TOEFL, Pearsons and Cambridge re-start your lobbying. Your test disadvantages as only IELTS suits Aussie bound International students.

It pains me when I write this. There was a time when IELTS and OET were the only English proficiency tests accepted by Australia for visa purposes. Several years ago, I and my colleagues at AAERI had led the battle for acceptance of other tests as equivalent to IELTS. The efforts had resulted in successful acceptance of the other tests for the “student visas”. The immigration site announced in 2011 that…

From 5 November 2011, the department will accept test results from the following specified English language tests for Student visa purposes taken in any country:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language internet-Based test (TOEFL iBT)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) test (also known as Certificate in Advanced English).

It was kinda victory for many of us and I blogged ecstatically on it at that time. TOEFL, Pearsons and Cambridge too increased their marketing pitch and invested heavily in markets such as India.

However, they did not realise that it was in reality a bluff. In the months that followed, Australia rolled out the SVP (Streamline Visa Processing) and also announced PSW (Post Study Work). Both turned out to be the sole drivers for an upward trend in student numbers from around the world.

University degree students now applied for visa now under SVP where the role of ensuring the English proficiency level of a student was bestowed on the Universities and the Department of Immigration hence in a way was not really concerned if the student was taking the IELTS or the newly included PTE or CAE for such students. They left it to the Universities joining the SVP to ensure this aspect. The Universities could and are also accepting students who may have met other evidences to demonstrate their English abilities such as their own English Placement Tests or as in some cases even the medium of instruction being English. Hence, introduction of SVP meant that the gains from lobbying leading to inclusion of PTE or CAE  or TOEFL was wasted.

The real slight on these tests was however the PSW guidelines. Post Study Work is the other tool used to turn around the dipping student interest in Australia. Its initiation at a time when UK has withdrawn the same plus the fact that PSW is not linked to any occupation category is of critical importance. Apart from the duration of study, the only requirement that Immigration has prescribed is that the student must meet the English proficiency and the only tests that they are accepting for doing this is the IELTS or OET. And beat this, while the general validity of IELTS is for two years, for the purpose of PSW they would accept a test score that is within three years. The immigration site states…

The English language requirement is Competent English, which is a minimum score of 6 in each of the four components of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test or the equivalent score in another English language test specified by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship for use with this visa. The English language test must have been undertaken in the three years prior to lodging the visa application.

For the purposes of applying for a subclass 485, only IELTS and Occupational English Test (OET) results are acceptable. Currently, English language tests other than IELTS and the OET are only acceptable in the student visa program. The department will evaluate the implementation of alternative English tests in the student visa program before making any decisions to expand their acceptability to other visa programs.

So lets look at these facts:

  • Almost all the students aspiring to study in Australia for a degree is also looking at the Post Study Work opportunities to gain experience… Hence if a student has taken PTE or TOEFL or CAE and met the equivalence, the student can get admission and even study in Australia but if he will have to take the IELTS at some stage and get the required score. So in a way, the IELTS is not being replaced by the other tests. The message to the student is loud and clear: Take only the IELTS if you want to meet the requirement for study AND for the post study work.

Is this fair… Not at all… If a student can meet the equivalence to IELTS through the other tests, the student has met the equivalence generally and that should be enough for PSW. PSW is now an instrinsic part of the student’s decision to study in Austraia and almost part of a package with studies. The immigration allows it be be marketed by the institutions as an attractiveness for Australia as a destination.

Pearsons, Cambridge and TOEFL: Time to restart your lobbying once again. It will soon be two years since you gained some kind of acceptance and it is now time for immigration to accept your scores as equivalent to IELTS for Post Study Work too which is part and parcel of a student’s plans in Australia.

Students: Till then you should only take the IELTS if you want to avoid the need to spend money and time in taking the test later on. Only IELTS (and OET) is accepted for PSW and you must have a 6 in all bands. Even if an institution accepts you as having met the english proficiency requirement due to these other tests, you will be forced to take the IELTS once in Australia if you want the PSW. Why not take it right in the beginning…



  1. With IELTS being jointly owned by the British Council and IDP, itself owned by Universities Australia and public company Seek (online employment portal), no surprise if they endeavoured to retain or carve out a new niche….. Australia seems to prefer monopolies and oligopolies.


  2. Looking at the long term benefits for the industry…the monopoly should be broken and for that the other English Language Tests like Pearson, CAE & TOEFL should be promoted more….this is the only way the Australian authorities can see the change and have to accept the change.


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