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Do I need to do an English language test to get a UK visa?

Each year, nearly 500,000 students from around the world come to the UK's universities and colleges to study thousands of exciting subjects, from astrophysics, mathematics and zoology to drama, green energy management, fashion and more.

Some international students need to take an English language test, qualification or pre-sessional course before they can be accepted onto their chosen course. 

This is to make sure that you are able to participate fully in classes and enjoy the course.

If you are applying for a Tier 4 student visa, you must meet the English language level set by your chosen institution (your college or university). This means that your institution can issue you a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which is required for your visa application.

Find out more below.

Do I need a visa for the UK?

Find out if you need a visa to study in the UK, and if so, which type to apply for, on the Student visas page or see All visa articles.

More detailed information can be found on the UKCISA website.

UK immigration and visas are managed by the UK government’s Home Office. Please check the UK Visas and Immigration website for more information.

Do I need to take an English language course, qualification or test before I can study in the UK?

Non-Tier 4 applicants

Non-Tier 4 applicants include those eligible for a Short-term study visa.

Your chosen institution may ask you for proof of your language level before they accept you onto your course. 

What do these terms mean?

They may ask you for a qualification or test, or they may ask you to take a certain course.

Ask the institution about their English language entry requirements and the language support they can offer you.

Tier 4 applicants

"I want to study in the UK and need a Tier 4 visa for a course at level NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9 or above (e.g. bachelor's degree, master's degree, PhD) at a higher education institution."

If this applies to you, your chosen university or college may ask you for proof of your English language level. This is to ensure your language skills are enough for you to get the most out of all parts of the course. When they have this proof, they can issue you your CAS.

There is no requirement to take an English language test if you are a national of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland or one of the ‘majority English speaking countries’ as defined by the UK Home Office. However, your chosen university or college may still ask you to take an English language test, so check when you apply.

A number of English Language tests are available, including IELTS, CAE, ETS TOEFL, PTE and Trinity College London. Your chosen university or college may ask you to take one of these tests. Alternatively, they might hold their own tests.

It is very important to check with your university or college and find out whether you need an English language test and which tests are acceptable according to their requirements.

Many universities, colleges and schools in the UK also run courses to help students improve their language skills before and during their studies. 

Ask your chosen university or college about their English language entry requirements and the language support they can offer you.


"I am applying for a Tier 4 visa to study at level NQF 6/QCF 6/SCQF 9 or above at a non-higher education institution"

or

"I am applying for a Tier 4 visa to study at level NQF 3/4/5/ or QCF 3/4/5 or SCQF 6/7/8"

or

"I am applying for a Tier 4 visa to take a pre-sessional English language course at a higher education institution before entering a course" 

If any of the above apply to you, you may need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) at an approved testing centre as part of your visa application.

You do not need to take a SELT if:

  • You are from a majority English-speaking country
  • You have completed an academic qualification at least equivalent to a UK bachelor's degree which was taught in English in a majority English-speaking country 
  • You have successfully completed a course as a Tier 4 (Child) student (or under the student rules that were in force before 31 March 2009, where you were granted permission to stay while you were under 18 years old) which was:
    • At least six months in length and
    • Ended within two years of the date the sponsor assigned the CAS.

Taking a Secure English Language Test (SELT)

From 6 April 2015, only IELTS and Trinity College London English language tests will be approved by the Home Office as SELTs for those who need an English language test as part of their visa application (click here to see who this applies to).

In the UK, both IELTS and Trinity centres provide SELTs. Outside the UK, only IELTS test centres will provide SELTs. Find out more here.

If you took an English language test before 6 April 2015 from the current list of approved SELTs, you can use this in immigration applications until 5 November 2015. Follow these links to the UKCISA website for the latest lists of approved test centres for:

From 5 November 2015, only IELTS and Trinity College London tests taken on or after 6 April 2015 will be acceptable.

If you need to take a SELT test, you must book and pay for it with one of the providers above. Your results will be sent direct to the UKVI office as part of your visa application. In this case, your course provider does not need to be sent a copy. 
 

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