English language requirements: FAQs

If you’re currently investigating your Australian study options, you may know by now that you’ll need to meet English language requirements to gain a student visa. If you need help determining the scores you need, or if you’re simply looking for more information, read on as we answer a few common questions.

Will I need to meet English language requirements?

Most students will need to meet English language requirements to gain entry into their course and receive a student visa.

Students are exempt from providing evidence of English language proficiency with their visa application if they fall into one of the following categories:

  • students who have completed at least five years of study in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa or the Republic of Ireland
  • citizens and passport holders of the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand or the Republic of Ireland
  • students who have successfully completed the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education or study at Certificate IV level or higher in Australia within two years of applying for a student visa
  • students enrolled full time in school studies as a principal course (including secondary exchange programs), postgraduate research or a standalone ELICOS program
  • Foreign Affairs or Defence sponsored students.

All other students will need to provide evidence of English language proficiency (in the form of a Confirmation of Enrolment or English language test scores, see below).

What English language tests are accepted in Australia?

There are five English language tests accepted for student visa applications in Australia:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) internet-based test (paper-based test is accepted from limited countries)
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic
  • Occupational English Test (OET).

It’s important to remember that for results to be accepted, the test must have been completed no more than two years before the application is made. For more information about the different tests, see English proficiency tests.

What is the minimum test score required?

Your required level of English language proficiency will vary depending on your desired institution and level of study, your country of citizenship and whether you plan to complete an ELICOS course upon arrival in Australia. For student visa applications, the table below outlines the minimum scores accepted for each test.

English language test

Minimum test score

Minimum test score when combined with at least 10 weeks ELICOS

Minimum test score when combined with at least 20 weeks ELICOS

IELTS

5.5

5.0

4.5

TOEFL (internet-based test)

46

35

32

CAE

162

154

147

PTE Academic

42

36

30

OET

Pass (A or B)

Pass (A or B)

Pass (A or B)


It’s important to note that while these are the minimum scores required for a student visa, you will likely need a higher score to gain entry to your course. For undergraduate courses, the following scores provide an indication of the minimum requirement at most universities:

  • IELTS — overall score of 6.0 to 6.5 (no band less than 5.5 to 6.0)
  • TOEFL (internet-based test) — overall score of 60 to 90
  • CAE — overall score of 169 to 176 (no less than 169 in any category)
  • PTE Academic — overall score of 50 to 64.

Minimum scores vary considerably between institutions and levels of study, so it’s best to check with individual providers before you apply. Certain courses, such as nursing, education or law programs, tend to have stricter requirements, while requirements for Vocational Education and Training (VET) courses are usually lower. If you don’t meet English language requirements, you may consider completing an ELICOS program to improve your English language skills.

How will recent student visa changes affect English language evidentiary requirements?

In July 2016, a new simplified student visa framework was implemented in Australia. The changes included the introduction of a new immigration risk framework, which is used to determine the amount of evidence a student needs to supply with their application. Students assessed at the lowest immigration risk level (based on their country of citizenship and Australian education provider) are eligible for streamlined evidentiary requirements. This means that they are able to meet the English language requirements for a student visa by providing a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE), as it is recognised that the English language requirements for their course are equal to or greater than those required for a student visa. Students assessed at a higher immigration risk level will still need to provide evidence of English language proficiency through an approved test score.

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