Do you need an English test to study at university in the UK?

By Petra Olsson from Cambridge English Language Assessment

Big Ben London

In 2015, the UK’s Visa and Immigration service (UKVI) changed its rules affecting the English language tests needed to work or study in the UK. Many students are unsure if they need to take a Secure English Language Test (SELT) or another kind of English test. This quick guide outlines the key facts about who needs to take a SELT and, more importantly, who doesn’t!

First of all, let’s look at the different types of English tests:

1. SELTs – These are the tests that the UKVI accept for visa purposes (e.g. IELTS for UKVI).
2. Non-SELTs – these are other English tests that are not on the UKVI list (for example Cambridge English: Advanced and Proficiency), but some can still be used to obtain a study visa.

So, who needs to take a SELT?

1. If you need a study visa (a Tier 4 visa) and are going to study at a level below undergraduate level (for example a foundation course) you will need to take a SELT.
2. If you need a Tier 4 visa and are going to study at undergraduate level and above, you may need to take a SELT, but only if the university asks you to.
Most universities in the UK will not ask you to take a SELT.

Who does not need to take a SELT?

1. If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen or do not need a visa for other reasons.
2. If you are a student who is a national of an English-speaking country listed on UKVI’s website (or have a bachelor’s degree or higher from one of these countries).
3. If the above two categories don’t apply to you and you are intending to study at undergraduate level or above (unless the specific university asks for a SELT).
Even if you do not need to take a SELT, the university may still need you to prove your English ability. The university can choose which English tests they accept, and they will decide what scores you will need to achieve.

What do you need to think about before choosing an English test?

• First of all, check with the university what English tests are accepted. IELTS and the Cambridge English exams are widely accepted, but always check what score you will need to achieve for your specific course.
• Check for test centres and dates well in advance to make sure that you will have time to sit the exam before the university deadline.
• Will you need to use your English certificate after your studies? Some tests scores will only be valid for 2 years. Others will not officially expire (for example Cambridge English: Advanced and Proficiency) and you will be able to add your achievement to your CV.

Find out more

Check your visa requirements on the UKVI website, but remember – the rules can change.
Contact your chosen institution to find out what the English requirements are for your course, and which exams and grades they accept.
If you do need to take a SELT, two exams are currently accepted by UKVI:
IELTS for UKVI – available in the UK and overseas
Integrated Skills in English – available in the UK only.

About Petra Olsson

Petra is Stakeholder and Key Account Manager (UK & Ireland) for Cambridge English Language Assessment– a not-for-profit department of the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge English provides qualifications for learners and teachers of English, including exams widely accepted for applications to UK higher education providers, such as: Cambridge English: First; Cambridge English: Advanced; and Cambridge English: Proficiency. For more information about the Cambridge English exams please visit
Cambridge English, together with IDP: IELTS Australia and British Council, are the producers of IELTS for UKVI.

42 comments on “Do you need an English test to study at university in the UK?

  1. mohammadali says:

    I want learn master degree

  2. Tryphinah says:

    I would like to have an English test BT I don’t now which one where to write &how

  3. I am a Ghanaian so please what type of test will i write

  4. chouabna says:

    I want to study in your university note I obtained a BA and I do not have any test in the English language

  5. Ayihendo Bekele says:

    Its a great university I have been ever seen. I really want to join this great university of uk.

  6. Tadesse Alemayehu Rikita says:

    I need to take the test

  7. Daniel sineshaw says:

    Thank You for giving this opportunity.

  8. Amme Angelo says:

    Can you get me the test online, please?

  9. Amme Angelo says:

    I am fluent in English.

  10. tajudeenabbas says:

    I really love London

  11. agnes ndunge mutuku says:

    i would like to take the selt test please book for me.

  12. Amme Angelo says:

    Believe me i am fluent in English.

  13. Zeinab says:

    I’d to get crash course.. Can I get please

  14. Hailemariam Moges says:

    I want to take IELTS to participate in Australia.I will take it on 12 january 2017 and the deadline is 31st January…I’ll be very happy if 5 days are given(postphoned) because of being fully documented. what shall I do to get scholarship at London?

  15. Chantal N.Abatoni says:

    I realLY need to sit for
    IELTS becouse i want to upgrade but i do not understand where to it from

  16. Allen ozibwe says:

    I’m still not sure if I can or can’t take SELT.please help me to understand better.

  17. pearlangela says:

    I would really like to write SELT as soon as I get my visa

  18. Eunice says:

    I would love to study law in London what are your requirements

  19. Edao Fejo says:

    It is very fascinating that to understand different UK language proficiency test.

  20. paul kea says:

    I wanna become the most and new student who can shake the world,please God bless and help me.

  21. omnia says:

    What should i do to join there for learning HR??


    I want to study master degree on GIS

  23. Solomon Girma says:

    Please kidly facilitate the opportunity to study ITLs.

  24. Hi, pls I have BSC in Computer Science. Pls can I get full schollarship for a Master’s Program to study in London. Am a Ghanaian and lives in Ghana. Thank you. Benjamin A. Adam

  25. abdinasir abdullah says:

    I went learn bach degreees

  26. Feyisa Ereso says:

    I want to take SELT. If I get the opportunity to join I would like to learn educational leadership in PHD.

  27. shimelis Tamene says:

    I want to take test and study Msc

  28. Oben Remy Jonkam says:

    Any scholarships available for Cameroonian students to study in London ?

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