it. In fact I’d say 1/3 of us were in the same boat. I got chatting with a guy who was doing a re-test. He’d passed but needed to get a higher mark for the extra visa points. He talked about his experience going through an agent – he had mixed feelings about it really. It had cost him a fortune so far, but then he had one visa rejected before changing professions.
Before we took the test we were asked to line up to have our photo taken for candidate verification. Then we went in.
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. The listening test was up first. It made me chuckle as the voice on the test had an Australian accent – sometimes it wasn’t quite clear to me what they were saying – as with any pre-recordings they have the propensity to sound a bit muffled. They also spoke very fast and it was as much as a comprehension and memory game than a listening test. I started to feel sorry for non-native English-speaking candidates.
Reading was next, I recall. This was much easier – I felt a little bit like being back at school. The writing test was a little challenging – trying to write fast and neat is not a forte of mine.
Finally, there was a two-hour gap while I waited for my speaking test. Strangely enough this is the part I started to feel nervous about – I have no idea why! I was escorted to the exam room with my Examiner – a very polite lady but who spoke with the Queen’s English. I insanely started to think I’d get points knocked-off for having a Welsh-Northern hybrid accent! The test didn’t take long – there were three phases with increasing difficulty. Same as any other language test that I can recall from my school days. Introduce yourself, describe a situation when etc. I tried to throw as many long words in as I could haha!
After a very early start, I was all done about 3pm. It had been a long day.
This took just 13 days and I was posted my certificate – Superior English! Thank goodness for that! I had now accumulated a total of 75 visa points.
For more information, please find the links below to related posts:-