A guide to the UK English language test

Passing the English language test is one of the many requirements that has to be met when you apply to live in the UK as a non-European migrant. In this article we give you everything you need to know to prep for the test.

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Prove your English speaking capabilities

If you’re applying for British citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and you’re over the age of 18 years, you might be required to prove your knowledge of the English language.

You can prove this by having either:

I know how to speak English, do I still have to take a test?

In certain circumstances you won’t have to prove your knowledge of English.

If you’re aged 65 or over, or you’re unable to due to a long-term physical or mental condition, you won’t need to prove your English knowledge. In the case of a physical or mental condition, a doctor’s letter confirming your status must be provided.

There is also a list of nationalities exempt from taking a test. However, some countries that you might think would be on the list (such as South Africa) are not. Always double-check to make sure.

If you’re applying to settle, there are a number of instances in which you don’t need to prove your knowledge of English.

Change of approved Secure English Language Tests

Following a government review of systemic exam fraud in the UK, only certain exams will be accepted for UK visa applications where formal English assessments are required.

If you took one of these tests before 5 April 2015, they will be valid for use in a UK immigration application until 5 November 2015.

From that date onwards, only tests from the current list of approved Secure English Language Tests (SELT) and Test Centres will be accepted.

Need more time?

If you’re already in the UK it is possible to extend your permission to stay, according to your visa restrictions, in order for you to prove your knowledge of English.

You’ll need to refer to the rules regarding your current visa for instructions on how to apply for an extension.


If you’d like further, more detailed information on the rules surrounding UK immigration, you can refer to the official Immigration Rules document set out by the Home Office.

For assistance or advice regarding UK visas, get hold of 1st Contact Visas and speak to one of our knowledgeable consultants.

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  • Lekh Tamu

    I took an ielts academic test in 2004 and scored 6.5 but i have never used it for entry clearance. Can it be used for ilr now???

    • http://www.1stcontact.com/ 1st Contact

      I Lekh,

      You will need to contact the IELTS test centre to clarify this issue.

  • Falla Rustum

    Hi John,
    I’m Malaysian going to apply for ILR soon as Tier 2 general migrant. My question is do I still need to sit for an English test even I hv been granted to enter UK after scoring 10 points for english language requirement as i have a degree from University recognised by UK and taught in English (scored based on point based system yr 2011)

    Appreciate your help


    • http://www.1stcontact.com/ 1st Contact

      Hi Falia, The English test you would have done before entering the UK may not the same as the one you need to do for settlement. Please contact https://www.ielts.org/

  • Jack

    The English tests is extremely challenging – even for an Australian like me :). The UK citizenship tests was hard as well The website: http://citizenpaper.co.uk/ helped me with these practice tests though.

  • Alla

    Hi John,
    I had a master degree in London taught in English of course (was on Tier4). Now I am on Tier2 general nearly 5 years and planning to apply for ILR. Do I need to take English language test or can I just give the original diploma from University which I got 5 years ago?

    • http://www.1stcontact.com/ 1st Contact

      Hi Alla, your Diploma may suffice but you would need to have this reviewed on the UK NARIC website.