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If you need a Tier 4 General Student Visa to come to the UK, you may need to pass an approved English language test first.
The rules vary depending on your nationality, the type of course you want to study and the
type of college or university where you plan to study.
The following list of frequently asked questions provides some background information to help you understand the rules.
Approved tests (known as secure English language tests, or SELTS) must be taken in person in a secure environment, so
the identity of the
student sitting the test can be verified. The UK Visas and Immigration Service decides which tests are approved
and the minimum English level required.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a Secure English Language Test to study English in the UK?
No. However, if you plan to study for 11 months or more, you will have to demonstrate to
your English school that you are at a level of at least CEFR B1. For more information about the Common European
Framework of Reference (CEFR), please see
our section on English language qualifications.
Do I have to take a Secure English Test for academic courses?
If you want to study an academic course for 6 months or more, the UK Visas & Immigration Service will
require you to take a test unless:
- You are studying at or above degree level at a government funded college or university
(if you are studying at a private institution, you will need to take a test);
- You are under 18 and coming to study in the UK on a Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa;
- You are over 18, but you have studied as a child student in the UK for at least 6 months within the last two years;
- You are from one of the following countries, which the UK Visas & Immigration Service considers to be majority English speaking:
Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana,
Jamaica, New Zealand, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States;
- You have a completed an academic qualification, at least equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree, which was taught in a
majority English speaking country.
Note: if the UK Visas & Immigration Service does not require you to take a test, your sponsor may
still ask you to take a test to demonstrate your English level is sufficient for the course you want to study.
However, they will usually accept a wider range of tests that just those approved by the UK Visas and Immigration Service.
What tests are approved by the UK Visas & Immigration Service?
The rules, which changed in 2015, are summarised below:
- From 6 April 2015, students outside the UK must take an IELTS (Academic) Test at
a test centre operated by the IELTS SELT Consortium. If you take an IELTS test at any other test
centre, it will not be accepted.
- International students inside the UK can take an IELTS test or one of the following tests offered by
Trinity College London: Integrated Skills in English Test or Graded Examinations in Spoken English.
Trinity operates a small number of approved test centres at cities in the UK, including London, Birmingham and Manchester.
- IELTS, Cambridge ESOL and Pearson PTE tests taken on or before 5 April 2015
can be used to apply for a student visa up until 5 November 2015. Cambridge ESOL and Pearson PTE
are no longer approved after this date. And if you have an IELTS test certificate dated before 6 April 2015, you
will have to take a new test if you apply for a student visa after 5 November 2015.
- The TOEFL Test is not accepted at all, regardless of when the test was taken.
What test score will I need to achieve?
If you are studying a course below degree level (e.g. A Level, foundation courses, HNC/HNDs etc.),
you will need to pass at a level equivalent to CEFR B1 (IELTS 4.0 in all skills).
If you are studying at degree level or above, you will need to pass at a level equivalent to
CEFR B2 (IELTS 5.5 in all skills).
How do I book a Secure English Language Test in my country?
The IELTS SELT Consortium provides an online booking service, which allows you to book a test at
an approved test centre in your country.
When should I sit my Secure English language test?
You will need to pass your secure English test before you can apply for a student visa.
If you are planning to come to the UK to study, you should make arrangements to sit your English test as
early as possible.